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We started with Mt. Hood, just SE of Santa Rosa, where we arrived shortly after 7a. The entrance gate at Pythian Road was closed - doesn't open until 8a. So we drove back down a mile to Eliza Way, the first legal parking outside the park, where we parked the car. When we had hiked back up to the gate it was just before 7:30a, the gate still closed. I hadn't looked closer the first time, I just expected there would be a pedestrian entrance at the side we could walk through. Nothing doing. The fence is an automatic gate, looks like it might not take the weight of us climbing over it. Fences abut the gate on both sides, flimsey 6-foot gates that are uninviting to climbing as well. I may have just bolted over if I was by myself, but my wife is unlikely to find this pleasant. As we stood there, wondering what to do and whether we'd have to just sit it out for half an hour, the gate magically opened at 7:30a, ahead of schedule. What luck! In we go.
We followed the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail (there is no sign of a ridge anywhere along the trail) up through the Pythian parking lot, past an old dam, sometimes on the road (there are private inholdings for which the road provides access). There seems to have been a very good mixed-use access worked out with the private property owners for easements through the lower parts of the mountain, and the trail is well marked to keep hikers from getting lost.
When we reached a junction, both ways indicating a route to Mt. Hood, we took the one showing 1.7mi to the summit, just 0.1mi longer than the Panorama Ranch route. This took us over a small bridge, traversing the hillside with some downhill to the Pond Trail, and what we came to find was well more than a tenth of a mile longer than the other route. But we did get a nice view of the pond, a creepy centipede crossing the trail, and eventually we got to the site of the old Hendrickson homestead where the two trail options merge. From the homestead we followed the Upper Johnson Ridge Trail (again, no sign of a ridge anywhere) to its end at the Mt. Hood Trail (which ironically is on a ridge). The final half mile or so to the summit included a steep section that had Max wishing the hike was over. But she was a good sport through it all, and by 9:30a we topped out at the flat summit. A plaque is embedded in a large piece of slate at the summit and a red register can was easily found among the rocks just south of the plaque. It was so full of names that we didn't bother to sign in, no blank sheets found anywhere. The views, sadly, were completely lacking. A fire somewhere in the area had filled the windless air with smoke that cut visibility to about half a mile. Not enough smoke to choke on, but enough to block all the views.
Back down we went after a short break. It took an hour and a half to retrace our steps, taking the shorter route that bypasses the pond. We saw no one inside the park the whole time.
A short drive later, we were in Jack London Historical State Park by 11:30a, just a mile outside the quaint town of Glen Ellen. Our $6 got us a map and a shady spot to park the car. Max had had enough hiking, choosing to nap in the car while I went up to tag Sonoma Mtn. The park is an interesting site, home to Jack London's Model Farm that he operated for about ten years before his untimely death at the age of 40 in 1916. A strong socialist, Jack intended to operate a self-sustaining farm based on the latest scientific knowledge of the time, combined with ancient learned skills from the Chinese and other cultures. Determined not to use commercial fertilizer, he recycled liquid and solid waste from the animals he raised, spraying them on his land periodically. He practiced crop rotation, growing nitrogen-fixing plants on fallow fields, and other advanced techniques. Many of his experiments in agriculture failed outright, including a plan to raise needleless cactus to feed cattle (the cactus required too much water to grow), and the planting of 40,000 eucalyptus trees as a cash crop to pay for other experiments (the trees turned out to be useless for anything but firewood). Royalties and advances from his books were used to sustain the farm, and there seems to be no evidence that it ever became self-sustaining. The farm was not continued by his wife after his death, and the property was eventually gifted to the state in 1960. I hope that part was of some interest to the reader, because the hike was certainly less so.
I took the trail through the farm to the lake (no water at this time) with a decrepid bath house, then to the Mountain Trail which I climbed to the park highpoint just NE of Sonoma Mtn. The summit is located on private property, a fence surrounding the large summit area that encloses a radio facility. I hopped the fence, hiking through knee-high foxtails towards the radio tower, then to the small rounded knoll just south of the tower that looked to be the highpoint. The short quarter mile distance was brutal, attracting dozens upon dozens of pointy barbs and arrows from the foxtails that worked in through my socks and boots to terrorize my feet. I was limping on one foot by the time I reached the large rock cairn at the summit, and then spent ten minutes cleaning all the burrs out of my socks and boots (the process to be repeated upon my return). There was a red can with a register dating back two years. Mike Larkin, Bill Peters, and Evan Rasmussen were among the more recent folks to beat me to this ho-hum summit. As on Mt. Hood, the views were non-existent due to the smoke in the air.
It took about an hour, mostly jogging, to return to the parking lot. After changing out of my sweaty clothes, we toured the House of the Happy Walls (a large stone home that London's widow had built three years after his death as a memorial to him). She lived in the house until her death in 1959, collecting memorabilia from their travels and Jack's life to display throughout the home. It is now a museum and we found it both interesting and educational. Jack sure led an adventurous life. We had a fine lunch in historic old Glen Ellen before returning to San Jose.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Hood - Sonoma Mountains HP
This page last updated: Thu Oct 1 19:05:39 2020
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