Lomerias Muertas P900

Thu, Nov 18, 2010

With: Ryan Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

Ryan had the day off Friday, and as it was near a full moon he was interested in doing a hike Thursday night. I chose a relatively easy hike to Lomerias Muertas, 'Dead Hills' in Spanish, located in the northwestern part of San Benito County. For some time I had noticed this group of low, barren hills located between US101, SR25 and SR156 (or between the towns Gilroy, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista). It seemed like an easy hike of perhaps a mile and half and 900ft of gain (actually closer to 2.5mi, one way, we came to find out). The fine Fall weather was turning with the approach of an unusually cold storm that was due to bring widespread rain over the area starting Friday. As we drove south from San Jose we could see fog coming in off Monterey Bay, the leading edge lying roughly over our hills to the south. There was a cold wind blowing as well and it was good that we'd brought our fleece jackets with us - we'd need them the entire time.

We got off US101 at the Betabel exit, parking on the east side of the frontage road called "Y Rd". It was 4:45p and the sun had just set though it was not yet dark out. We hopped a fence and started up a 4x4 track leading up to the main ridgeline. The area appears to be used solely for cattle grazing, fencelines sectioning off the hills into half a dozen different ranches. There were cattle grazing on nearby slopes, but none where we were hiking. We saw a handful of deer as well, but these scattered quickly upon discovering us. The first fifteen minutes or so had us exposed to view from below along the road or the freeway. After this time our chances decreased both with the gain in elevation and the falling darkness.

It was colder than it's been in months and we kept our hands in our pockets or up our sleeves to keep them out of the wind. I offered gloves and a balaclava to Ryan that I carried in my pack, but he declined (as did I). Toughing it out has some merit, too, I suppose. Our road deteriorated until we were just hiking a steep grass slope following a fenceline for the last several hundred feet. At the junction with the main ridge we hopped another fence and found ourselves on the more traveled dirt road found there. By now it was quite dark, the moon playing hide and seek through the fog layer overhead. A half hour of undulating ridgeline led us to the highpoint, just uphill and north of the road, across another fence.

Breezy and chilly, fog drifting overhead, waist-high thistle (the cows don't seem to like this variety), city lights off in the distance. We found a USGS benchmark labeled 'SARGENT'. There is an old station near US101 that was given this name for an area farmer and stock breeder when the railroad reached it in 1869. The low hills west of the Highway are called the Sargent Hills.

The moon now hidden for good, we beat a retreat back the way we came. There was sufficient light even without the moon to navigate by without headlamp, though barely when we started down the fenceline. Ryan was impressed that without map or GPS I could find our way back. "If it was up to me, we'd be totally lost," he commented. "I've had lots of practice," I replied. Some of the tall thistles and grass would whack us as we walked by if we weren't being too careful. A large black mass jumped up some 20yds from us and ran off. Startled, we realized it was just a deer that had bedded down and been surprised when we came by.

Back by 6:40p, our outing had lasted just under two hours. Ryan had to pee but had trouble undoing his pants because his fingers were so numb. After fumbling with it for a few minutes he asked if I could help. I laughed. Besides, my own fingers were numb as well. He solved the problem eventually. Good thing, because I wouldn't want to have an accident in the car on the ride home. We stopped at the Sonic Burger in Gilroy on our way back, our reward for our troubles. Nice!

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