Veterans Peak P300
Peak 1,133ft P300
Schocken Hill
Sugarloaf Ridge P300

Sat, May 27, 2023
Sugarloaf Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


I'd spent the night camped in the Jeep on the west side of the city of Napa, along Linda Vista Ave. This through street has ample parking without setting up shop in front of someone's house, and I thought I might be left alone for the night. Around 11p I heard a loud thud on the side of the Jeep and immediately got up to investigate. As I suspected, someone had tossed an egg from a speeding vehicle, hitting the driver's window. I went outside with a jug of water and a rag to wash it off, then drove off to find a quieter street. The joys of urban camping...

Veterans Peak - Peak 1,133ft

These two summits are located about 7mi north of Napa, in the town of Yountville, on property owned by the Veterans' Home of California. It is the oldest such facility in the state and the largest in the country, supporting 1,000 aged or disabled veterans of America's foreign wars. Memorial Day weekend seemed an appropriate time to visit Veterans Peak. This was essentially a repeat of Andrew Kirmse's 2018 visit, which itself was based on Kerry Breen's 2017 ascent with some lessons learned. The starting point is the VA cemetery parking on the backside of the property. There is an old road, no longer driveable but useful for hiking, that takes one all the way to the summit of Veterans Peak. From the parking lot, one goes south through grass and mild brush to find the road paralleling the south side of the cemetery. It is open to start, becoming more overgrown after the first turn to the south. No real brush to contend with, just tall grasses. I reached the flag on the saddle north of Veterans Peak after 25min. The current flag is smaller than the one found by Andrew, mounted higher on the same wooden pole. The old signage is now missing. From this saddle, the road to the sumit becomes increasingly brushy with a few downed trees, but these are minor impediments, and in another 20min I had found my way to the lower south summit. There is a fenced enclosure around some tall antennae and what looked to be an old observation platform above. The highpoint is found a short distance further north at the end of the old road (some mild bushwhacking with poison oak between the two summits) where there are no views to be had. I looked around to see if anyone had left a register, but found nothing obvious. Back to the flagpole I went.

So far, I'd spent about an hour and a quarter, but now the real fun would begin in making my way to Peak 1,133ft. Cross-country in Napa and Sonoma Counties is often a real adventure, and this one did not disappoint. It had a little bit of everything that one has come to expect - a mix of brush and grass slopes, steep terrain, old forgotten roads and fences, and a healthy preponderance of poison oak. The initial descent to a gully went fairly well as others had found, a mix of open grass slopes, some lichen-covered rock scrambling, a bit of weaving through the brush higher on the slope. I went across the tiny creek at the bottom, and then started up the slope on the other side that would prove the most challenging section. Here the brush gets thicker, the poison oak more pronounced. A partially-open slope I had spied from the saddle never materialized as I zigzagged my way up the slope, reversing course numerous times, finding the cut downfall Andrew lamented, thrashing through much brush, and finally reaching the summit ridgeline, about 45min after leaving the flagpole. The summit ridge has an old road that is a godsend, because a continuing thrash for the additional half mile to the north would have sapped anything I had left. The road was quite old and overgrown in many places, with downfall and more poison oak, so no picnic. Still, it would only take an additional 20min to reach the highpoint. There are no views, no register that I could find, and really no place to sit for a rest with so much poison oak about. The hike on the ridge has some views to the west where vineyards dominate the slopes on the opposite side of the wooded canyon. A dirt road can be seen below, and would surely offer a better route to the summit if it could be accessed. I spent most of the next hour reversing the route back along the ridge, down and up the small canyon to reach the flagpole once more (I was glad I had stashed my poles here, as they would have been next to useless on the cross-country portion). It was then an easy jaunt back down the old road to the cemetery parking, using a few grassy shortcuts to bypass some of the switchbacks in the road. The 4.5mi outing came in at about 3.5hrs. Fun stuff.

On my way to Sonoma Valley, I stopped by the Artesa Winery for what I thought would be an easy ascent of Milliken Peak just to the north. I found close parking in the employee lot on the northwest end, but didn't get much further. The whole area is surrounded by a high, flimsy deer fence that I did not want to risk messing up in order to surmount it. I checked out a long section of the fencing, but could not find any breaks in the fence or other ways through it. I noted there had been several ascents on PB, so I'll have to contact one of them to see what they did to reach it.

Schocken Peak

This minor summit is located on the north side of Sonoma, just outside the Sonoma Overlook Open Space Preserve. There are a host of trails, many of them informal and not shown on the park maps, criss-crossing throughout the wooded slopes. The closest trailhead is located within the Mountain Cemetery, a collection of historical graves, listed as the Toyon Trail on the park map. It seems a very odd location for a trailhead, but there it is. I used an informal trailhead at the top of the road that starts between a row of gravesites, then through a hole in the perimeter fence, described by Kerry Breen in his TR on PB. Once past the fence, one finds a trail junction seemingly every 50ft or so. I followed this uphill heading northeast and north. Some of these trails are very old, paved in places with the volcanic stones ubiquitous to the area. I found no trail going to the highpoint (which is on private property to the east), but there were no signs, no fencing, and the short bit of cross-country is trivial. No views from the summit at all, no register that I could find. There are some views of the city below from the Overlook Meadow and other parts of the trail as I found on the way down. It took only 30min for the roundtrip effort on this one.

Sugarloaf Ridge

With plenty of daylight remaining, I drove north to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park with intentions of repeating a three peak loop by Andrew Kirmse in 2019. The park was busy, but with near-ideal temperatures, it was well worth the $8 entrance fee. I parked near the end of the park road at White Barn and began following Andrew's track I had downloaded. The route follows the trail system for perhaps half a mile, taking several forks while crossing the main Sonoma Creek on a bridge and a lesser creek fork across a wooden plank. Where it was time to leave the trail, I noted a small cairn and a use trail heading into the forest at the base of the slopes leading up to Sugarloaf Ridge, my first objective. Where I noted Andrew's track forked right, I kept to the use trail in hopes of finding some hidden gem that would avoid some of the expected bushwhacking. Disappointingly, it led to a climbing route on a rock outcrop not much further up. Rather than backtrack, I continued up from the outcrop, finding the going steep, but not too brushy. This began to devolved as I had to work through a small cliff and a non-trivial amount of poison oak. While perhaps only 1/3 of the way to the summit, I stepped on a small log in the forest duff that immediately flipped up, whacking me in my rib cage and my already bum leg. It made for a short tumble where I came to rest grasping the log and immediately thinking this was the end of the outing. I dusted myself off, then sat on the log to take stock of my condition. My leg was smarting badly and my ribs were feeling bruised, but otherwise I wasn't going to die. Somewhat inexplicitly, I decided to keep going. I was encouraged when I rejoined Andrew's track, thinking the route would become less brushy, but it seems this was also the start of where Andrew found more brush as well. I had a hard time stepping over the poison oak with a bad leg and soon realized it was complete folly to continue. I was probably only making progress with the aide of adrenaline, which would soon wear off.

I decided to head back down, this time taking Andrew's track, which was indeed less brushy than the route I'd taken from the climbing wall. I was hobbling badly down the slope, and similarly when I reached the trail. Others passing me must have wondered what I was doing out there, barely able to walk. I got back to the Jeep by 1:45p, the day now shot as well as the rest of the trip. I managed to take a shower in a corner of the nearby group campground, then headed off for home. Thankfully, it was only a two hour drive back to San Jose, so I didn't have to be uncomfortable driving for too long. It's been a few days since the fall and my leg is feeling better, but hardly enough to start hiking again. I'm afraid this 62yr-old body doesn't heel up quickly any more...

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