Hiking Stats as of 11/19/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Mar 15, 2014 - Discovery Peak / Rose Peak


Partners: Jerry Kohn

Distance: 23.01 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,945 feet

Trip Time: 9:28

Maps and Stats:
When I first started hiking a few years ago I was unaware of the various peak lists that give hikers a fantastic "to-do" list. Having learned about these lists after discovering Bob Burd's incredibly informative and entertaining website at www.snwburd.com (from which I borrowed heavily in the design of this website), I started working on the OGUL, WSC, SPS, CC and county high point lists. As a result of not knowing about the peak lists for about a year of my hiking, many of my early hikes were often repeats and in some cases did not take advantage of the opportunity to pick up a peak on a list while I was in the area, meaning I would have to come back later if I ever want to complete the list.

Today would be a great example of having to come back to pick up a peak that I had been oblivious to in my previous hikes. Mt. Lewis, a CC listed peak, is buried deep in the recesses of the Diablo range, and would require a 22 mile round trip hike to claim. Access to the peak is from the Ohlone Trail, starting from Del Valle south of Livermore. I have been on the Ohlone trail probably a half dozen times, completing through hikes in each of the last 2 years, and other times visiting Rose Peak, the highest peak on non-private lands in Alameda County and Discovery Peak, a summit on private land that is widely believed to be the true highpoint of Alameda County. In addition to attempting Mt. Lewis, there is a peak which might possibly be the actual high point of Alameda County nearby which I wanted to summit just in case is the high point. Bob Burd raised the question when he visited Mt. Lewis and climbed this competing peak, named Challenger Peak by Bob, and he was unable to determine which one was higher. So while Challenger is not on the CC list, it should be visited to ensure that the high point of Alameda County has been attained. The only potential problem is that Mt. Lewis is about 3-4 miles deep into private land, so caution is warranted.

I had been corresponding with Jerry Kohn, who I hiked with back in December to North and South Chalone Peaks in the Pinnacles, about joining me on this long hike. He has been hiking much longer than I have, and has 100 CC summits (I have 28). The opportunity to get Mt. Lewis was appealing for him, and I certainly did not want to venture so far off into private lands by myself, despite the remoteness of the location. We agreed that he would start maybe 15 minutes ahead of me, as I tend to be faster on the uphill sections and the first several miles of the Ohlone Trail are quite steep and challenging. I had suggested I would be on the trail at 7:30, and Jerry would start without me if I was not there by that time. It turned out that through a combination of getting off 10 minutes later than I had planned, a 10 minute longer drive than I remembered and some sort of event at Del Valle that had traffic backed up through the entrance all combined to put me on the trail a couple minutes before 8 AM. I was quite concerned about this, not knowing what time Jerry had started and thinking he might be 45 minutes ahead of me. We had planned on meeting at a location about 5 miles into the hike, once all of the hard uphill stuff was done, so making up this much time would be next to impossible.

I set off and kept up a quick pace, as the trail went from the a starting elevation of about 750 feet up to 2400 feet before dropping down a little over 500 feet in order to cross Williams Gulch. In previous trips the stream in the gulch had ranged from a trickle to a fast moving rapids, and it was with little surprise that it was little more than a few puddles with the dry winter we've had here. After crossing the stream, the trail climbs up the next ridge, going steadily up to about 3400 feet before leveling out and providing a more gentle ascent trail towards Discovery Peak. It was at an elevation of about 3100 that Jerry and I had agreed to meet, and not surprisingly he was there waiting when I arrived. It had taken me about 1:50 to get up to this point, a pretty fast pace for the uphill conditions but not fast enough to catch up. I anxiously asked how long he had been waiting and he replied that it had only been a few minutes - he had been stuck in the same traffic getting in and had started around 7:30 so everything actually worked out great.

We made our way up the Ohlone Trail, following it over to the turnoff that leads to Discovery Peak. Access is restricted by barbed wire gates and fences, along with warning signs, but the remoteness of the area does provides a lot of assurance that there is unlikely to be anyone around to complain about a couple of peakbaggers. Jerry found the Rose Flat benchmark that I had never seen in my previous trips, as it sits just off the trail and is not on the summit of anything. Following the road for maybe 1/3 of a mile, we soon could see antenna on top of Discovery Peak, and made our way under the barbed wire fence and up to the summit. We had both been up here before, so there was little celebration in reaching this point, despite having traveled about 7.5 miles so far to get to this remote peak.

