Langs Peak
Peak 2,791ft P300
Peak 2,798ft P750
Billys Hill
Peak 2,623ft P300
Glascock Mountain
Signal Hill CC
Mt. Vaca 2x P1K CC / NN

Nov 12, 2013
Glascock Mountain
Mt. Vaca
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2
Vaca, Mount previously climbed Dec 14, 2003


Thanks to an easier-than-expected outing to Brushy Sky High, I was a full day ahead of my scheduled 4-day trip around Lake County. I had only a few pre-planned peaks mapped out on the GPS which would take only half a day, and I still had a day and a half before I had to return. Rather than surprise the family by cutting the trip short (oddly, the family doesn't uniformly find this a good thing), I decided to wing it a bit today. I recalled from my last trip a few weeks earlier while I was climbing Blue Ridge, that the old County Road 40 winds its way up to an adjacent ridge to the west of Blue Ridge across Fiske Creek, and that there was a summit called Lang Peak there. It would be a fairly long hike to a summit without any significant prominence, but it would give me a chance to spend some time in a new part of the Cache Creek Wilderness.

Langs Peak, et al.

Langs Peak lies near the northern end of a long, 10-mile ridge squeezed between the higher Blue Ridge and Little Blue Ridge in western Yolo County. County Road 40 runs up and over the middle of it, connecting SR16 at Cache Creek with Morgan Valley Road. Up until about a decade ago, the road was open to through traffic, but the low concrete bridge over Cache Creek was deemed unsafe and has since been closed and blocked to vehicles. One can still drive over from Morgan Valley, done primarily by hunters now in deer season. Though open to other forms of recreation, it doesn't seem to attract many. Branching along the top of this ridge is another road which runs from Buck Island at the north to the Fiske Creek headwaters to the south. Though open to vehicles, neither branch is a through road and the traffic is remarkably light. I saw no vehicles anywhere on the route (no other persons in fact) the entire day.

Though some 18 miles all told, the hike was surprisingly relaxing the entire time. Because it was all on good dirt road, there was no uneven surfaces, no bushwhacking, no tricky route-finding, just an enjoyable hike with some 3,000ft of gain along the way. After crossing the bridge over Cache Creek with signs warning rafters of high water dangers and fisherman of mercury poisoning and other such bureaucratic proceedings, I passed by the stone barn that lies in an open meadow above the creekbank on the opposite side. There is a kiosk here with more information, an Eagle Scout project that was erected earlier in the year by a local Scout. There is a five-mile loop to Frog Pond originating here as well.

The road then climbs gently above Fiske Creek on the west side, passing two trailheads for routes going south to Fiske Creek. After an hour and a half of steady hiking up to the main ridge, I reached the crest at a saddle where the main road junction is found. County Road 40 drops down the west side of the ridge, but I turned right to head north along the crest to Lang Peak. There are almost no trees at all along the ridge, leaving the views open on both sides. The chaparral is thick however, making cross-country travel here all but impossible. To the southwest I could hear what sounded like the faint roar of engines in the distance which I soon realized were coming from the Harrison Mine about three miles away. The roar was from half a dozen high-pressure water jets that were used in the hydraulic mining for mercury. I knew that this method had been used more than a century ago for gold mining in the Sierra and elsewhere, but didn't realize it was still in use today. Vast quantities of water are used to pulverize the hillside into a wet slush which then slides down and is processed by various means. It's not exactly environmentally friendly. The water jets went on for a few hours before they eventually stopped, presumably because they had enough slushy earth to process for the rest of the day.

Though it was overcast, the views were decent in most directions. I could see the Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley almost 40 miles away to the northeast over Cortina and Blue Ridges. To the west could be seen Mt. Konocti overlooking Clear Lake. It was almost 2.5 hrs before I reached Lang Peak, located just off the road before it starts descending to Buck Island further north. An old jeep track leads up the south side of Lang Peak obviating the need for any bushwhacking. The summit offers views primarily of the surrounding chaparral-covered hills of the Cache Creek area. There was no register on this or any summit that I visited on the day. Just to the south is the higher, unnamed Peak 2,791ft, which I next visited. This one lies a bit further off the road and has no obvious route to the summit like Lang Peak. But with some looking around through the brush, one can find a chain barring vehicle access to an old route, now heavily overgrown, starting up from the road. The old trail becomes less brushy after about 30 yards and makes for an easy hike of barely 1/10 mile. Beer cans were found at the summit which I collected to pack out. They weren't the first I'd seen, just part of the usual collection of shell casings and beer cans that one can find along a vehicle-accessible hunting route. I also collected the alumninum cans I found along the roadway, but as I came to find there were many more times these off in the brush on either side of the road, empties tossed from the window - out of sight, out of mind. Sometimes I wish there weren't laws against open containers which I'm sure play a major part in the behavior. There was a small roadside memorial to a lost comrade, with several beer cans embedded in concrete with a few other tributes. Alcohol-related death? Hmmm...

After returning to the road, I followed it back south to the junction, then several miles further south along the ridge to the unnamed highpoint of the ridge at Peak 2,798ft, just seven feet higher than the northern point. This took me past the small, manmade Fiske Pond which was home to a flock of 20-30 ducks, at least until I walked by and they took to the air. From the summit (the road goes right over it), there is a nice view to the south of Lake Berryessa, about 15 miles distance. To the southwest, all was quiet at the Harrison mine. Blue Ridge dominates the view to the east. After my brief look about the summit, I returned back to the junction with Road 40 and then back to the bridge over Cache Creek and my car.

