Lands End
Santa Rosalia Mountain P500 CC
Bean Hill P300

Mon, May 3, 2010
Story Photos / Slideshow Map

I had originally planned a quick snowshoe outing to Tahoe, but upon realizing we had a busy schedule with the kid's activities I had to cancel that idea. Only slightly disappointed, I turned my attention to something more local I could do before the kids were done with school in the afternoon. Santa Rosalia, a CC-listed peak, has been on my todo for some time. I had been looking at Google maps and found there was be a way to reach within a few miles by car, utilizing some of the backwood roads in Santa Cruz County. Two other nearby summits caught my attention as well, so I made a plan to visit all three of them. Mostly this was a long driving effort with less than a few hours of hiking time, total. Non of the three summits could be recommended on any grounds.

Lands End is a dubious summit, but somehow recognized by the USGS and thus on my radar. It has maybe ten feet of prominence, more of a protuberance off the main spine of the Santa Cruz Mtns at the SE end. With a name like that, I figured it might have swell views. It doesn't. I approached it via US101 to SR152 through Mt. Madonna State Park and Summit Rd. The pavement ends about five miles from Lands End and travels through a section of private property managed by the collective landowners and signed for No Trespassing. Luckily the road is not gated shut and there didn't seem to be much enforcement. But the residents are the type that like their privacy and tend to have large, snarling dogs off leash around their property. In fact, this was what drove me off on my first attempt to reach Lands End from the north via Uvas County Park.

The GPS was crucial for locating Lands End, as it does not offer any visual clues to its whereabouts as one drives along Summit Rd. A bulldozer was working on regrading the road as I drove by. It made the road smoother, but much softer and I kicked up large quantities of dust even though I was traveling quite slowly. The road is navigable by any vehicle, but my Miata was not liking it all that much. I found a turnoff to park in about a quarter mile west of the summit. A gate here barred vehicle access, but the road was easy to walk on. I came upon a park boundary sign, only later finding that Lands End is actually within Uvas County Park, but inaccessible from other parts of the park due to the heavy brush. Much of this area burned several years earlier, but it was already regrowing at a healthy pace. I located the summit within about 100ft using the GPS. An old water tank sits atop it with some other detritus from a previous landowner before it became park property. Even with the burned trees, there was really no views to be had and the peak was rather disappointing. I could see Loma Prieta and its antennae some miles to the north, but little else. During the whole (short) hike I was treated to rasta music wafting in from a residence on an adjacent ridge about half a mile to the north. It went on without interruption, blasting music through what otherwise would be a quiet forest. I figured that the homeowner must be completely oblivious to the annoyance he might be causing his neighbors, or perhaps using this as payback for some heinous aggrievance he was made to suffer. I couldn't help thinking that these people living out here weren't normal.

Back at the car after my fifteen minute walk, I continued northwest on Summit Rd for about a mile to a junction with Omsby Rd, another dirt road heading west off the main crest. I followed this down for another mile where I was happy to see pavement again, passing by a number of homesteads before reaching a saddle and junction with Eureka Canyon Rd another mile further. At one point I had to wait for the owner of some landscaping equipment to move his weedwhacker and rake that he'd left lying across the road. He seemed like he'd just as soon have me run them over than to be bothered with stopping what he was doing to move them. At the junction, a sign indicates the road to Santa Rosalia is closed ahead for half the year during the rainy season, until April 15. A half mile up this road, just past the last residence, a gate was open allowing vehicle access to this part of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, within which Santa Rosalia Mtn lies. I only managed to drive this dirt road another half mile further before the ruts became too much for the Miata and I pulled over to hike the last mile to the summit.

It appears this road is popular with mountain bikers as I saw perhaps half a dozen in the hour I was in the area, quite a few for a Monday, midday. I was the only one hiking or driving the road. The area is heavily forested and I was soon realizing I was heading for another summit without a view. About a quarter mile from the summit another gate bars further vehicle access. Bikes are allowed past this point, but they do not make it easy to get bikes around the barrier. Again the GPS proved quite useful in locating the right area. Just south of the summit I found an unmarked trail heading north into the woods. I followed this for more than a quarter mile until I was certain to be past the summit. The unsigned trail, quite nice really, appears to be fairly new and offers an alternative to the road that it follows in more or less the same direction. I went back to the highest point I could discern and tried to get a GPS reading, but this was difficult with the heavy canopy of oak and madrone. I found poison oak in abundance where I was tromping around trying to get a signal through a small opening in the forest. No views at all. I had to laugh at myself and wondered if anyone else had gone to similar efforts on this lame peak.

I hiked back to the car via the same route, then drove down to the junction where I turned down the Eureka Canyon Rd. The map I carried showed another peak a few miles away that I decided to check out. I didn't even know the name of it, just that it was somewhere near the end of Rider Rd. I found this (thankfully) paved side road and drove it several miles to where public access appears to end near a large meadow area north of Bean Hill. This third summit looked even less promising than the other two. More than a thousand feet lower than Santa Rosalia and Lands End, it was covered in a dense thicket of undergrowth amidst a forest of second-growth oak and redwoods. All of the land is undoubtedly private property and I was just waiting for one of the meth lab owners to come by and ask me what the hell I was doing there. I wouldn't even have been able to tell them the name of the summit I was supposedly there to climb. I was about to turn around and head back when I spotted what looked like a bulldozer track heading up the hill across the far side of the meadow. I parked the car and went over to investigate.

What a mess. The track lead up about 100ft then split in two directions. I tried first one way to a dead end, then the other to a similar fate. Again I was going to turn around when I noticed an older track a short distance beyond the fresh one. Likely, this was part of an old road network used long ago to log this area. There were large stumps, logged perhaps a hundred years ago, scattered about the slopes of Bean Hill. The second growth redwoods in the typical circle pattern had sprouted up around these stumps. There was poison oak almost everywhere and against my better judgement I continued to fight my way uphill in a battle to reach the summit of Bean Hill. The only saving grace was that I had put on a pair of long pants over my shorts just before starting up as I suspected I might find conditions like this. Though I was only half a mile from the summit when I started and I spent the better part of an hour in the effort, I don't think I actually reached the summit. Not that it would have looked any different from what I was fighting through trying to get there. It was silly, no doubt, and with the poison oak about it was also quite stupid. I could only laugh at myself again as I headed back down to the meadow and the car. This isn't the sort of thing I could really explain to my wife. The kids maybe, but my wife might have me committed.

For my troubles, I noticed the 'check engine' light on as I was driving back home. The car seems to run fine, but I probably knocked a wire loose or cracked something while driving the bumpier dirt roads. Just to diagnose the problem is going to cost me $150, plus whatever it takes to fix the actual problem. Expensive hobby, sometimes.

Anonymous comments on 01/01/13:
If you follow the fire road a bit further there is a view of the South section of Montrey bay on a small flat section where mountain bikers stop before heading into Soquel demonstration Forest.
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