Discovery Peak P1K CC

Tue, Feb 10, 2004

With: Steve Sywyk

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
later climbed Fri, Mar 27, 2009

Aside from some much needed exercise, this outing had no other purpose than to snag a county highpoint that had aluded me for a few years. The first two times I had visited Rose Peak I thought I had climbed the highpoint of Alameda County. By my third visit I knew it wasn't the highest point, but I was on a mission to complete the full Ohlone Trail in less than 8 hours and didn't think that Discovery Peak warranted the extra hour or so it would take to seek it out. Now, having somewhat committed to climb all the California county highpoints, I felt compelled to make yet another visit to the Ohlone Wilderness to add this one to the count. Not really wanting to commit a full day to the task, which would involve giving up climbing a more worthwhile objective in the Ventana or the Sierra, I planned to squeeze it in on one of my free Tuesdays. This meant not leaving until after dropping the kids off at school at 8a, and returning by 3:30p to take my son to karate. With two hours of driving, that left about 5 1/2 hours to cover the 15 miles. Steve, my good friend who went with me to Mt. Stakes in Stanislaus county, was happy to join me on another such venture (it helped that he was unemployed at the time).

The plan went like clockwork. After dropping my daughter off, I was at Steve's house at 8a and we left a few minutes later. With a bit of traffic on I880, we managed to get to Del Valle at 9a (and pay our $6 entrance fee), park, and hit the trail at 9:10a. It was maybe 50 degrees when we headed out, but under blue skies the weather was as close to perfect for a hike as we could have ordered. There was frost and ice in shady places most of the day. It took an hour to hike up to the first ridge, climbing 1500ft out of Del Valle. A backpacker was lounging on a grassy hillside next to the road, enjoying the sunshine while reading a book. He asked if we were heading to "the top" (we gathered that nebulously meant to Rose Peak or thereabouts). We acknowledged that was our plan, exchanged a few more words, and left him to enjoy the beautiful day in peace. We hiked down to Williams Gulch, crossed the creek about 50 yards too soon and had a fun little bit of bushwhack on a use trail that quickly disappeared. After wandering aimlessly for about five minutes we finally espied the trail a short distance away, and got ourselves back on track, climbing the next steep section out of Williams Gulch. By the second hour we were at the top of the main ridge, 1200ft above Williams Gulch. We were keeping up a pretty good pace of 3mph despite the relentless uphill. At the ridge, we were glad to have a few miles of relative ease as the trail followed the easier undulations along the ridgeline. The air was unusually clear and we could easily make out details in the city of San Francisco and all across the SF Bay, Mt. Diablo to then north, and to the east the snowcapped Sierra was a similarly striking view.

At marker 32 we left the Ohlone Trail, hopped over the fence marked "Private Property, Keep Out," and continued south towards our peak. We came upon a corral and some storage sheds that I guessed were Rose Flat, and judged our peak must be nearby. But the only one that seemed to match the map had several radio towers on it, something we hadn't expected. The one trip report we read from 2002 made no mention of it, which seemed surprising. We guessed we must not have gotten to it yet and continued on. We passed an abandoned house that looked to have suffered a slumping of the earth beneath it, the remnants of a homestead littering the surrounding acre. After another 10 minutes our so we found ourselves on another ridge that seemed about the same height as the tower, but not at all what we expected. We got out the maps. Looking around, there are at least ten different points in a several square mile area that one would have to consider as a possible highpoint. There were no obvious points save Mt. Rose to the west that looked like the highest. We got out our maps and compass and took some readings. The most helpful observation we noted was that Mt. Rose is almost due west of Discovery Peak, and we were clearly south of the line between them (Mt. Rose was a bit north of west from our current location). We decided the radio tower was our best bet, and backtracked our way towards it.

Upon reaching the tower, it was again striking that nothing was obvious. We could see points to the north, southeast, south, southwest, and west that looked higher. Mt. Rose most of all seemed to be the highpoint. We climbed the radio towers to get a better view and because, well, it was fun. And a little scary. We noted that one tower was solely for mounting three wind turbines which appeared to be backup/alternate power sources to the solar panels that powered the radio towers. We descended and made our way back the way we came, not at all certain that we'd climbed the peak we'd come for. If not, I would come back again, that much was certain. On our way back we found a small, man-made lake that was covered in a sheet of ice up to half an inch thick in places. An odd fine for less than 4,000ft elevation, but the small lake was well tucked into the northern flank of the hillside, and it received little sun all day. From our perch on the road above it, we had a short diversion tossing rocks down through the ice, watching it shatter, observing the air pockets that got trapped and then travelled along under the ice and other phenomena that captured our attention. Almost as much fun as trundling. We also came across a small flock of wild turkeys, about 10 in number. Aside from the cows, a couple hawks, and a few squirrels, that was all the wildlife we saw. The hills were a wonderful green from the seasonal rains, though no wildflowers were yet out. With almost no breaks the entire day, we made it back to the car at 2:40p, only ten minutes behind our tight schedule. Some speedy driving and no traffic on the return made up the difference, and I was dropping Steve off at home at precisely 3:30p. Couldn't plan it much better than that, and we both had a fine time of it to boot. I think I "only" have something like 30 more county highpoints to go. That's going to fill up quite a few Tuesdays. Hope Steve doesn't find a job!

We found out later the same evening that we had indeed climbed the highpoint. We found several other trip reports that mentioned the towers, apparently it was erected in the last few years. It is visible from quite a distance, so it should not be hard for future highpointers to locate it unless they do an equally poor job of researching it beforehand.

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