Cougar Mountain P300
Peak 916ft P500
Meacham Hill Fail
Peak 860ft P300

Feb 7, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

I was heading north to Mendocino County to join Sean and Daryn the next day for a long hike. I waited until nearly 10a to leave San Jose to give rush hour traffic a chance to die down, then spent the rest of the day hiking some summits in Sonoma County. The longest was about 6mi roundtrip and I hiked a little over 10mi total on the four outings. Weather was a little warm for February, but overall fairly pleasant.

Cougar Mountain

This summit overlooks the Sonoma Raceway (formerly Sears Point) at the junction of SR37 and SR121 on the north end of the SF Bay. On most days, one can ask for permission at the main entrance and be granted free entry after signing a waiver. Today there was an event going on that had requested the property be closed to the public. This was disappointing, but my sad face and modest pleading yielded nothing but a little sympathy from the attendant. I'm guessing some car company was doing some test track driving/photo shoot and didn't want prying eyes (and cameras) stealing pre-release photos. I returned to the highway and drove north on SR121 to the back entrance gate, the one that goes around the track periphery. This wide gravel road was gated shut about 1/4mi from the highway. I noted the gate was unsigned, so simply parked here, slipped under the fence and hiked up the road, figuring I had some plausible deniability. A few trucks went by on the mile-plus hike to the base of the hill, but they didn't seem to care I was hiking on the side of the road. A few other vehicles were driving around the track, but they looked like small, mundane SUVs that I had no interest in. I don't think they had to worry about someone stealing their thunder. At the base of the hill there is a downed section of periphery fence and an ATV track running up the grassy slope that I followed to the summit area where a small, shallow pond is found. I walked the periphery of the pond, finding the highpoint and a benchmark at the southeast end. Views are completely open in all directions but there was far too much haze today, unfortunately. I returned the way I came, seeing no other vehicles or people. Nice when things work out after a minor setback.

Peak 916ft

This summit is found 4.5mi north of Cougar Mtn, just outside Tolay Lake Regional Park. The park is still actively grazed in all parts that I visited, not terribly bad since it meant the grass was kept short and cross-country travel pretty easy. I drove into the park, paid my $7 fee and followed the trail east across the broad Tolay Creek (really a marsh). A few classes of school kids were making there way back with teachers/parents/park ranger in tow, laughing and dancing and having what seemed to be the time of their lives. Beyond them, I met only a few other trail users. After about 2mi on the park trails, I passed through the first of two unlocked gates to adjacent ranchlands, then cross-country to the highpoint. A few small herds of cattle merely watched me go by, but since I didn't get too close none even bothered to move away. There is a large oak at the rounded, grassy summit but no views. I sat on a rock here and took a short break in the shade of the trees - quite nice! After returning to the park boundary, I continued on to the nearby Three Bridges Overlook, the highest point in the park. On clear days I suppose one can see three of the Bay bridges, but today was very hazy and none could be seen. I headed off this hill to the northwest, descending cross-country for a nice shortcut to the trail below, cutting off more than half a mile from the ascent route.

Meacham Hill

This one is found just off US101 between Petaluma and Ronnert Park. David Sanger reported getting permission from Karah Vineyard to hike the hill from their wine-tasting building. I was happy to find that permission was cheerfully granted when I asked, only to find no easy way to get from the vineyard property to the adjacent ranch property. A gate between them was locked with a sign warning of livestock dog on duty. I've not had good luck with these in the past, so I decided not to go over the fence. I guess I didn't want this one that badly.

Peak 860ft

This last peak is found in Shiloh Ranch Regional Park north of Santa Rosa. I had visited the park once before, only to find it closed for PG&E work. Today it was busy with park users, not utility workers and I had no issues. I followed a GPX track posted by David, following the Ridge Trail to within 1/10th mile of the summit. I cut some off his track with a more direct cross-country hike to the summit where a few large oaks are found and weak views. I found a small painted rock at the base of the summit tree, left by another visitor. I took a few photos of it and replaced it where I found it. After returning to the car it was time to call it a day since I still had a few more hours of driving into Mendocino County.


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