Mt. Boardman is the highpoint of San Joaquin County. Well, almost. Four counties (Alameda, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, San Joaquin) come together at a single point just north of Mt. Boardman's summit, some 50 yards horizontally and 33 feet vertically short, in fact. That's enough to make another bump about a quarter mile north of Mt. Boardman the San Joaquin highpoint. Gary Suttle dubbed this "Mt. Boardman North" and it has stuck for county highpointers, though it remains officially unnamed. It is located in the heart of the Diablo Range, on the crest between Bay Area and the Central Valley, and roughly halfway between Livermore Valley and Mt. Hamilton. The easiest access appears to be along Mines Road to the west, though like most of the county highpoints in the Diablo Range, the peak and surrounding hills are mostly private property. While not the shortest approach, the dirt road via South Pocket (southwest of the summit) offers the most secluded route, away from private residences located in the hills and valleys further north along Mines Rd. South Pocket can be approached from Livermore or from Mt. Hamilton. The Livermore drive is much faster than that over Mt. Hamilton, even if coming from South San Jose. The trailhead can also be reached from the east via Patterson if coming north on I-5.

I decided to head out for Mt. Boardman on MLK day, while my family was visiting in San Diego. I needed to get back to San Jose to pick them up at the airport around 1:30p, so I started early, leaving San Jose at 5:30a. I didn't know ahead of time that the route over Mt. Hamilton was slower, and it took me nearly 2 hours to drive the distance (only 1h15m for the return via Livermore). Normally it would be a fairly scenic drive, but it was January and quite dark outside until I was over the summit and driving down into San Antonio Valley. I found the trailhead with little trouble, located about 1/2 mile north of the saddle that Mines Rd goes over between San Antonio Valley and Arroyo Mocho. I recognized South Pocket Canyon from studying my map, and parked just off the road where the dirt road meets the pavement. With just a water bottle and a map (neither of which I needed it turns out), I set out at 7:20a.

The dirt road heading up the canyon is extremely well graded (winter, 2005), quite suitable for mountain bikes. Jogging up the road, I passed through two gates in the first half mile, both open, neither one signed Keep Out or No Trespassing. This doesn't mean it isn't private property or that visitors are welcome, and so I was cautious the entire day, looking out for trucks on the road and ready to hide myself in the brush at any moment. Fortunately I saw no one all morning, save for a small herd of cows that nervously got out of my way as I hiked up the road. After two miles I reached a four-way junction on the crest and continued east across it (an old fire road running across the crest intersects the main road here). Two more miles of contouring around the east side of the ridge and I was back up on the crest again, now following the road as it runs atop the crest nearly the whole way to Mt. Boardman. Within sight of the summit now, I came across a barbed wire fence running across the road. A fragment of a POSTED - Private Property sign was still nailed to a fence post. The gate was held in place by a simple wire stretched over the end of the gate. I unhooked it, went through, and reattached the wire. For the next half mile as I walked along the ridge I was most assuredly on private property, posted no less. One of the trip reports that mentions this further suggests it might be possible to bypass this section through some bushwhacking around the property. From what I could see - not very likely. And that from a guy who actually enjoys a good bushwhack now and then. The brush isn't impenetrable, but it is fairly dense, about chest high, and one would need to traverse across a very steep hillside. No thanks, I'll take my chances on the road. At the top of the crest there was another similar gate and I was soon off that section of private property. Whether I just crossed into another one is uncertain, but it didn't seem so. It looks like the west side of the crest from here to Mt. Boardman North is all private, the east side not so, judging by the fencing. But who knows, the whole east side might be owned by a giant cattle corporation.

The weather was mostly overcast, thin clouds that let the sun through only now and then, very little blue sky. The central valley was socked in, the fog creeping into lower canyons to the east. The clouds kept temperatures rather cool, but since I was moving continuously it was quite pleasant. The lack of sunlight did allow for an impressive view of the Sierra far to the east. Normally such a good view is only found just before sunrise, but now it lasted well into mid-morning and I could see plenty of snow on the range as well. Closer in one has views of Mt. Diablo, Mt. Hamilton, Oso Peak, Mt. Stakes, Monument Peak, and then others I couldn't identify. Almost all of it is chaparral covered hills with some oak and pine trees found at the higher summits and in the narrow canyons where water is found for at least part of the year.

Jogging most of the way, I made it to the summit of Mt. Boardman at 8:25a. I found a small cairn, about 5 rocks high. Heading further north along the road, I found a small marker, presumably the point where the four counties come together. I continued on to Mt. Boardman North, the true county highpoint. I found no ducks, no register, just a metal marker encased in concrete marking the boundary between Alameda and San Joaquin counties. There wasn't much to take in that I hadn't already seen enroute, so I started back along the same route soon after reaching the highpoint. On the way back I made a short detour to tag Mt. Mocho just off the 4-way junction. It is a very indistinct bump along the crest, but it had a name on the maps to get my attention. Some USGS seismic equipment was installed around the rounded summit, drawing my attention. I jogged the rest of the way back down South Pocket, arriving back at the car at 10a. I decided to drive out via Livermore, and was happy to find it a much quicker route. I was back in San Jose just before 11:30a, plenty of time for my trip to the airport. It was interesting to note that my total driving time exceeded the time I was out on the trail - a sure sign of County Highpointing Sickness, to be sure.

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