Peak 3,050ft P900

Wed, May 30, 2012

With: Marty Sexton

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Unnamed Peak 3,050ft lies five miles east of Mt. Hamilton, roughly halfway between it and the broad San Antonio Valley in the heart of the Diablo Range in Santa Clara County. It is the 8th most prominent peak in the county with 930ft of prominence, and the most prominent unnamed peak within 75 miles. The peak forms a small island within the range bounded on three sides by San Antonio Creek and Arroyo Bayo, with Sawtooth Canyon on the east side. The distance to the summit from paved San Antonio Rd (SR130) is only a few miles and it appears that the peak can be climbed from several sides via a network of ranch roads that run throughout the area. Private residences are found on both routes that I looked at. I settled on the southeast approach as the better of the two.

Wednesday night, two days past the half moon, was the only evening I had available this cycle for a local hike. Marty was the only companion to join me for this short hike that I figured would have us home before midnight, even with a late start around 8p. As often happens, we were running late and didn't get started until well after 8:30p, and though only 20 air miles from my home, the very windy Mt. Hamilton Rd would require well over an hour to negotiate to the starting point. Halfway up to Mt. Hamilton it occurred to me that I'd left my GPS with some key waypoints back at home. I had forgone printing a map since the route was short and I figured the GPS would be sufficient. Luckily Marty had his own GPS, and though devoid of the key waypoints including where to start, we managed to figure out enough to go on with Marty's equipment, though not without more time lost to work things out.

It was 10p before we got started with the hike, making it evident from the get-go that we'd never get back to San Jose by midnight. There was no fence or gate to cross, just a ranch road heading into a small unnamed canyon on the east side of our peak. Just after crossing Arroyo Bayo the road forks. We could see unlighted buildings and trailers ahead on the right that I had not noticed from the satellite view. We approached these carefully, passing along the road some 50-75 yards to the west, not talking and moving as quietly as we could manage. Another quarter mile north along the road was the larger collection of ranch building that I had marked out and before reaching them we found a convenient bypass road going by a small pond. We left the road to climb a steep but short grass slope several hundred feet high, above and west of the ranch buildings. No lights were seen and no sounds heard. By the time we'd collected enough thistles in our socks to become annoying, we reached a little-used ranch road that followed a ridgeline up to the main road that would lead to the summit. There were no more buildings to be found once back on the ranch roads at the higher elevations, allowing us to resume our conversations without worry.

It was 11:30p before we reached the summit where a broad clearing had been graded across the top making for excellent moonlit views in all directions. The summit was not high enough to see over either the east or west crests of the range, so none of the Bay Area or Central Valley lights were visible. Just a scattering of maybe a dozen lights from the few residents that live in this wide, isolated swath of the range. We stayed long enough to take in the views and have a bit to drink. Always with half a mind focused on fishing and hunting, Marty thought it would make a swell vantage point to spot game. He loved to talk about the man vs. beast angle of the sport and how crafty and devious the deer could be in avoiding the hunters. I loved to point out how one sided this contest is in reality.

Our return took only 45 minutes, much faster when we no longer had to consult and play with the GPS to find our way. As we descended the cross-country grass slope near the large collection of buildings we were sensed by a dog that took up a few barks to let us know he was on to us. Luckily it did not start up an incessant racket that might alarm its owner, eventually becoming convinced that its job of protecting the homestead was done to proper satisfaction. We were back at the car around 12:15p and back in San Jose before 2a. The drive back along San Antonio Rd/Mt. Hamilton Rd seems twice as long in the wee hours of the night. I suspect it will be a long time before I head back there again. Time to head to Oregon and Washington...

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