Billys Hill/Glascock Mountain

Glascock Mtn is located at the far southern end of Cortina Ridge, overlooking Cache Creek. It is prominent from the highway along the creek, from Fiske Peak atop nearby Blue Ridge, and from a number of places within the Cache Creek Natural Area. The shortest route is a steep approach from the south, starting from the highway not far from where I was already parked. I decided to forgo this for the longer option from the west and north. This would give me a chance to tag Billys Hill, a small grassy bump to the west of Cortina Ridge, really just a subsidiary ridge coming down from the main crest.

The hike turned out to be very pleasant. It is the only all-BLM route to the summit, I believe, which is a big plus. From where I parked along SR16, there is an obvious use trail that leaves right from the highway. It splinters almost immediately, but it seemes all three branches I noted lead up to Billys Hill. The trail follows up steep grassy slopes dotted with oak trees, the views open to the Bear Creek drainage to the west and south. It took less than half an hour to reach the summit of Billys Hill. To the east can be seen the entire route up to Cortina Ridge along the connecting ridgeline. Much of this next section had been burned over in the past few years, with the boundary between burned and non-burned marked sharply. It almost looks like Billys Hill was intentionally water-bombed to save it from fire that swept over most everything else in the area. Already the brush was making a comeback, and there were even some late season flowers still blooming to bring a bit of color to the landscape. In another half hour I had made my way to the main crest, following a good use trail all the way from Billys Hill.

The fire did not burn much on the east side of Cortina Ridge, but there was ample evidence of firefighting efforts along the ridge to hold it there. Sections had been bulldozed to create firebreaks and it's possible that backfires had been used to stop the advancing fire from the west. From the reports I had read, I had expected there to be some mild bushwhacking on the several mile stretch along the crest towards Glascock Mountain, but was happy to find this not the case. Some effort had been made to put in a trail through that section of the ridge without ranch roads, and it seems there is now a connecting route the entire way that uses some combination of the recent firebreaks, the newish trail, or the older existing roads. It took about an hour to hike along the ridge to Glascock's summit where I arrived just after 2:30p.

The highpoint is away from the edge which blocks the better views down to Cache Creek. A short jaunt to the south provides better rocks from which to see the canyon some 2,000ft below. Fiske Peak and Blue Ridge dominate the view across the canyon to the south. Most of the Cache Creek Natural Area can be seen to the southwest and west. Looking southeast one can see down the length of Capay Valley and the lower stretch of Cache Creek. As I was making my return to Billys Hill the sun was finally able to break through the cloud layers that had hung around most of the day, lighting up the grassy slopes in a golden brown that looked striking in the late afternoon. It was somewhat fleeting and didn't last long, already disappearing by the time I returned to the highway just after 4p.

Signal Hill/Mt. Vaca

These two CC-listed summits are located in the Vaca Mountains on the border between Napa and Solano Counties, just west of Vacaville. They are at the south end of the long ridgeline along the western boundary of the Sacramento Valley that starts north of Cortina Ridge and continues south along Blue and Rocky Ridges. As the highpoint of Solano County, I had already visited Mt. Vaca years ago following the route described in Gary Suttle's guidebook. Signal Hill was the last CC peak I had yet to visit in the North Bay, south of Clear Lake and east of US101. It's really just a lower bump on Mt. Vaca and the long north-south ridgeline and has very little prominence. Following the same route described by Suttle up Mix Canyon, I was able to reach a locked gate less than a mile from Signal Hill by 6p. I settled in for the night, having already showered and enjoying a movie and dinner in the van, planning to tag the summit before heading back to San Jose in the morning. As my movie was over early and the moon had risen high in the sky, I decided I could just tag the summit at night and find something else to do in the morning. This would let me do most of the driving back towards San Jose before rush hour traffic in the morning.

And so it was 8:20p when I started out for the summit of Signal Hill. The hike itself is trivial, taking barely 15 minutes to cover 3/4 of a mile. The interesting part was the slight spook I got when I passed the gate and came across what at first I thought was someone's house. It turned out to be the possibly abandoned remains of the Signal Hill Gun Club. I say "possibly" because the outsides had some trappings of currently being used, such as garbage and recycling barrels, BBQ, picnic benches and the like. Upon closer inspection I could see some of the windows were broken and the insides, while not looking vandalized, were unkempt with the freezer door wide open. Nearby were other buildings including a trailer that was in a far worse state of disarray. Just behind it on the ridge was a much larger unfinished building that looks like it might have been intended as the new clubhouse before funds or interest disappeared a few years ago. It was all the spookier at night which I kinda enjoyed in an odd fashion. Signal Hill itself was mostly a disappointment. The highpoint is buried under some thick brush that was hard to get to. A wooden stake in an old stone base appears to mark the spot, or at least close by. Oddly, there are no signal towers at all on Signal Hill. Perhaps there were at some time in the past, but no longer. Despite the disappointment, there is a grand nighttime view of the city lights stretching east and south.

Back at the van, I turned around and drove back over Mt. Vaca (where there are plenty of communication towers) and back down Mix Canyon. After more driving, I ended up in Martinez for the night, near the historic home of John Muir and his family. He had some nearby property with two summits named after his daughters that I planned to visit in the morning. The trailhead was in an urban setting and far from quiet with freeway, train, and city traffic going throughout the night. This was not one of my better choices for van camping...


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