Tassajara Ridge
Boon Hill
Castle Hill

Thu, May 19, 2016
Etymology
Castle Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profile

Only a day after I had decided to give up on the Diablo Range for the season, I was back in Livermore Valley only a few miles from where I'd had a not-so-great time picking stickers out of my clothing while sweating under a hot sun. The weather had made an about-face, with temps dropping 15 degrees to a much more pleasant 70F which, combined with a cool wind, made the low-lying hills south of Mt. Diablo fun again.

Tassajara Ridge

While perusing the area for summits I hadn't been to, I came across this one lying in Open Space - no trespassing required. The Tassajara Ridge Trail runs for four miles, starting from the staging area along Windemere Pkwy to the south. The area has seen significant suburban sprawl over the past 20 years, but a thousand-acre section of hills, once part of the Windemere Ranch, were set aside as the Hidden Valley Open Space as part of an agreement between the local governing agencies and the developers. The dry hills are almost entirely grass-covered with only a handful of oaks scattered about. Even the north sides are entirely devoid of chaparral, a grazing paradise when the hills the are green (grazing rights were retained in the agreement with the previous owner). I followed the Tassajara Ridge Trail (an old ranch road) for three miles to the highpoint of the ridge, a fairly pleasant hike with a few dips along the way, the trail never very steep. There are at least three spur trails along the way labeled as "Overlook" to minor points. The highpoint has no such spur trail and requires a short stretch of cross-country through tall grass to reach the top. I went up the north side where the grass was slightly less brown and the stickers slightly less ripe for release (I would still be pulling them out of my socks later). The distance to the summit can be cut in half by starting at one of the three connecting trails along Longleaf Circle where the development encroaches closest to the trail. It was going to be an easy day, so I went with the longer approach from the south.

A herd of cattle in Hidden Valley just west of the ridge were being rounded up by a cowboy on an ATV, riding around the periphery to get them to the pens below. The cows took exception to this, lowing loudly and frequently, but otherwise moving off in the direction they were expected. The only other mammals I saw on the hike were a single coyote near the start, a lone rabbit, dozens of ground squirrels and a mountain biker. I spent just over two hours on the leisurely outing. This was pretty much all the hiking for the day as the other two summits were nearly drive-ups.

Boon Hill

This is a minor, named summit in an upscale neighborhood on the east side of Danville. The undeveloped highpoint is found on a parcel of private property with an impressive home at the south end. A stately oak crowns the top, surrounded by tall grass. A second home is found just to the north across a fence. Parking in the long driveway at the entrance, I made a hurried visit to the top to take a few pictures before retreating. There was a security camera mounted on a tree right where I parked, my license plate clearly visible. I may get another letter from a lawyer once the tape is reviewed...

Castle Hill

Located above the gated community of Rossmoor south of Walnut Creek, Castle Hill is a short hike from the hilltop homes that surround it. Getting access to the streets isn't so easy. They let the Google Streetview Car into the community that makes it look like anyone could drive in there if you didn't know there was a manned gate. So there was some surprise when I turned on Rossmoor Pkwy and saw the gate ahead. I say "some" surprise because I suddenly realized I had tried this same effort only six months earlier and was rejected at the gate. As I pulled up I asked if I would be able to drive in to the golf course as a visitor. "Only if you're a member," was the polite response. Unable to come up with a better story, I was told I could turn around just past the gate where a left turn connects with the outbound lane. As I pulled forward I noticed a handful of cars behind me that would occupy the attendant briefly. Would they notice if I just kept going? Figuring the worst that would happen is that I'd be escorted out, I continued past the turnaround point and was soon out of sight. I felt somewhat like a criminal but knew it was pretty silly. I really can't stand gated communities and the need for people to sequester themselves inside. I drove to the top of the hill at the end of Grey Eagle Dr and parked in the cul-de-sac there. A paved road leads higher to the Castle Hill Reservoir (a large water tank) that provides water pressure to the community. The highpoint is found just behind the tank, a grassy knoll surrounded by oak trees that effectively block the views. The easy stroll took me 12min at a leisurely pace. I escaped back out to the real world without being accosted and returned to San Jose.

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