Mt. Van Lone
Peak 2,220ft

Wed, Jun 15, 2016
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The night before, I was looking at a map of summits in Santa Clara County and noticed there were two closely-spaced points just off Skyline Blvd (SR35) in the Santa Cruz Mtns that I'd not yet been to. They are exceedingly minor summits with very little prominence and certainly no views, but somehow I woke up in the morning thinking about them. I ate breakfast and did a few chores, but somehow it stuck in the back of my head that I ought to go check them out. Whatever types of neurotransmitters were swimming around my brain, I imagine this is exactly the sort of thing that takes hold of a drug addict, unable to get the thought out of mind, eating away at you until you give in and take that next fix. So I told my wife I was going out for a short hike and headed out for a 30min drive.

SR35 just east of Bear Creek Rd becomes a very narrow road that winds along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mtns towards SR17. There are a number of rural homes found along both sides of the road in many places and with no shoulder for most of its length. Finding a place to park is not so easy. I found a spot to the west of where I wanted to start, near the intersection with Upper Zayante Rd. I then walked east along the road to a saddle between Van Lone and Peak 2,220ft that I had identified beforehand from Google StreetView. Google Maps incorrectly shows an Xmas Tree Farm at this location - there is no such thing. Instead, there is a locked gate signed for Area Closed by the Peninsula Regional Open Space District. Much better to go through here than private property, I reasoned. I followed an old logging road uphill to the northwest for about 1/6mi to the top of the forested Mt. Van Lone. The highpoint is just east of the road among some second growth redwoods. A trivial peak, it turned out, but almost as soon as I started to think this would be a very short outing, the second summit demonstrated just how tough the Santa Cruz Mountains can be.

I returned to my starting point at the gate and continued east towards Peak 2,220ft. Though only 2/5mi distance, I would spend almost two hours getting to the summit and back. An overgrown logging road starts off promisingly in that direction, but it soon curves down a ravine and I found myself sidehilling across the north side of the crest. The road and various homes are found just south of the crest, so it was necessary to maintain a distance to avoid causing any trouble. Along with a generous helping of poison oak all over the area, there is much downfall, both natural and manmade (trees cut for the homes were simply tossed off the north side years ago), and a great deal of brush - cross-country in the Santa Cruz Mtns at its finest. I was prepared with appropriate clothing from head to toe, including gloves, as I pretty much expected both summits to be this sucky. In addition to evidence of old logging roads going back to the 1800's when most of the old growth was initially harvested, I came across all sorts of other manmade things - stakes, flagging, an old shed, foot trails, balloons, fencing and other stuff. There were multiple OSP boundary signs along the highest portion of the ridge, perhaps installed prior to the building of a section of the Bay Ridge Trail that never materialized. Once I had found the summit identified by LoJ, I continued east across the ridge to make sure I didn't find any higher points. I was tantalizingly close to the road and wondered if I might not be able to make an easier return without going back through all that poison oak and downfall. I could see homes through the trees and retreated back when I got too close, but never managed to find a break between two homesites I could use to reach the road. A large white dog spied me at one point, and after deciding I was bad news, it took up barking until I was well away from the property it guarded. Eventually I gave up the idea and returned back through the forest to where I had started. My return route stayed a little closer to the crest and did not require me to drop down nearly as far, nor did it return through the worst of the poison oak. Still, when I got back to the car I considered it a hazmat situation and promptly removed my shirt and pants, turning them inside-out in the process, donning fresh clothes, then changing out of my boots. The clothes would go into the laundry as soon as I got home, followed by a shower and detox with Technu in case I had gotten any of the offending oils on my skin. Not the best of outings, but at least I wouldn't be waking up the next morning thinking about these summits. I had gotten my fix...

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