Manzanita Ridge

May 11, 2017

With: Steve Sywyk
Tom McClaughry

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Not exactly legal, but not private property, either. Rancho Canada del Oro is to date the largest parcel of land acquired by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. Only a small section of the property is currently open to the public, with the rest of it closed until "it can be made safe for the public." This could be a variety of factors, including old, unsafe buildings on the property or lack of trails. We planned to visit the summit of Manzanita Ridge in the southeast portion of the property currently closed to the public. There are two ways to reach it from the parking lot on Casa Loma Rd. The easier route we used for the ascent simply follows a series of ranch roads for three miles, the trouble with this being one has to walk on the main dirt road for 2/3mi, clearly marked as open to residents only. The residents live in the small community of Mountain Home another mile up the road, one of whom came driving down while we were readying ourselves at the parking lot. The other route is a bit more adventurous, cutting the route in half by going up grassy slopes more directly from the start. The difficulties here are minor, including a crossing of Llagas Creek and the uneven footing on the slopes created by the deep hoofprints of the numerous cattle that graze the hillsides here.

After a somewhat nervous walk along the road, we turned left onto a lesser road heading up from the creek at a locked gate. The road showed little vehicle travel and once around the first bend in the road we were safe from unwanted discovery and I was able to more easily relax (I don't think Tom or Steve gave it much of a second thought either way). The road climbs at a hefty grade, up about 600ft in less than a mile. After that, the views begin to open up and the walking is fairly easy. We had to drop some down to a wide saddle marked "Portezuelo" on the topo map (spanish for "pass"), before a final pitch up to the highpoint of Manzanita Ridge, taking about 70min all told. The highpoint is found at the junction of four fencelines, roughly marking the four major points of the compass. Despite the short distance from the South Bay, the summit has a remarkably remote feeling since all the surrounding urban areas are blocked by intervening hills, leaving a more pastoral feeling to the expansive views. A chilling breeze drove us off the summit, finding protection from the wind behind a small rock outcrop on one side where we spent almost two hours enjoying some wine and our picnic lunch. The shortcut descent was made a bit more treacherous by our resulting inebriation, but we all got back safely, though not without a few wet feet from the creek crossing at the end.

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