Tolman Peak NN
Walpert Ridge P500 CC
Gossip Rock CC / NN

Thu, Jan 29, 2009
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile


Day four of Local Peaks Week saw me again driving to the Diablo Range during morning commute hours. Ugh. It was stressful even going against the main commuter direction. How do people do this every day of the week? I drove out to Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park in the Union City/Fremont area on the west side of the range. The main objective of the day was the highpoint of Walpert Ridge, lying outside and above the park on private property. The hills here are a lush green from recent rains and have wonderful views overlooking San Francisco Bay and the surrounding communities. No fee to enter/park at Dry Creek Park.

Leaving the parking lot shortly after 9a, I immediately got lost. Sad really, but I didn't get three feet past the bulletin board at the TH before making a wrong turn. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but it was clear I paid almost no attention to the trail map posted clearly on the board, though I can swear I actually looked at it. I turned right and followed a grassy dirt road up a small incline where it ended about a quarter mile later in field strewn with discarded farm and ranch equipment. Only after studying my topo map a little more clearly did I realize my mistake. Rather than backtrack, I chose to hop a fence and climb up and over a low, grassy hill to the east, drop over the steep east side to a creek, and finally back in the park proper where I landed on a gravel/dirt road.

A park ranger drove by in a golf cart a minute later. "Lazy ass", I thought to myself, as we smiled and waved to each other in passing. I followed the road up Dry Creek (not so dry at the moment), past a grove of Eucalyptus and Redwood trees, and back across the creek where the road turns south again. I shortcutted the road heading up to Tolman Peak by aiming straight up the first slope presented to me. The cross country is quite easy when the grass is kept mowed by the cows and one stays out of the brushy creeks.

There was some trouble indentifying Tolman Peak because, as I came to find out, it has almost no prominence and is literally just a bump along the acending ridge. I walked along the ridgeline on my way up, lest I might bypass Tolman by mistake. At a clump of trees I found a register among some boulders, a sure sign I was at the summit.

It turned out to be a Geocache, not so much as a summit register, but from the entries in the notepad enclosed I could see that it was quite common for non-geocachers to find it. There was an interesting story enclosed, describing the tragic accident of a United Airlines flight that occurred here, in 1951. The trinkets enclosed in the Geocache were primarily toy airplanes and other aviation-related items. After taking a few photos, I packed it all back up and left it where I found it.

I continued up the ridge behind Tolman Peak (verifying it has less than ten feet of prominence), coming to the park boundary in a few minutes. I hopped the fence and continued upwards. Some cows in the area were spooked by my presence as I came over a small knoll. They looked at me for a moment, then sauntered up the road in a group. Great, just the way I was going. They didn't seem to clue in that I was going to follow the road, as it would have been simple for them just to move laterally to either side until I passed. After some minutes of this game I decided I would move off the road myself and take a slightly different tack. I didn't want a rancher to chew me out for trespassing and harassing his herd.

It took about 45 minutes from Tolman to reach the crest of Walpert Ridge. The first thing I noticed upon looking over the other side was a large mansion less than a mile away. I could see at least three vehicles outside. I had no idea if this was a ranch owner or not, but didn't want to get spotted. Luckily the house was not the same direction as the highpoint which lay about 15 minutes to the south along the ridgeline. I had to hop another fence to get to the road that follows along the ridge, at which point I was pretty exposed to anybody looking over my way. Later I concluded that the house was under construction and the trucks I saw were probably from workmen - who probably wouldn't care who I was.

I found the highpoint around 11a at the north end of a grassy hill just east of the main crest. I found no register or benchmark anywhere. There were nice views of the Bay and the green hills of the Diablo Range in three directions. On a lower hill to the east I spotted the ruins of another home that once stood at the spot. It didn't seem like fire had done it in, but it was too far away to get a good look at it. Maybe the foundation had slumped out from under it?

I started back the way I came, but continued north along Walpert Ridge for an alternate descent road. It was a very nice walk along the ridge, open to views on all sides with some interesting rock collections littering the ridgetop. It would probably make a very nice hike indeed to walk the crest of the ridge from one end to the other. The route I took circumnavigated the Dry Creek drainage, the descent heading around the north and northwest sides. I had to hop one last fence to get me back inside the park area, then I followed the road down through first an ungrazed area, and then into an active one. The cows inside the park were far less skittish than those on the outside. In fact, when I sat on a bench to have a snack, the small herd came over to get a better look. They kept their distance of about 30ft, but once I got up to leave they came over to the bench to inspect it for crumbs. I think they may be used to handouts from the visitors.

I took a side trip from near the bench to check out the oddly named Gossip Rock. It is a rocky formation near the end of a grassy ridge with two large oaks anchoring it on either side and nearly covering it up. There was a larger, flattish rock on the south end that looked to have old Indian mortars, probably from the Ohlone Indians that used to live in the area. One can imagine that the women used to sit here gossiping while grinding acorns, and perhaps that's where the name came from (I just did a web search and found a reference to just this description, so I'll take it as fact - because everything on the web is true).

I returned to the road and followed this back down to the main gravel road (called Mays Road on the topo), then a short distance further back to the parking lot. The whole outing was 3hr20m, making for a very enjoyable morning.

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