Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mt. Umunhum—Open to the Public at Last

At a book signing for Urban Trails San Francisco in early 2017, an attendee asked me if I
had heard of Mt. Umunhum. Um...unhum? Um...no.

I had done a fair bit of hiking in the Bay Area to research and write my book, so I was perplexed as to why I hadn't heard about this mountain. When I returned home, I Googled it and realized that Mt. Umunhum had been closed to the public since 1958. Lucky for me, it was set to re-open in September 2017. 

Silicon Valley is somewhere there under the clouds

Resting Place of the Hummingbird
That gave me some time to learn more about this place. At 3,486 feet, Mt. Umunhum is the fourth highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains and the highest point on the Bay Area Ridge Trail

The mountain's name means "resting place of the hummingbird" in the Ohlone language. In fact, at one time, this was a large Native American population centers—with 70 diverse tribal units.

Here's a timeline of what happened to the mountain since then:
  • Mid-1800s: the area was part of a nearby mining operation.
  • 1870s: German and Austrian immigrants poured into the area to escape the Franco-Prussian War. 
  • 1957-1980: The US government built and operated the Almaden Air Force Station here. It was part of a network of radar stations used to watch over the area during the Cold War. 
  • 1986: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space bought the land for $260,000.
  • 2009: Federal funding helps restore the peak.
  • 2014: Santa Clara County Measure AA provided funding to complete road and trail improvements, parking areas, and weather shelters.
  • September 2017: Mt. Umunhum opens to the public!
So finally...after months of waiting...not long compared to the years others have waited...I got to hike Mt. Umunhum this past weekend. Here's a bit more about my hike:

About the hike
Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation: 1,401
Difficulty: Challenging according to this calculator, but I felt it was moderate.
Trail type: Multi-use (we saw a fair # of mountain bikers on the trail)
Dogs allowed: No :(
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/1253931464
Official Map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_SA.pdf

We started our hike in the Mount Umunhum Summit Parking Area at the end of Mt. Umunhum Road. We had initially planned to park in the Bald Mountain Parking Area lower down on Mt. Umunhum Road, but all 20 or so parking spots were already taken by the time we got there....at 9:30 am. So off to the summit we went. 

View from the Summit Parking Area

The summit parking lot offers some nice views of Silicon Valley below. Once you've explored those views, climb 159 stairs to the actual summit. There, you find "The Cube" a Cold War era radio building. Behind the cube, you'll find the start of the Mt. Umunhum Trail. 

The Cube
The trail is in good condition and is wide enough to walk two abreast. It has some overlooks with views of the valley below, but is mainly wooded and surrounded by trees. It took us about 1.25 hours to get back to the Bald Mountain Parking Area where we originally tried to park. We stopped in the parking area to take a quick lunch break and then headed uphill. Our return trip took about 1.5 hours. While I was scared about doing the uphill with 4 miles already in my legs, the grade is gentile with 350 feet of elevation each mile.

Parting thoughts
Overall, I enjoyed this hike and am glad we did it. I wanted to make sure I saw this peak for its significance for the area, but I might not drive 3 hours each weekend to do this unless it's a spectacularly clear day. 

Up for a visit? Visit the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve website for park hours, directions, and info on an audio tour.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Two Great Hikes Near Cavallo Point and Fort Baker

Last year, I went to a wedding reception at the Cavallo Point Lodge and my boyfriend and I decided to spend the night there. The morning after the reception, we wanted to take advantage of our location and get some exercise, so we decided to explore some local trails. I revisited these trails again recently and wanted to write about them so you can take advantage of them, too.

Hike 1: Cavallo Point Loop

2 miles, 200 feet elevation gain
Shortened version on the trail on Relive 

From outside the hotel’s main building (where the valet stand is) walk diagonally across the large lawn to reach the intersection of Murray Circle and Center Road. There you'll see a (small) trail sign for the Bay Trail. Head straight here onto Moore Street and then take your first left onto Sommerville Street. Start walking along Horseshoe Bay. 

When you reach the Presidio Yacht Club after about 0.1 mile, take a wood walkway in front of the building. Then continue walking along the bay through a parking lot, and at the back of the parking lot, take a dirt path on your left that leads to a stairway up Battery Yates. Walk on a path along the battery, and then at the end of the battery, climb down a few stairs.

Pick up a wide dirt path and turn on narrow path to your right (see below: you probably won't think this is a trail). This narrow path will take you to a wide dirt area (see below). Walk to the back of the wide dirt area and look for a narrow (often overgrown) path that takes you up stairway and then to East Road (no sign).

Here's where the path gets tricky!
Across East Road and to the left is a trail sign for the Drown Road Trail. Continue uphill for 0.6 miles on this trail. The first 0.4 miles will mainly be in eucalyptus groves and the last 0.2 miles are exposed.

Eucalpytus trees on the Drown Road Trail

View of Fort Baker and the GGB from the Drown Road Trail
After this, you'll see the Chapel Steps Trail on your left. Follow this trail for a short 0.1 miles to a flight of stairs that leads you by the Mission Blue Chapel. Continue on the trail until it ends at the intersection of Merrill Street and Settler Road. Take Settler Road and then take your first left on Kober Street (no sign). You know you're on the right street when you see the large lawn peeking into view. Turn left onto Murray Circle to finish your hike.

Hike 2: Slacker Hill
3.5-5.4 miles, 900-1,100 feet elevation gain
View on the trail on Relive 

If you have access to a car or the hotel shuttle, you can do the shorter version of this hike (seen in linked Relive video above), which starts at the North Tower Golden Gate Parking area. If not, you'll have to climb Conzelman Road (see here) up to the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you're starting at the parking area, walk to the back of the parking lot away from the highway. You’ll soon see a sign for the Coastal Trail. 

Head up a few stairs and enter a small grove of trees—your only shade on this route. At 0.1 mile, reach Conzelman Road. Cross at the crosswalk, and pick up the SCA Trail (Coastal Trail) on the other side of the road. For 0.3 mile, you’ll walk along a few long uphill switchbacks lined with coastal scrub as you climb high above busy US 101. Across the highway, you can see Fort Baker, the bay, and Angel Island. When the switchbacks end, your route heads north in the direction of the Robin Williams Tunnel.

When you reach a junction with the Coastal Trail at 1.1 miles, stay left to follow it toward McCullough Road. The din of car traffic will finally die down. After 0.3 mile, reach a sign for McCullough Road. Right after this, turn left and climb 0.2 miles to the top of Slacker Hill - elevation 930 feet. Here you'll get some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Return the way you came. 

View from Slacker Hill