Packard Ridge P500

Tue, Jan 18, 2011

With: Steve Sywyk

Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

Packard Ridge lies about three miles north of Mt. Hamilton in the Santa Clara County portion of the Diablo Range. Like most of the surrounding countryside, it lies on private ranch lands, largely comprised of rolling hills dotted with oaks with varying cover of grass and chaparral. Steve and I had been to the area the previous year to climb nearby Rattlesnake Butte. The summit of Packard Ridge is officially unnamed, but it came on my radar when I was studying the California Mountain Atlas which lists all summits, named or unnamed, that exceed 500ft of prominence in the state. Packard Ridge comes in at 540ft of prominence.

Because of access issues, the obvious choice was to do this as a moonlight hike. The weather was cooperating nicely in mid-January with mild nighttime temperatures in the high 40s and clear skies as the full moon was approaching. The hike itself is pretty straightforward. There is room at the end of Kincaid Rd for a car of most any size to park off the road without blocking either of the two gates located here. A realtor sign we had seen a year earlier was still there. We hopped the fence and started up the paved road on the other side. A quarter mile later it is necessary to wade across the creek that flows over the road. A year ago it was ankle deep and we had to take our boots off to keep them dry but today it was only about half an inch at the deepest and it was simple to just walk across it.

Soon after, the road begins a few switchbacks climbing out the Bonita Creek Canyon, higher towards Packard Ridge to the east. There are several occupied homes in the area during the hike, though neither is particularly close to roads we utilized. The first is located north across Bonita Creek, several lights faintly visible from our quarter mile distance. A barking dog seemed to sense our presence, but it was not persistent and did not draw the attention of anyone inside. A second home is located north of Rattlesnake Butte and we could see the lights as we approached the halfway point, but our route turned south here and we came no closer.

A car was parked at the halfway point where a locked gate presents itself. We guessed the car might be for commuter purposes, parked near the end of the pavement and used primarily for trips to town, possibly using a more durable truck for trips around the ranch. We hopped this fence and went under a second one immediately after it where we took the right fork heading south. The topo maps shows the main road contouring low on the southwest side of Packard Ridge, with a newer Jeep trail heading more directly to the summit. What we found is that the main road has been rerouted and conveniently goes where we wanted it to, up to the summit area marked as VABM (3,460ft) on the map. This made our navigation trivial. Frogs from two nearby ponds could be heard quite loudly as we started up a second set of switchbacks. We tried tossing objects into the ponds to see if they would quiet, but with so much racket we couldn't even tell if our tosses landed in the water or missed completely.

It was easy enough to find the summit as it is obvious even at night where the terrain could be seen to roll off in all directions. The dark outline of the Copernicus-Hamilton ridgeline could be easily discerned rising above us to south, the main crest of the range doing likewise to the east. Intervening hills to the west prevented a clear view to the metropolitan area of the South Bay, but the glow from the city lights reflecting off the haze could be seen easily enough. The summit was marked by a 2-foot pile of downed wood arranged in a circle around a small cairn at the center. There was a survey marker next to this ring of wood, but we found no benchmark in the area. Nearby was a memorial to one Alan D. Page (1928-1967). It was a gorgeous evening and we might have stayed longer if the strong breeze hadn't chilled us and driven us from the viewspot.

We returned via the same route without incident, taking about the same hour's time as we had on the ascent. Though less than 15 air miles from downtown San Jose, it took an hour and a quarter of driving to reach our parking spot due to the winding nature of the roads. We ended up spending more time driving this night that we did hiking, but we were still home shortly after 9p, one of the earliest finishes for a moonlight hike.

George Silas comments on 03/18/11:
I understand and share your desire to visit every obscure point but trespassing is illegal and ultimately hurts the hiking community.
Anonymous comments on 04/01/15:
Yea, but if one person doesn't do it, no one person will visit all points -- I say go for it.........
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