Ocean View Summit
China Grade BM P900
Pine Mountain P750 CC / NN

Wed, Jul 14, 2010

With: Jackie Burd

Pine Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Map

This was the second day of getting Jackie into hiking shape for her upcoming adventure in BSA camp at the end of the month. Today's outing involved several summits in Big Basin State Park, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains about an hour's drive from our home. The fog that had been over much of the coast the past week had been pushed out to sea, leaving us blue skies and warm temperatures. Good for views, tough for hiking. We didn't get hiking until nearly 9a which didn't help with the warm day ahead.

Our first effort was to reach Ocean View Summit. It's not much of a peak, having only 15-20 feet of prominence, but by the name I expected it might have decent views to the coast. We started at the gated Middle Ridge Fire Road off China Grade Rd, near the Cutter Boy Scout Camp. This was the same camp she will be visiting a few weeks later, so I thought it would be a good idea for her to see what hiking in the area might be like. Warm!

We had no trouble at all finding Ocean View Summit with the roads and various junctions adequately marked with trail signs. We spent a lot of the hour-long, oddly downhill hike to the summit looking for animal tracks in the dusty road (hard to find with all the boot prints) and practicing morse code, two of the skills she's planning to learn at camp. It had been more than 30 years since I last tried morse code and I had to admit that Jackie knew more of the letters than I did. But with about 80% comprehension, we choose our words carefully to avoid the letters we didn't know (hard ones like f,j,l,q,v,y) and took turns audibly sounding "beep!" and "beeeeep!" to spell out four and five letter words. T'was not easy.

Ocean View Summit was somewhat of a disappointment. With a signed side trail just off the Middle Ridge Fire Rd, we found a small clearing with decent views of everything minus the ocean. To the southwest one see to the Pacific waters, but just barely. The surrounding sandstone rocks were heavily graffitied as a register of sorts, but there was a nice, primitive bench that we used to take a break and eat some snacks. Afterwards, we went back north a short distance on the fire road to explore the unnamed highpoint at 1,840ft+ (about 160ft higher than Ocean View). That turned out to be short walk through untrailed forest to no place special without any views. Luckily Jackie just went happily along with me and didn't even ask what we were doing out there. She seemed to enjoy exploring the downed trees and finding her way through the forest clutter.

Shortly after returning to the fire road and heading back to the TH, we came across a medium-sized snake that we paused to photograph. A racer snake, I think. We also came across a CDC prisoner work party heading out for trail maintainence. They seemed nice enough, greeting us as we went by, and Jackie didn't even notice they were prisoners until I pointed out the back of their orange jumpsuits afterwards. Our short 4 mile hike was over in two hours.

Before driving down to park headquarters, I stopped at a few places along China Grade Road looking for the elusive China Grade benchmark. There was a benchmark near the Middle Ridge TH that was spotted easily enough, but in two attempts I didn't find the one labeled China Grade. I think we hit the highpoint on the south side of the road, but wasn't quite sure.

After driving down to Big Basin HQ, we visited the Visitor Center and checked out some of the large trees nearby, very impressive specimens. Jackie wanted to call it a day by this time, but eventually acquiesced to my cajoling. In the end she was glad she did because the Pine Mtn Trail was easily the better of the two hikes we did. From the park HQ it's about 2.5 miles to Buzzards Roost, a rock outcropping on the north side of Pine Mtn. We spent some time scrambling to the highest point, a bit of class 3 that had Dad more nervous than daughter. The maintained trail ends at this point, but a not-hard-to-find-nor-hard-to-follow trail can be found just behind a sign. I left Jackie at the roost while I did the last third mile to the top of Pine Mtn. The trail was maintained at one time, still in decent shape, and it was not obvious why it was now being rehabilitated. There is a large pile of rocks marking the end of the old trail and almost nothing of a view. Perhaps this is why the trail was discontinued to this point?

I went back to join Jackie who was doing her summer reading against the side of the pinnacle. She didn't want to leave her nice reading nest just yet so I went and found another use trail to a lower pinnacle about a quarter mile to the east. The Pine Mtn Service Road (which is crossed several times while ascending the Pine Mtn Trail) ends at the base of this second pinnacle. There may have been a communications tower or similar here at one time, but all evidence is now gone, leaving just a large clearing.

Our last bit of excitement came back down near the bottom at Blooms Creek CG where we had to cross the creek. Jackie wanted to forgo the bridge in favor of a large tree fallen across the creek. Though I initially turned down her request, I eventually acquiesced, seeing as she'd done a good job on the Pine Mtn Trail without complaint. She started off across on her hands and knees, but eventually switched to a standing position before getting all the way across as her confidence increased. She thought it was great fun. I was just nervous. We ended the day after putting in about 9 miles. We'd have to do a few more on our next outing on Friday. Now to find some summits to visit up in the Marin County area...

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