Wed, Feb 6, 2013
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The neighborhood I parked in was brand new, the homes built within the last year. The landscaping was fresh and new and not a tree over 5ft that I could see. The Dublin Hills have been used for ranching for more than a hundred years, and every decade a bit more gets converted to suburbs as the developers march slowly up the hillsides. The regional park was cut out of a section that would have also been developed had not existing residents protested and worked out a compromise to save some Open Space while developing others. There wasn't a soul in sight anywhere in the neighborhood as I went through. It had the feel of something from the Stepford Wives. Only in this case both husbands and wives were off working at this time of day to afford these large, beautiful homes. The entrance I used isn't really one, though it was depicted as such on the park map that I picked up at the main entrance. Starting shortly before 10a, I ignored several No Trespassing signs, hopping a few gates to get me into the park boundary a short distance away.
The grass is very green on the hills and the cows that are consuming it appear quite satisfied. Being used to people, most of them just looked up when I approached and then went back to munching grass. The younger ones were more easily spooked and ran off. From near the start I could see Wiedemann Hill to the north, almost four miles off. The "trail" plies ranch roads following along a gentle ridgeline for about half the distance to Wiedemann Hill. The park boundary is found just beyond a transmission tower that lies atop a small hill. After hopping an old gate found here, I hiked across grassy pastureland, taking in views off two sides, west to the SF Bay and east to Mt. Diablo and the surrounding communities. A series of benchmarks can be found along the ridge marking the boundary between the two counties. There are dilapidated corrals, water troughs both old (wood and porcelain) and new (plastic) for the cattle, and miles of fencing to keep the cattle compartmentalized. A coyote spotted me from a distance and took off down the east slopes, pausing a few times to take a look back before continuing. A handful of wild turkeys were found at the edge of some brush off the east side of the ridge as well. Perhaps the coyote was looking for them.
It was not a difficult hike, wide open and easy cross-country, hopping the last fence just before the summit where I picked up the well-graded road that services several small communication towers found at the summit. It was just after 11a when I topped out at the grassy knoll with a 1951 benchmark. There's actually a summit rock that marks the highest point, but it's only 2-3ft in height. I wandered around the summit towers to take in the views in the various direction. Rocky Ridge, another P1K I had visited the previous year, rose prominently to the north. Mt. Diablo of course is the highest summit around and dominates the view to the east. To the west, the green hills roll on for several miles before dropping to the urban communities of the East Bay.
To the south is another named summit, Harlan Hill that I next visited. I passed by more cow herds, walked along an old rock wall that had been built from the scattered rocks that once lay about the fields more haphazardly, and eventually made my way to Harlan's summit about 15 minutes after leaving Wiedemann Hill. Unmarred by towers, I enjoyed this small knoll even better and found a nice rock to sit on while I took a short break overlooking Big Canyon to the south. I decided to drop into this canyon and climb up through the oak forest understory on the otherside as a bit of a shortcut and adventure. The southwest side of Harlan Hill proved steep but managable thanks to the many cows that had cut steps and trails across the slope over the years. There was a small amount of water flowing in the narrow creek channel where an entirely different ecosystem is found in the dark shade of the forest. Ferns and mushrooms grow abundantly here. I expected to find an equally abundant supply of poison oak too, but was happy to find none. I climbed back up the steep western bank of the canyon to reconnect with the open pastures above. The adventure part had only lasted about 20 minutes.
I followed the ridgeline back inside the park, then hiked to the far southern end where Donlan Point is found. It has very little prominence, but has a nice overlook to the east and south. A man with his dog were the only other party I saw on my way back to the car. The park doesn't seem to get much traffic on weekdays. Overall I'd give the park a "B". Too many cows and too small to be worth a better grade. Plus, they seem to be really particular about parking around here...
This page last updated: Wed Feb 6 20:35:51 2013
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