Call Mountains HP P750 CC

Wed, Jun 8, 2011
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

I was out running around the neighborhood in late afternoon and happened to notice a half moon high in the sky. It occurred to me that my upcoming week-long trip with the Scouts was going to have me missing out on a full moon night hike this month. I wondered if I might not be able to get a hike in that same evening, and as soon as I got home I started poking around for a suitable candidate. I settled on Call Mtn in a matter of minutes. The CC-listed peak is located in San Benito County, about an hour and half's drive from San Jose. From the satellite views, there appeared to be a good dirt road leading to near the summit from paved Panoche Rd, with no homes to be seen anywhere along the route. This last was important because the peak and entire route from Panoche Rd was on private property. My wife took it in stride when I brought it to her attention an hour before I planned to head out. "Where are you going and when will you be back?" she enquired, but only really cared when I'd return. The names of obscure peaks and locations mean nothing to her and are instantly lost.

I got a view of Call Mountain during the drive along Panoche Rd, a high ridge that rises to nearly 4,000ft, one of the highest in the area. The top part of the ridge is fairly flat making it look less-impressive than it might otherwise be. The USGS actually calls this the "Call Mountains" as though a range unto themselves, but this seems highly debateable. When I arrived at the gated start of the dirt road around 8:30p, the sun had already set and it was soon to grow dark. I parked on the north side of the road at a turnout rather than the more obvious location next to the gate on the south side. I hopped the fence and scampered away from the pavement, making an easy creek crossing before starting up the dirt road as it almost immediately heads uphill. Portions of the first half mile are exposed to view from the road and here I would pause and crouch down for the few cars I saw drive by. This is a pretty lonely stretch of road leading out to Panoche, but I figured those driving it were more likely to be locals and take an interest in my person should I be spotted. As the light faded and I got higher and further from the road, my chances of being spotted became increasingly unlikely.

It was a very easy route to follow and I never needed to refer to the map I carried with me. My GPSr had the coordinates of the summit, which was the only guide I really needed. The road zig zags in the first half as it climbs consistently upwards, turning in and out of one side canyon to the adjacent one. At the halfway point it reaches the upper ridgeline where the road straightens out and heads southeast towards the summit. There were several gates I passed through along the way, but all of these were left open, making the gate at the start the only one that needed scaling. I passed by at least three water tanks. One of them had a small building next to it, rumbling with the sound of a diesel generator inside which had given me a small start when I was first approaching it (I thought someone was idling a ranch truck). Above this some distance was a wooden cabin at an overlook a short distance west of the road. There were no lights on which gave me to believe it wasn't occupied regularly, but boy did it have a spectacular view.

I hadn't realized ahead of time just how much prominence Call Mtn has (748ft), but more so how it commands the view to the west. There is nothing close to it in height until Junipero Serra and the highpoints around Ventana. One can see the glow of city lights (though not the lights themselves) of the towns along US101 20 miles to the west. Call Mtn is pretty far from civilization and about the only city lights that I could see on the ascent were those towards Hollister, albeit faintly. Still, I could make out the main ranges in that direction for forty miles, despite the faded light. The other direction that could be seen was to the north, where the Diablo Hills continued for many miles without any lights to be seen. The half moon provided sufficient light that I didn't need to use a headlamp for most of the night. The oaks that peppered the hills cast shadows along many portions of the road, but the maintainence was sufficiently good to keep me from tripping over rocks and downfall in the dark sections.

Though out in the boondocks, it was hardly a quiet scene. The whole area is used for grazing and there were several herds to be seen along the way. As night came on the cattle could be heard lowing in soft, low murmurs. Frogs were croaking with a few crossing the road ahead of my footsteps. I worried that I might accidently step on one with my headlamp off. There were other sounds - airplanes overhead, periodic cars along Panoche Rd, coyotes eeriely baying in the distance. As often happens while out alone at night, I thought about mountain lions and my odds against one. I was sure that I would be better off with a headlamp on, but I fought the urge to use it to this purpose which I knew to be somewhat irrational.

Nearing the summit, I reached a radio facility not shown on the topo map. The correct route should have kept me on the road going around the tower to the north and east, but I got off-track in following the spur road to the tower and then off into the weeds - literally. I wondered if I would find ticks active at night and stopped several times to check. Luckily they were either absent or asleep as I had no takers. I resorted to the headlamp to get myself through a few hundred yards of wandering through tall grass and brush to waist level, wondering where the summit was. The GPSr was a big help in getting me in the right direction, though it wasn't all that obvious in the darkness. I eventually made my way to a second radio tower further east (the one shown on the 7.5' topo) and back on the road leading south to the summit. The road took me around to the south side of the highpoint and from there an old track led through the dense chaparral to the highpoint where I arrived shortly before 10:30p.

I wasn't surprised to find the dilapidated remains of a survey tower and a benchmark, but the red register cans took my by surprise. Evidently some other highpointers found the place worthy, having trusted the USGS in designating this a range rather than a mountain. Mark Adrian had left a notepad in 2000 while doing a range highpointing tour in this part of the state. Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lilley visited a year later followed by a few others whose names I didn't recognize. The last visitor was Richard Carey in 2006. Evan Rasmussen had passed this up during his own highpointing tour as unqualified to be a range. But that won't stop me from giving him a hard time...

After weeks of unseasonably cool and wet weather, it had suddenly turned very summerlike in California. It was a balmy 55F or so and windless at the summit. It had been quite comfortable hiking the entire time in just a tshirt. I could get used to this after so much rain. Call Mtn sits roughly between US101 and Interstate 5 and I could now see the glow of Central Valley lights off to the east, similar to the view west. To the south were higher mountains around 5,000-foot+ San Benito Mtn, while to the north the view was less obstructed and probably clear to Mt. Hamilton on a clear day, 60 miles away.

The return took little more than an hour, almost half the time I had taken on the ascent. This was made possible by jogging all the downhill sections which constituted most of the route. I got back shortly after 11:30p, taking a bit more than three hours in all for the ten mile hike. My leg muscles were rather sore the next day - pointing to my lack of practice over the past few months. This will need to improve if I'm going to get much done this summer. When I got home at 1a, I found the door to my bedroom locked. My wife was inside, asleep with my daughter. She got up to open the door, mumbling something about not expecting me back until morning. I guess she didn't really pay attention to that bit of information either. Rather than try to move the lump on my side of the bed that was my daughter, I ended up sleeping in her bed for the night. At least I'd be able to sleep in, relatively undisturbed...

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