Hartman Peak

Fri, Apr 11, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

I had done the preliminary scouting of the Dowdy Entrance station to Henry Coe SP the previous week and was back for a more ambitious outing, leading up to an even more adventurous visit two days later. I'd brought my bike to make things easier, but would still have a significant portion of hiking. My destination was Hartman Peak in the southern part of the Orestimba Wilderness. Bikes are not allowed inside the wilderness, so I would be riding out about five miles to the junction with County Line Road, hiking a loop through the Orestimba, then riding back. In all, almost 20mi and 4,000ft of gain, not a bad day.

The ranger at the Visitor Center recognized me when I arrived around 11a (he had opened the gate early and I was the first to arrive after the ranger). He apologized for not remembering my license plate, an easily forgiveable lapse. He asked where I was heading "in case" I might not show up at the end of the day. He wrote down "Hartman Peak" without seeming to have any idea where it was, but confident that he'd be able to find out if need be. The riding portion was pleasant enough, all downhill from the start to Pacheco Creek, then a sometimes steep climb back up to the Santa Clara/Stanislaus county line and a more gentle decline to County Line Rd. I spent about 40 min riding five miles - much faster than hiking or jogging, to be sure. I locked the bike to a trail sign though I doubt that much concern for security was necessary. There just aren't that many visitors to this part of the park, especially on a Friday. I continued hiking north on the main road, now called the Orestimba Creek Rd, crossing the creek several times (easy with low water). Just past Orestimba Corral is a junction where one has the option of taking the road or the Orestimba Trail. I chose the latter since I would probably be riding my bike on the road a few days from now on the longer outing I had planned.

The Orestimba Trail is quite scenic, following the creek initially, then climbing higher above the creek for better views. Flowers line the trail at various points during this brief Spring season that was at its height (there's some poison oak too, but easily avoided unless barrelling through on a bike). The grassy hillsides were a lush green thanks to a few good rains over the past month. 40min later I had reached the northern terminus of the trail where it rejoins the Orestimba Creek Rd. Less than ten minutes north of this is the poorly marked junction with the Hartman Trail. The signpost is found across the creek instead of next to the road, as though it were left intentionally vague. The trail itself was faint to start where it climbs grassy slopes through the oak forest understory. I may have been the first person to use it this year which would account for it being hard to follow. I lost it after only ten minutes where the grass grew taller. I had marked the route on the GPS, so after about five minutes of continuing in the same general direction, I found it again on the west side of a small ravine. As the trail climbs higher the grass and oak give way to drier brush and here the trail was much more discernable.

By 1:30p I had reached the 2,210-foot summit of Hartman Peak marked by a trail marker, a grassy knoll and a few trees. There is a nice view in three directions, east to Mustang Peak, south to Burra Burra Peak, and west to the main crest of the range and County Line Rd. The peak doesn't have a lot of prominence, connected by a saddle to the higher ridgeline to the west. I continued along the trail down to this saddle and then up to the junction with County Line Rd, marking the western boundary of the wilderness. The road was lined with a fresh carpet of short grass peppered with flowers, dressing up what would normally be a pretty drab dirt road. With some jogging on the downhill sections, it would take about an hour to return to the junction where I'd left the bike. Another 40 minutes of riding would get me back to the Visitor Center. In all it was less than 4.5hrs on the day, making me feel confident about the my return visit in a few days. That one would total more than 30mi, but I think I was now prepared to do it without suffering. Not that suffering itself is a bad thing, but it's just not as much fun as not suffering...

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