Annies Rock
Peak 2,437ft P300

Sun, Jun 11, 2023

With: Steve Sywyk

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It had been a few weeks since my wrestling match with a log had forced me to abandon a roadtrip in Napa County. It seemed a good time to try out the legs again and see what they could manage. I invited pal Steve along, and after picking him up at 6a, we drove north a few hours to the northwest corner of Solano County and the Vaca Mountains. Our starting point was the UC Davis-Stebbins Cold Canyon Nature Reserve, just below the Lake Berryessa dam on Putah Creek. There are numerous parking lots at this bend in SR128, any of which can be used to access the TH. There is a very popular 5mi loop trail that follows along the top of Blue Ridge (the Blue Ridge Trail) and along Cold Canyon (the Homestead Trail). At the far southern end of this loop is another 3mi loop connected to it called Annies Trail. We would cover most of these two loops in pursuit of a small handful of summits. Two of these are PB-only summits, located along the Blue Ridge Trail. Annies Rock is found off Annies Trail, and along with Peak 2,437ft, both are on Tuleyome property outside the UC Davis preserve.

We started up the Blue Ridge Trail shortly after 8a. A breeze in the morning helped keep things cool as the day warmed. We spent about 45min hiking the trail with more than 1,000ft of gain to the crest of Blue Ridge where a very popular overlook with a view bench looks across Lake Berryessa to the northwest. We turned south to follow the trail along the very top, going over Pt. 1,475ft and Pt. 1,535ft enroute. The trail is very enjoyable, narrow and rocky in places as it sticks religiously to the crest. Poison oak appears periodically along the trail, avoidable if one knows what to look out for. After Pt. 1,535ft, the trail drops down to a saddle called Annies Junction. Annies Trail continues to the south, with another junction appearing shortly thereafter. Annies Trail is not nearly as popular (we saw only two parties, where there were dozens on the Blue Ridge/Homestead loop), and the trail is more overgrown. Poison oak becomes more of a concern and is constantly found encroaching on one side or the other, sometimes both. At the second junction, we turned right to climb back up to Blue Ridge, a rather steep section that became tiring, now that things were warming up. We paused on a small rock outcrop to take a break after finishing the steepest part. At the end of our break we continued on the trail towards Annies Rock, but after about 15min, Steve suddenly realized he didn't know where his phone was, usually kept in his pants pocket. He sat on the trail to rummage through his pack, but came up empty after divesting the pack of its contents. We suspected he'd left it at the rock outcrop. We'd passed a couple not far back heading in the opposite direction, and they might elect to take the phone back down with them if they found it. So we quickly concocted a plan for Steve to head back to look for it (and hopefully catch up with the other party) while I went the short 1/5mi distance to Annies Rock, after which I would join him back at the last junction.

There is a sign on the trail for Annies Rock, without which one would pass right by. After passing through some tall brush, Annies Rock turns out to be a rocky bluff overlooking the west side of the ridge, a nice picnic site with swell views. I visited the slightly higher point marked on LoJ, but it was clear that Annies Rock is the outcrop, not the point buried in the brush. Here we had planned to continue the short distance on Annies Loop to the turnoff for Peak 2,437ft, but instead I went back down the trail heading north. I found Steve's phone at the rock outcrop where he'd left it - seems he passed by with out finding it. I found him near the trail junction, out of breath after unsuccessfully trying to track down the other party. He was relieved when I pulled his phone out of my pocket.

I did a quick study of the tracks on the GPSr and figured from this junction it was about 1.6mi to Peak 2,437ft with another 1,000ft of gain. Steve was game to continue, but pulled up short only a few minutes after we had started off again. His exercise had taken more of a toll than he'd first guessed. He was almost out of water, too, and I didn't really have much extra to give, having not properly planned on the toll of the day's warm temperatures. Steve wisely chose to head back at this point. I told him I'd be about an hour behind him, but not long after starting off on my own, I realized it might be almost twice that - I was not moving much faster by myself. I passed by a nice view bench, then ran into a section of ground bees that the other party had warned us about. They are not an aggressive species, seeming content to buzz about low to the ground, going in and out of their holes in the dirt in great numbers. To avoid stepping on them, I walked around the most populated sections, eventually getting clear of them. I found the turnoff from the trail where a metal sign indicated Annies Trail to the right. I continued straight past this sign on an old road, overgrown but passable - there were signs it has seen some traffic, though light. I came upon an old rusting gate, half-covered in vines, marking the boundary of the Huber Ranch property, now part of the Tuleyome parcels since 2018. The road leads to a junction on the ridgeline coming down from Blue Ridge, separating Wild Horse Canyon from Cold Canyon. The route turns east/southeast as the old ranch road leads down to a saddle before one branch climbs to Peak 2,437ft further east. Another branch heads down into Wild Horse Canyon. Just south of the saddle is the chimney from an old homestead, probably the Huber Ranch home. Further down at the bottom of the canyon is a much larger homestead, still occupied. I was perhaps a quarter mile away at the closest juncture, but could hear all sorts of machinery noises below, the owner keeping quite busy about the place. I followed the old road leading to Peak 2,437ft, arriving about an hour after leaving Steve. I was pretty tired by this point, but most of the return would be downhill, thankfully. I took a few pictures of the views looking around the Vaca Mountains, signed the register left by Sean and Mason earlier in the year, and sent a text to Steve to expect me around 2:30p.

The return was a slow plodding, about four miles. I was carefully watching for poison oak until I had returned to Annies Junction after the first hour. The Homestead Trail going down Cold Canyon was in better shape thanks to all the traffic it sees. As the name suggests, there is an old homestead where the trail drops to the creek in the canyon, though just a few partial masonry walls remain. It was getting quite warm now as I descended the trail the remaining distance back to the highway and the parking lots. It would be 2:15p by the time I returned to the Jeep, finding Steve just about ready to recline the seat for a nap. Seems he had paused to cool off in the creek on his way down at a leisurely pace and was looking pretty relaxed. I was looking pretty ragged by comparison, and in addition to being dehydrated, I was terribly low on sodium. My legs began cramping as I was changing out of my boots and would continue to be a nuisance for the drive home as well. It ended up being about 11mi with 3,500ft of gain over the course of six hours - about as much as I could handle today...

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