Mon, Jan 26, 2009
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My first stop was Table Mtn #16 (that is, the 16th highest Table Mtn in California - there are a ton of them), off highway 9 out of Saratoga, in the Santa Cruz Mtns. It sits off the north side of the range on private property, and I wasn't sure if I could actually find a way up. I had perused the satellite views on Google Maps and thought there was a road up the south side, but after driving up and down the road a few times in the vicinity I found nothing suitable. As a last resort I drove up to Mountain Winery on the east side of the mountain. I expected the gate to be locked, but was happy to find it otherwise. This would make things easier. I drove to the end of the road, past the wide open and empty visitor lot, past the handicap lot, and up to the employee lot where I parked in the last stall among the contruction equipment and piles of debris found there. I saw no one on the way in though there were dozens of cars in the employee lot, and figured I'd better get started before someone tells me to get out of Dodge. Or off the mountain.
Thankfully there was a dirt road running the mile distance to the top. Easy as pie. It would have been darn near impossible to plow through the heavy chaparral on either side of the road. The top wasn't exactly table-like, but not so pointy either. It was more like a V-shape with four points vying for the highpoint. The nearest to me was one tip of the "V" and I climbed this a short distance (40-50ft, nothing phenomenal here) to find it was the lowest of the four. Across a small canyon at the other tip of the "V" there was a vineyard and home that I was hoping wouldn't be the highpoint. The V's junction was off to the southwest and I continued on the road another five minutes or so to its summit. It was the highest, both from a visual check and by pulling out the map and checking it more closely.
There was a decent view from the top among some low-cropped chaparral alongside the road. A few old beer bottles littered the site here and there, but not much else. The Santa Clara Valley could be seen spread out to the northeast and the higher Black Mtn to the northwest. Behind me to the south rose the higher main ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains, clouds hovering over much of it.
I headed back after a few minutes, returning the way I came. I was a 100ft above the parking lot when I spotted a car stopped with a door open, a man walking around. I couldn't figure out if he was looking for me or inspecting one of the debris piles. I stood in place and waited for him to leave, glad that he didn't look up the hill before he got in his car and drove off. A few minutes later I followed suit, again seeing no one about as I drove back down through the winery and down to the highway.
The second Table Mtn lies entirely on public land, some of it in Open Space Preserve, most of it in Stevens Creek County Park. This made access easy, though it was the longest outing of the day, six miles RT. It was fairly straightforward, parking at the TH for Charcoal Rd, then choosing which route to take at a junction in the first quarter mile. I chose to take the hikers-only Table Mtn Trail on the way out, and the Charcoal Rd route on the way back. The single track trail was more scenic, but more ups and downs than the more direct road. There were no views to speak of on either route, particularly the Table Mtn Trail which was overhung by the forest canopy composing a mix of pines, oaks, and madrones. I didn't realize it from looking at the map beforehand that this second Table Mtn (#17, if you're keeping count) isn't a mountain at all. It had barely any prominence, maybe 120ft, just a local highpoint along a subsidiary ridge coming off the main crest of the range, before it drops down to Stevens Creek which encircles it on three sides. Almost all the elevation gain comes on the return.
The summit itself offers almost no views, the highest point on this table-like feature buried in a grove of madrone. At least it lived up to its name, unlike the first Table Mtn. All told it took just under two hours. Time was going by a littler faster than I'd expected and it looked like I'd only get to visit a few of the bonus peaks I had planned.
I turned around on SR35 and headed southeast along the crest to Castle Rock SP. I planned to stop off at Summit Rock on the north side of the highway, even though I wasn't sure if had visited it in the past. At the TH parking there was a note posted that the summit was off-limits. I hiked out towards the summit anyway to see if the closure was for just climbers, or everybody. There was a locked gate barring further progress to clear up that bit. Seems there is the possibility that some falcons are nesting there. Having hiked out as far as I did, it helped me recall that I had indeed visited in the past, with Michael Golden and another friend on one of our first rock climbing forays almost ten years ago. I turned around and went back to the car.
The next three summits involved almost no walking, the hardest taking only five minutes to reach the summit. This was the next one on the list, oddly named, "The Peak", the only feature in California so named (although there is a "Peak Mountain" and "The Peaks" found in other counties). At the trailhead there is the remains of an elaborate wall that looks to have been built back in the times of Middle Earth, now overgrown almost completely with ferns and lichen. An ancient road leads the short distance to the summit where there are other relics telling of an old residence that used to lie near the summit. It is now part of Sanborn-Skyline County Park and the old habitation has almost dissolved into the biome. The ground was wet and green from recent rains, so too were the trees and everything that hung from them. The highpoint was a moss-laden rock, almost class 3 due to its slipperiness. Next to it was a venerable and very ancient oak. Half of the tree had disappeared long ago, exposing the core. In an effort to save the tree, the landowners had the exposed center section filled with concrete to a height of some 20ft or so, presumeably to help save the tree from infection and rot. The tree lived on, growing around parts of the concrete. The concrete itself is cracked and crumbling in places, looking almost as old as the tree. Recent graffiti was the only thing spoiling this unusual scene.
On the east side of The Peak, about a quarter mile from the summit is a weathered parking area for the county park. I found a map at a kiosk there indicating another peak, "Sunnyvale Mountain" just east of the lot. I hiked up the old road to its summit (all of three minutes), finding some old picnic benches scattered about. Neither of these peaks had any views whatsoever due to the dense forest cover.
The last peak for the day was a short distance further along the highway in a private mountain development. Grizzly Rock isn't really a peak, just a rock outcrop along a subsidiarly ridge. I drove through the development keeping my speed to a slow, non-threatening, I-could-live-here-for-all-anyone-could-tell sort of pace. Though private, there are no "No Trespassing" signs and I think the access is perfectly legal. An elder couple I passed on my way in were hiking to the same place, as I met them when I returned to my parking spot. A nearby resident happened to drive up as we were converging at my car, pausing to smile and simply comment, "Looks like a busy day at Grizzly Rock."
Finding Grizzly Rock isn't the easiest, but it helped to study the topo I had with me. The trick is to stay on the main road heading almost due south, taking the left fork when the Community Building is spotted off a fork to the right. Continuing on another quarter mile or less, I found a side road labeled "Grizzly Rock Rd" on the right. This seemed a smart road to take. It does indeed lead to Grizzly Rock though there is no parking allowed at the turnaround near the short trail. I backtracked and found a small spot to park just off the side of Grizzly Rock Rd. There are two small signs directing one to Grizzly Rock and staying off private property which encroaches within about a dozen yards of the feature.
Grizzly Rock itself was surprisingly cool. It is a collection of large boulders, the highest rating class 5 if it weren't for the cheater rope left hanging from the summit and the steps conveniently carved into the rock. I would have been unable to climb the darn thing without both of these aids being present. The top offers a nearly unobstructed view to the south out over the range to Monterey Bay and the Ventana area far in the background. The clouds blocked portions of the view, but it was still quite grand. The nearest house was only about 50 yards away and I could clearly see into the master bedroom on the second floor. The homes in this area are a mix of old/rustic and $2M mansions, and the views they afford must be their primary attraction.
That was all I had time for, though there were another four or five short summits on my list. I'll save those for another visit, perhaps later in the week.
This page last updated: Mon Jan 26 23:04:35 2009
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