I had mapped out the path from Discovery to Challenger Peak and Mt. Lewis, which can be done by simply following a nice jeep trail to avoid any routefinding or significant trespassing issues. We started down the south side of Discovery, now on land I had never visited before. We were barely concerned about being on private lands, with no buildings in sight and the seemingly unlikely probability that someone would be around to witness our offense. Well, within 15 minutes of going on past Discovery, we were startled by a red jeep that came towards us after rounding a corner - we had no chance to try to hide somewhere in the brush, as we were obviously in the line of sight. The driver came up to us and asked us where we were going. I told him that we were heading towards "Challenger Point", not wanting to divulge the true destination of Mt. Lewis which was much further than Challenger Peak and at the same time intentionally messing up the true peak name not wanting to tip off this guy that we had gotten our route information from Bob Burd's website. In retrospect that makes no sense, as a simple mistake such as calling the peak a "point" would certainly be outweighed by my referring to the peak by the name that Bob Burd had given it. He told us we were on private property and that we had been ever since the barbed wire fence crossing and that we had to turn around. We offered no resistance, offering up lame excuses about not realizing this was private property which were unlikely to be believed. We turned around, and as we made our way back up the red jeep followed at a distance of about 500 feet. We were followed all the way back up to Discovery, and were released once we started back down towards the trail that was still outside of the Park boundary.

We did not want to simply turn around, so we decided to pay a visit to Rose Peak as a consolation. By far the easiest access to Rose Peak was for us to continue on our private trail which would eventually hook back up with the Ohlone Trail in about a mile. But as we started in that direction, I could see someone sitting on a log near a trailer up ahead, and neither one of us was in any mood for another encounter. We turned around, and eventually went back the opposite way of Rose Peak and went back through the barbed wire gate to get back on the Ohlone Trail. After all this trouble and backtracking, I had considered that maybe we should just go back, but didn't voice this thought and since Jerry seemed good to keep going we decided to take the Ohlone Trail on over to Rose Peak. This route is somewhat challenging, owing to the great distance already covered and to yet another 400-500 foot drop down another gulch. We were making our way on the trail, and could see Rose Peak on the next ridgeline over. I was sure we were on the wrong trail, as we needed to get across the gulch and over to the other ridge. We briefly turned back and met up with a few hikers who confirmed that yes, we were on the right trail and needed to go back. We did, and soon the trail did in fact turn left and downhill before making the tiring climb back up towards Rose Peak. Finally, we approached the last uphill climb to Rose Peak. Once on top, we found a small group of hikers who offered to take our picture, and I located the summit register, which I had signed twice previously. The views from Rose Peak are quite nice, stretching from Mt. Hamilton to the south, Loma Preita to the southwest, Mt. Diablo to the northwest and the Bay to the west.

Immediately on the return I started having problems with my hiking boots - I have been wearing the same boots to the Sierra and I believe that the continued exposure to the snow and water has shrunk them a bit. Now my little toe on my right foot was being painfully rubbed with each step down, and while I tried adjusting my stride and landing position of my foot, nothing helped. I stopped to put some moleskin on it, which helped a bit, but soon it was hurting as much as before. Jerry suggested taking some Advil - I had not considered this, for some reason believing that the pain medicine was only for muscles. I took his advice, and in 20 minutes I felt much better. Since the route back follows the same track as the route in, there was little to see which hadn't been noticed before. Except for something I had always missed that Jerry pointed out - apparently the woodpeckers dig holes in the dead trees and store acorns for future eating. Several trees had massive caches of acorns, and I was amazed that I had never noticed it before. The entire trip took 9 1/2 hours and covered 23 miles - a good pace for the significant elevation changes on the trail. As for Mt. Lewis and Challenger Peak, we may have been denied on this day, but who knows what the future will bring...

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