Mt. McDonald P300
Peak 1,580ft P300

Mon, Nov 4, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX

This could be one of the lamest reasons to go for a hike and I'm just going to admit this up front. I happen to be looking at some stats provided on the LoJ website and noticed that there are two calendar dates for which I have no ascents with at least one peak having 300ft of prominence, Feb 29 being one of them. The other was Nov 4, which you'd think I might have covered after 20yrs of doing this, but alas, no. I must go on a hike today or this will stick in my craw for another year - no OCD issues here as you can see. I decided to turn to Santa Cruz County next door, knowing that Andrew Kirmse and David Sanger had visited most of the peaks there and I could simply use their tracks. The peaks I selected were very minor, just over 300ft of prominence, no views and little of interest to most peakbaggers, save the truly dedicated needing completion of some arbitrary political boundary. Both summits were in the vicinity of Boulder Creek, a quaint, hippy-ish mountain town along SR9 between Santa Cruz and Big Basin. Lots of interesting folks in this neck o' the woods. I set out from San Jose around 8a, taking about an hour to reach the start of the first peak.

Mt. McDonald

This peak is part of the Boulder Creek Scout Reservation, used by the BSA and other groups for outdoor activities. Andrew and David's route starts from outside the property on Highland Dr to the west. There are a number of ways one can reach the summit using old logging roads, use trails, and reservation trails. I went up one way, down another. The summit is buried in redwood forest, with several fire rings found close by. I imagine these are used as part of more rustic campsites away from the main facilities. It doesn't look like they get much use anymore, possibly because of fire dangers.

Peak 1,580ft

This one is slightly more interesting. Andrew wrote of it: just beneath the summit where we found a 15' high impenetrable wall of poison oak. Scouting to the left and then right we finally found a spot with less p.o. and more manzanita that allowed us to crawl the last 100 feet or so to the wooded summit. Miserable. I parked in the same place, but rather than crossing the creek as they did, I walked up the road a short distance where the road goes over a bridge, saving a little work. From there the route goes steeply uphill through forest understory to reach the West Ridge. No poison oak on this first part. Once on the ridge, it gets a little brushy with some p.o. until an old firebreak and then the old road they described are reached. These make the rest of the hike a piece of cake. The buildings that can be seen south across the canyon are greenhouses, part of a residence out of view behind them. It seems far enough away that I can't imagine anyone noticing you, or caring much, for that matter. With 300ft to go, the road ends in the wall of p.o. described. I spent no time looking for a way through it from the south as they did, figuring I'd circle around the west side to approach from the north which they reported as much better. But as I started to do this, I noticed some cut manzanita branches, some of them more than an inch in diameter. I very quickly discovered a fine trail tunneling through the manzanita to get me to the summit as easy as you could possibly imagine. It was quite deluxe, cut high enough to stand up without hunching and plenty wide, too, and only tens of feet from the miserable way they described going. The cuts looked to be at least several years old so I'm not sure how the others missed it on their visit. Of course I've done the very same thing, so I guess I know that sometimes that's just the way it goes...

There were no views to be had from the summit, but some along the old road on the ridge during the ascent and descent. I was done shortly after 11a, taking just under an hour for the 2mi effort. And with that I headed back to San Jose where I had a lunch date with an old friend that would take up much of the afternoon. Rough life.

comments on 11/05/19:
Unfortunately, both of the peaks in this report from Feb 29, 2016 have less than 300ft of prominence, so it doesn't count in the LoJ listing.
comments on 11/05/19:
Less than 4 months to go before the next 2/29 rolls by.

Tom comments on 11/07/19:
There's was sure a lot of work required to get two peaks with less than 300' prominence.
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