Poverty Ridge P1K CC

Thu, Dec 8, 2011

With: Steve Sywyk

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
later climbed Mon, Mar 18, 2013

Poverty Ridge lies in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose. It is easily visible from the South Bay in the hills to the east, but is overshadowed by the higher Oak Ridge which lies further east across a deep canyon cut by the Arroyo Hondo. The highpoint of the ridge has more than 1,000ft of prominence, but the entire area around it is all on private ranch lands. Many years ago I had tried to reach it in during daylight hours starting from Alum Rock Park, but we were caught, lectured, and ejected within 20 minutes by a property owner coming up the road who had seen us jump into the poison oak-infested creek gully off to the side. Keeping it in the back of my mind over the the years, I finally took some time to study a better, shorter route from Felter Rd that was about 3.5mi in length. The only problem was that it goes by a number of occupied homes. Stealth and moonlight would be important ingredients.

We started around 7:30p from a little-used dirt road just north of the paved road that serves as the access road for the half dozen homes in the immediate vicinity. There is very little in the way of parking anywhere nearby, but I managed to get the Miata parked at an angle off the roadway just enough to keep things legal. We crawled under the gate and started up the hill just as a truck came lumbering up the road from the north. Not completely out of view, we stopped and hunkered down so as not to attract attention with motion, let the truck pass and continued on our way. A few cows were standing around not really afraid of us, but watching as we passed through a gate and left them to their grazing. After less than half a mile our road ended in a "T" with a gravel road that served as the driveway for one of the homes off to the left. To the right a dog began barking madly, having sensed our presence. We hopped a fence on the opposite side of the road to begin climbing a small hill away from the dog and had not gone far when a vehicle came heading out the gravel driveway, leaving the home. Again we hunkered down, posing as rocks, and let the car go by without detection. Almost as soon as we started again another dog took up the chorus and soon there were was a confusion of barking that must have driven the neighbors to distraction. But no one came out to check on things, and no one bothered to shut their dog up to save their neighbors sanity.

We climbed the small hill over easy terrain mowed down by cattle, past a rocky knoll and then along a fenceline far to the east of the main road. The dogs didn't stop barking, but they settled into a less frenzied routine and soon became part of the background. There were still three homes to get by before we would be clear of possible detection. The first, on a hill above us to the east, had several external lights on but none inside and seemed to not be occupied. These lights would be off upon our return suggesting it might be occupied, but they may also have been set on a timer. And at least there was no dog there. In fact none of the last three homes appear to have dogs.

Just past that first home we climbed a high fence to regain the road. The second home is not far past this on a spur to the left. Lights and a vehicle outside were ample evidence of usage. Luckily this one could be given a wide berth and presented no issues. The road continues up and over a local highpoint, and all indications would have one believe there were no more homes up the road. But there is one last one about a mile past the second home, again at the end of a spur road to the left. We were within about 100ft of the junction when we were suddenly taken by surprise by headlights coming around a bend behind us. Having no time for even a hurried discussion, we charged off the road with Steve dropping to the right below the road level and myself running swiftly up the hill to the left. When the truck was about 100ft from us and I was just about to be most fully exposed, I dropped to the ground and lay still. The truck was going pretty fast and just zipped right by us, turning left on the spur road to the last home. My heart was still racing as I scampered back down the hill to join Steve. I had only been about 50ft up the hill and thought I had a good chance of being caught, however after discussing it more calmly we concluded it probably would have been hard for the driver to notice us since his vision was not as acutely acclimatized to the night as our own. What looked plain as day to us, probably looked black to someone driving along, staring at the road in the headlights.

We had no further excitement after this, just the two of us hiking up the road with an occasion small herd of cattle, some with young 'uns, none of which ran at our presence. We enjoyed the moderate hike under a bright moon and starry skies, the temperature hovering around 40F. The lights of San Jose to the west became visible the higher we climbed. It was not long after 9p when we reached the highpoint of the ridge at 3,301ft, just off the road that traverses along the crest. We were there probaby 20 minutes, playing with different exposures on the camera to capture the city lights and the surrounding terrain. Eventually we grew too cold and needed to start moving again.

There were no more incidences with vehicles and humans on the return. The two dogs that had taken offense to us started up again as we approached within several hundred yards' distance, but they did not have the same enthusiasm they had shown earlier and eventually gave it up as a lost cause. It was around 10:45p when we returned to Felter Rd and our car. The route had been short as advertised, but a bit too much traffic to make for a good recommendation. A better, more scenic route from Joseph Grant Park and the south would have none of the issues with people, homes or dogs, but is almost three times longer - a good choice if one has more time and the inclination...

jj comments on 12/15/11:
On the topo, looks like the point south of 3301 is higher (...hurts to say it).
Bob comments on 03/17/13:
Yeah, looks like I blew it. The CC-list had the elevation at 3,301ft which is the spot elevation we climbed to. But the P1K point is a bit to the south. I'll have to go back sometime in the future.
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