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Hiking Stats as of 11/14/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

May 20, 2014 - Berryessa Peak

 

Partners: (None)

Distance: 14.82 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,733 feet

Trip Time: 6:21

Maps and Stats:
I had an 8 AM meeting in Sacramento that I had to attend on a Tuesday morning, providing me with a rare opportunity to get in a weekday hike. I've previously used opportunities to hike some new areas in conjunction with work travel - a couple of hikes in SoCal being the most memorable, and for today I put in for the rest of the day off after my Sacramento work was done. I intended to head up to the Sierra, but a late spring storm ruined that plan and instead I decided to head west out of Sacramento, to Berryessa Peak, a CC listed peak which is the second highest summit in Yolo County. Berryessa would be my 34th CC peak.

I was done with my meeting at the CalPERS building in downtown Sacramento by 9 AM and headed west on 80 and then 128 around the south end of Lake Berryessa to the Berryessa-Knoxville Road along the western shores which goes north all the way up past the lake and back around to the NE side where the TH was. Although the starting location of the hike looked pretty close to Sacramento, the length of the drive is deceptively long, and there are no gas stations for the final 40 or so miles. This meant I would be 80 miles between gas stations, and I had unknowingly passed my last opportunity as my car said I had 95 miles left. I began to worry a bit along the long drive along the shore, stopping at one of the numerous visitor centers to inquire as to where the nearest gas station was, and if I needed to turn around now or if I was safe to continue up to the TH. The station was closed, but there were a couple of guys there who told me that there was gas in Napa, and that I would have enough for the trip.

By 10:45 I was finally at the TH, really just a small turnout along the Berryessa-Knoxville road immediately before mile marker 20 with room for no more than 2 cars. This was not unexpected, as the Berryessa Peak Trail is a new creation, brought on by an agreement between local hiking interests and landowners for an easement to connect to the peak which was previously landlocked as public land with no access. The 7.5 mile trail was still undergoing improvements up through the last year, and given that this is not a park and has no official caretakers I figured the trail might be in less than perfect condition. There is no marker at the start of the trail, just a small section of the fence without spikes within the barbed wire fence near the road. But from there, I found the trail to be in quite fine shape, save for the really long natural grasses growing all around the trail. The continued exposure to the grass was cause for great concern, as this looked like it might hide a tick infestation just waiting to jump on me. I picked up one tick, and after flicking it off, continually monitored my legs as I made my way up. It seemed that I might be picking up more ticks, however, on the day I only had 3 make the jump to my leg, and none ever got on my skin.

The first couple of miles are quite gentle, rising slowly through the grassy hillside. I had no problem staying on the trail, which was marked on the lower sections with tall wooden posts at major directional changes (although the 1 foot swath cut through the grass was easy to follow as it changed direction). Shortly after the trail started uphill a bit more steeply I came to an awesome little contraption which allowed me to step up and over the barbed wire fence to continue up towards the peak. I stashed a Powerade Zero here, planning to pick it up on the return since this was an out and back hike. No need to lug up any more weight than necessary. The trail wound up and around the hillside, and I had my first views of Berryessa Peak way off in the distance. Thus far, the hike had been pretty easy, but rather than head up to the ridgeline to connect with Berryessa, the trail heads down towards a gully, losing several hundred feet of elevation. One of the downsides to having to build a trail with an easement from the landowners - I would guess that the landowners higher up were uncooperative and so the trail had to skirt down through the gully before ascending the other side.

This added elevation gain was actually fun, and I didn't mind the change of scenery. Gone were the grasses, replaced by shrubs on the lower slopes and a mix of rocks and brush on the upper slopes. Besides this, there were tons of lizards on the trail, darting in and out every few minutes. From the upper ridge the views were excellent, dominated by Lake Berryessa to the west. The trail continued to be well marked, and I easily navigated up and down a couple of minor highpoints until it dumped out on a service road that held the final 3/4 mile to the summit. It took me 3 1/4 hours to reach the summit, as I arrived at 2 PM to fantastic views towards Mt. St. Helena, Mt. Konocti way off to the northwest, hazy views towards Sutter Buttes, south to Diablo, and of course down to Lake Berressa, which was too big to get in one single shot. I located a benchmark, but no summit register. I don't believe this peak is climbed a great deal but I'm sure it sees more visitors now that the better than expected trail is in place.

I ate my lunch on the summit, enjoying the views of the surrounding ridgeline and all view down to Berryessa, and took a self shot of myself to commemorate the moment before heading down. The descent first goes past the antennas just off the summit, somewhat unsightly but at least they weren't blocking the views of the Lake. I was careful to find the turnoff to get back on the trail from the service road, and followed my steps from the ascent. On the way back I realized that a fire must have come through this area at some point in the not too distant past, as the shrubs showed the scars of the flames but have recovered nicely. At the edge of the ridgeline before heading down toward the gully there was a nice view of the trail ahead, looking like it would take a while to get all the way back over there. I went through the gully, come out the other side, passing a snake and then collecting my third and final tick once I got back to the tall grasses. I picked up my Powerade at the step over, and the rest of the trip was a nice easy stroll through the grasses. I continually checked my pants for ticks, but again they were nowhere near the problem that I had envisioned. I arrived back at the car a few minutes after 5 PM, making for a 6 1/2 hour day on the trail, having not run into a single person during the entire trip. I am very much appreciative of the landowners who donated the easement and to the volunteers who built the trail. Their efforts have resulted in one of the better hikes I've experienced.

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2 Comments

 

(4 years ago) Yolohiker said:

Glad you made it up the trail! Yes, it was an epic effort, both political and physical, but now the trail is in place. Thanks to the many volunteers that helped build it and the landowners who gave the easement, everyone can enjoy the public land around Berryessa Peak.


 

(4 years ago) petesthousandpeaks ptp said:

Thanks for the photos! I always meant to do this peak, but now I think that it may be beyond me. I'd perhaps try it with some partner next fall or winter, but as none will be forthcoming, even with pay, I'll forget it.