Coyote Peak

Wed, Sep 30, 2009

With: Steve Sywyk

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As another full moon approached, it was time to get out with Steve again for one of our moonlight hikes. Like the previous ones this summer, I found another peak off Lone Tree Rd near Hollister in the Diablo Range that we could visit. This is one of the easiest hikes we've done to date, taking all of about an hour and a half. We parked at the same location we'd used for the successful effort to Santa Ana, and headed off from there.

With our car perched somewhat precariously off the side of the narrow road, we were in the process of getting ready when we spotted an approaching vehicle's headlights still more than a mile down the road. This spurred us to a more hurried start than we planned as we hopped the barbed wire fence and shuffled down the grassy slopes towards the creek in short order. The car never made it up as far as we were parked, but it gave us an impetus to get going.

We crossed the creek easily enough, finding a road on the other side that we followed up to the more open area on the north side of Coyote Peak. The North Face is fairly steep and heavily covered in brush, and by no means a reasonable ascent route. By the glow of the moon we pointed out the various features of the landscape and briefly debated which of two routes to take. We settled on the NW Ridge and our first attempt to reach this feature more directly ended in a wall of poison oak. Knowing what this would entail from our previous outing, we immediately backed off and looked for an easier approach. We found it by following first a dirt road, then a cow path in a westerly direction that brought us to the open slope of the NW Ridge, mostly free of poison oak. We've been doing these hikes in this area for enough times now that we are fairly adept at spotting the poison oak by moonlight and avoiding it.

Because the NW Ridge is in plain sight of half a dozen homesteads within a mile of the base of the mountain, it was imperative that we climbed it without using our headlamps. This was not hard to do with the available moonlight. About half way up the ridge we heard barking dogs and I thought I heard a man's voice as well. We stopped to turn and listen intently, trying to determine whether the dogs were behind a fence or on the loose. We saw no lights other than the dim lights at the various homes. The dogs barked almost incessantly and it was hard not to imagine that they were barking at us as intruders. As Steve pointed out they may well have been barking at a raccoon or possum in their near vicinity, but we had no way to tell. Eventually we decided they weren't coming any closer, so we continued up the ridge.

There were some rocky portions near the top along with some mild brush, but all easily navigated. It took only about 45 minutes to reach the summit, less than a mile from the car. Another car came driving up the road as we stood at the top and we watched it wind its way up Lone Tree Rd, pausing to examine our car parked off the road for a minute, then continuing on up for a few more miles until it was out of sight. We sat at the summit for fifteen minutes or so, taking in the city lights of Hollister, Gilroy, and others further north towards Morgan Hill and San Jose. The temperature was cool, about 50F, ideal really, with only a mild breeze. A fine last day of September in the Diablo hills.

In deciding which way to return, my first impulse was to return the way we came since the alternate route was not clearly discernable to the southeast. But after Steve asked a few more questions about which way that alternate route might go, I changed my mind and decided to try the SE Ridge instead. Such is the fickle nature of peakbagging.

The SE Ridge was only slightly more convoluted, and readily enough accomplished. A dark, forboding mass of rock on the ridgeline turned out to have a trivial detour, and there were few impediments along the way, none serious. We found a ranch road going over the saddle at the base of the ridgeline which we used to our advantage heading east to get through a wall of poison oak that otherwise would have presented a problem. We then circled around the east side of the peak over open, grassy slopes to return to the north side, hopping a few fences along the way. We could still hear the barking dogs, faintly in the background.

We headed back down to the creek and then back up to the car, using the same route we had used on the way out. It was just before 11p, which meant that we would actually be able to get back to San Jose by midnight, our original estimate. That was something of a first since we'd gotten to underestimating the effort involved in tagging these peaks. It looked like we were finally starting to dial in these Diablo peaks...

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