Apperson Ridge
Goat Rock

Feb 10, 2018
Goat Rock
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My wife was heading to Stanford for the day to ref volleyball, so I decided to head out to Sunol Regional Park to tag a handful of summits in the area. Located in southern Alameda County north of Calaveras Reservoir, it is the middle of three parks that combine to make up the 30-mile Ohlone Trail. The City of San Francisco is in the middle of a multi-year effort to increase the capacity of the nearby reservoir by massively upgrading the dam on Calaveras Creek. Construction is halted for the weekend, thankfully, as otherwise there is a near-constant stream of trucks going along the park access road from Interstate 680. There is a $5 per vehicle entrance fee, but when I arrived there around 9a, the kiosk was unmanned, the Visitor Center closed and there were no self-pay stations that I could find - I'm guessing they aren't all that interested in collecting the fees. The park was already busy with dozens of cars in the parking lots and would be close to capacity before I returned. It seems there is some dog hiking group that was meeting here this morning with canines all over the place, on and off leash, big and small - sort of reminded me of that book as a kid, Go Dogs, Go!. The weather today was unbeatable, cool breeze & sunny skies, perfect for hiking. The hills are a lovely green, even with as little rain as we've had to date. Most of the park is regularly grazed by cattle, making cross-country here quite easy. I covered almost 12mi with about 3,000ft of gain in about four and half hours, on a combination of park trails, roads, cow trails and cross-country.

From the park HQ, I crossed a nice bridge over Calaveras Creek and headed off on the park trail system. Cerro Este Overlook is a PB-only summit located about 2.5mi up from the park headquarters, around the 1,700-foot level. There is large stone marker with a bench at the location, views stretching from the Santa Cruz Mtns in the south to Mission Peak to the west and Rose Peak to the east. 300ft higher at Pt. 2,038ft is the bump identified (incorrectly) on PB as Cerro Este Overlook. I went up to that point as well since it was on my way to the second summit of the day, the Sunol Wilderness HP. It is located in a corner of the park at 2,201ft, ironically adjacent to a rural development which makes it feel anything but Wilderness. The views here are better as one can now see north into Livermore Valley and further to Mt. Diablo. While I sat there soaking in a few minutes' sunshine, a sow with a pair of piglets came wandering up the hill. She stood about 50yds away looking at me for a moment before turning tail to run back down, her children in tow behind her.

My next goal was to reach Apperson Ridge, a little over a mile to the northeast as the crow flies. Keeping to the trails would entail a serious detour of some six miles with lots of elevation loss and gain. Instead, I simply headed off cross-country towards the peak, keeping south and below the development above, following cow trails where practical and old ranch roads in places, too. My route took me past unconcerned herds of cattle, various manmade ponds to slake the thirst of the herds, and in and out of small ravines, some of which had trickles of water flowing. There is a good deal of poison oak growing about some of these water sources, so there was some course-weaving to avoid contacting the stuff. It took about 40min to cover the mile and a half route, getting me to the day's highest summit at just over 2,400ft. There are nice views to be had here too, but I didn't walk around to take them all in since a herd had congregated on one side of the summit and I didn't want to disturb them too much.

I next headed south along a ranch road on Apperson Ridge, leaving it for more cross-country travel after about a mile. I dropped down towards Alameda Creek where Goat Rock overlooks it on the north side of the canyon. There is a use trail up the north side of Goat Rock that makes climbing it a cinch. Its summit makes for a neat overlook along Alameda Creek. Directly south along Alameda Creek is a construction site that is related to the Calaveras Dam project. There is a 1.8mi tunnel bored through the south side of Alameda Creek to divert water into the Calaveras Reservoir. The new dam height is likely to render the existing tunnel unusable, or it may need modifications to cope with the increased height of the updated reservoir when it gets filled up sometime next year.

From Goat Rock I continued cross-country, this time heading west as I traversed the north side of the Alameda Creek drainage about 800ft above the creek level. I eventually returned to the trail system when I reached the backpackers' camp area. From there I dropped down on a dirt road to the bottom of the drainage where a service road runs along Alameda Creek. I wanted to visit a place called Little Yosemite that I'd heard about for years but had never seen. It's located along Alameda Ceek near the confluence with Calaveras Creek below the reservoir, where the creek drops several hundred feet in about a third of mile, cascading through a jumble of large boulders that line the streambed - somewhat reminiscent of the Merced River above Happy Isle or Tenaya Creek above Mirror Lake. With decent water flow it probably looks quite impressive, but today it was more tame. Still, it draws large crowds, perhaps 90% of all the visitors to the park. There were far too many for me to enjoy spending any time there, so I simply followed the scenic Canyon View Trail back to the park headquarters to call it a day.

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