Messic Mountain

Thu, May 23, 2013

With: Steve Sywyk

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It was supposed to be a short outing that would have us home by 11p, but it didn't quite work out that way. We spent some time at Steve's home working out a driving arrangement. We didn't know much about what the parking would be like and wanted to take one of our older cars, in particular the one that Steve's daughter drives. Though the car belongs to Steve and his wife, Steve made the gesture to ask his daughter if it was ok if we used it. She was hesitant because she planned to use it that night. Steve pointed out that her friend, who was over with her own car, was equally capable of driving them. "Ok, but I have to warn you, there's no gas in the car," she countered, hoping to discourage us. Steve turned to me and said, "Oh my God, what will we do?" and then, "I don't think she realizes money isn't much of an issue for us." We both chuckled as we looked back at his daughter. It's so much fun to annoy our teenage children. To compensate, we filled the tank with gas though we would use less than a quarter tank. It would be like Christmas for a few weeks until the tank was empty again and his daughter had to scrounge for a few bucks to keep it running near empty once more. Aside from leaving San Jose later than planned, we ended up with a longer-than-expected detour in Gilroy to investigate a mysterious leak at one of Steve's rental homes there. We spent time checking out the irrigation system and talking with the unusually sober next door neighbor. The upshot was that we didn't get started on the hike until the time we'd actually planned to be finished with it, around 10p. It was probably a good thing in the end - had we arrived at 8p like we planned it might have been a bit too light out and we might have run the risk of being discovered by the homeowner who lives at the end of Comstock Rd out of Hollister where Messic Mtn is located. As it was, we were able to park at the base of the mountain, barely a mile away as the crow flies, without being detected. The well-lit home was only a few hundred yards further along the road, across a small bridge that fords an equally small dry creekbed. Trees and a modest rise in the terrain kept it out of sight until we had begun to climb the mountain.

Messic Mtn is a pretty small bump in the foothills of the Diablo Range, just south of the Santa Clara and San Benito County boundary. It has less than 200ft of prominence, but has an official name which caught my attention. The climb was pretty straightforward, going up 1,000ft in about a mile and half. The hillsides were completely open grass slopes, with only a few oak trees. Though in active ranching country, it did not appear that the slopes we were on had been grazed yet this year. My biggest concern was that the stickers and thistles would be attracted to our socks like magnets now that the hills had browned and the grasses gone to seed. Steve had remembered to bring gaiters where I hadn't, and I had to admit to being a bit envious. It turned out to be no trouble at all - the grasses were primarily of a variety that posed little danger in this regard. In fact, Steve seemed to have more trouble with his gaiters than I did with none.

The climbing was steep to begin with, rising 400ft is short order before rolling off and becoming more relaxed. The lights of the nearby home were evident soon after starting up, an impressive array of driveway and landscape lighting that suggested a very pricey homestead even though all we could see of the home was in shadow. Higher up the lights of Hollister came into view over the lower foothills, eventually becoming a swath of lights stretching north towards Gilroy. It took about 45 minutes to make the climb to the summit at a steady, although unhurried pace. There were a number of familiar peaks visible by moonlight, most prominent was Pacheco Peak about four miles to the north. Steve had climbed that one with me five years ago. About the same distance to the east were Antimony and Mariposa Peaks which I had climbed alone the previous year. The summit was rounded and grassy, rocks strewn about the place, no cairn or other manmade object to mark the highpoint. We stacked a few rocks atop each other to facilitate the taking of a few nighttime photos, including one of ourselves.

After about 15 minutes at the summit we started the return. We were chatting and distracting ourselves to the point where we started down the wrong ridge more than once. A glance at the GPS at opportune moments got us back on track and down the same route we had come up. One thing I've found is that the regular use of the GPS has made me a bit lazier - I tend not to pay attention to the details of the route during the ascent as much as I used to. At the steepest portion near the bottom, we were descending a little too rapidly and each slipped several times on the grass slopes. Luckily there were few hazards and a fall was more humorous than dangerous. We got back to the bridge and our car shortly before midnight, home around 1a. Not a bad outing even though it was short. We were both happy to have a chance to get out once again in the hills by moonlight - a fine way to feed the soul...

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