Maisies Peak P300

Sep 19, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
later climbed Feb 5, 2016

Maisies Peak is a modest summit in Santa Clara County next to Stevens Creek Reservoir on the edge of the urban/suburban sprawl that is Los Altos and Cupertino. It is named for Maisie Garrod who had purchased the land here in 1910 with her brother and kept it in the family until the 1980s when it was purchased by the regional Open Space Preserve. The Garrod family kept some property which is now a winery and riding stable on the south side of the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. Together with the adjacent Stevens Creek County Park, there is a network of trails covering these low foothills on the north side of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Near the entrance to the county park is a ghost bike and two memorial plaques, reminders of an ugly incident that took place back in 2008. A group of cyclists riding single file down this twisty road were struck by a drunken motorist who crossed the double yellow line to strike the riders head-on, killing one instantly, a second who died a few hours later and a third that sustained serious injuries. In normal circumstances this would be a terrible tragedy, but what makes this ugly is what happened next. The driver was an on-duty county sheriff who was whisked from the scene by his fellow officers before the investigating team arrived at the scene. Over the next few months it was revealed that the fellow officers initially attempted to cover up for their intoxicated brethren, eventually leading to trouble all over the department - a sad episode, indeed.

How I had missed this named summit in my home county was a small mystery to me, but it was easy enough to remedy the situation in a few hours before I had to be in Los Altos for my daughter's volleyball game. Parking is available inside the park for a $6 fee, or outside for free in a few places that skirt the numerous No Parking signs. I wandered into the park with only a rough idea where I was going. Knowing I needed to be on the east side, I crossed over Stevens Creek and found the fireroad/trail on the other side. I also soon found a TH kiosk complete with trail maps. After looking it over I slipped one into my pocket and headed south in search of the Coyote Ridge Trail. I found it soon enough, just before reaching the dam. The trail appears to be a powerline road that has been dual-purposed for recreational users, including cyclists and equestrians. The trail climbs the modest ridge used by PG&E to anchor a series of transmission towers. The road is quite dusty at this time of year, it can be quite warm in the afternoon and the flies are moderately annoying, but otherwise it makes for a decent hike through chaparral and oak woodland. With the constant sounds of urban traffic and a nearby gun range it is not a quiet wilderness experience. Near the top of the ridge there is the additional distraction of two new water tanks under construction adjacent to the trail.

A sign indicating Maisies Peak has been erected just below the summit which offers good views overlooking the South Bay. Haze marred the views some today, but it was still nice - Mt. Hamilton could be seen to the east, Mt. Umunhum to the southeast, Black Mtn to the southwest. A huge gravel pit operation can be seen to the west on the north side of Black Mtn. The large number of trucks driving to and from this excavation site with the noise and large amounts of dust they bring have been a source of contention with the suburban neighbors and recreational visitors to Stevens Creek for many years. Progress and development come at a cost which is often inconvenient.

Leaving the summit I got somewhat confused with the small maze of trail options on the west side. I eventually found my way to the single track Lookout Trail that would take me back down in a loop following along the east side of the reservoir. A sign at the bottom of the trail indicates it was constructed by a small army of 400 volunteers and sponsored by REI. It's a nice trail, much better than the wide, dusty powerline/firebreak road that is the Coyote Ridge Trail. Along the way one is treated to some fall colors (thanks to the abundance of poison oak), a field of thistles that I thought would make for a bushwhacking nightmare, and some rather nice oak woodlands. Before descending to the reservoir, the trail passes by an adjacent archery range (the only public range in the county - much quieter than the shooting range, btw) and a few picnic areas before starting the long, winding traverse around the waters' edge. The upper 2/3 of the reservoir were completely dry, a result of the late season and serious drought conditions. There was some water left in the deepest part of the reservoir before the dam but it looked to be more like a large pond than a lake. A lone fisherman was trying his luck in the waters at the base of the dam while a park ranger was probing the waters to one side for reasons unclear. I crossed over the dam and shortly made my way back to where I'd left my car two hours earlier - not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon. Time to go watch some volleyball...

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