Oak Ridge P500

Sun, Sep 4, 2011

With: Steve Sywyk

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

As the moon reached half full, it seemed as good a time as any for another nighttime hike. Steve joined me for the short hike to the highpoint of Oak Ridge in the Diablo Range near Mt. Hamilton. Though it has more than 600ft of prominence, at 3,135ft the summit is too low to afford a view of the city lights around the Bay Area. Instead, it is tucked into the hills behind Joseph Grant Park, just north of Mt. Hamilton. The approach is via Kincaid Rd, a side road off the Mt. Hamilton Rd that we'd used on three previous occasions. We found the starting point with the help of a coordinate I had plugged into the GPS, marked by a locked gate with a No Trespassing sign. We parked at a turnout just up the road from this turnout to keep our intentions less obvious. Cricket mating season must be in full swing, because the noise they were creating was as loud as I've ever heard them make collectively. The good point of this we noted was that it would probably mask any noise we made ourselves, making it harder for dogs to become aware of our presence.

The satellite view showed a homestead about 2/3 mile from the road, which had been my only real concern at the start. What we found was a second home, well sheltered by trees and not visible from space, about a quarter mile from the start. It was well-lighted and obviously occupied by full-time residence, and unfortunately the dirt road heading south towards our highpoint went right by the house. Rather than risk alarming the occupants or starting a dog barking, we opted to bypass the house by climbing the ridgeline to the east of the home. We were lucky that the hillside was mostly tall grass, mostly mowed down by the cattle that ranged in the area. The chosen route worked quite nicely, taking us above and around the house, completely out of view.

After less than a quarter mile we found ourselves back on a less-used dirt road that roughly followed the top of the ridgeline. This secondary road led through a property boundary at a gate that appeared seldom used, eventually ending atop a local highpoint about halfway to our goal. More cross-country ensued, stumbling through taller grass that could have used more mowing, until eventually we found our way back onto the main dirt road that we would have followed from the beginning had it not been the home. We never saw lights or signs of the second home. Either we skirted it to the east and out of view as suggested by the GPS, or it was not occupied and had no visible lights.

The one-way distance to the highpoint is just under two miles from the road, so the slower cross-country sections did not set us back much time-wise. The road got within a sixth of a mile from the highpoint before starting back down towards the east. We left the road and hiked up the steep hillside leading to the top, ducking under low oak branches, and meandering some to get around thicker stands of manzanita. It took about an hour to reach the summit. To no great surprise, we found no views. We could see the illuminated fog settled over San Jose to the west and the shaded outline of Mt. Hamilton to the south. But for the most part the summit was occupied by manzanita and oaks that blocked most of the view directions.

Sitting on a log, we took a short breather and examined our shoes and the thousands of thistles they had collected. It has an ugly, matted mess of shoelaces, boots and socks covered in tiny thistles and stickers of several varieties that we had collected over the last hour. Winter or Spring would have been much better to avoid these little pests. We didn't bother trying to remove them while we were at the summit. Doing so would only have cleared the way to collect just as many on the way down. At least now they seemed to have reached a maximum where there was no additional room for new ones to join in. We had been at the summit only a few minutes when we heard a dog, or dogs barking in the distance. It didn't last long and we couldn't tell in what direction or distance it had come from. With the noise of the crickets still quite loud, it seemed unlikely the dogs were aware of our presence, but it seemed a good signal for us to head down.

Our return took just as long, returning via nearly the same route. The only deviation we took was near the end. Another side road presented itself that I thought might head more directly back to the car along Kincaid Rd. Instead, it looked to parallel the pavement about 150ft above, running roughly north. It might have connected with Kincaid road further along, but it seemed easier to just drop down the grassy slopes where we found the car in a few minutes. A tightly-bound barbed-wire fence at road's edge presented one last obstacle. It was not possible to spread the wires and slip between them, nor were the posts strong enough to allow us to climb over without likely damage. We found a tree along the fenceline that allowed us to climb over more easily. Oddly, the wire went right through the tree trunk, about a foot in diameter, in three places. The tree appears to have grown up with the fence and simply enveloped the wires over the years.

We spent probably 15 minutes picking thistles and burrs out of our clothing and shoes, and even then only getting about half of them out. We would have to leave the rest for morning and more available light and patience. Aside from the burrs, the evening had been nearly ideal. The temperature had almost been warm, indeed Steve was hiking shirtless for a short while on the way up. The moon had provided enough light to see by for all but the last stretch to the summit where the moon was blocked by the summit itself. In all we were hiking only two hours, a bit on the short side, but then Steve said he hadn't been sleeping all that well lately and had preferred a shorter outing. This was the last summit I have for Kincaid Rd, so unless I discover another one in the future, this might be the last moonlight visit to this lonely, dead-end road...

Anonymous comments on 09/24/11:
It would seem foolish to take pictures of your illegal activities.

- Ed
Marty comments on 10/01/15:
I liked your story. I have driven the length of Kincaid Road several times and each time has been an exciting experience. Thanks for the well-written report.

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