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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet
The end of the hiking season in the Sierra came upon us on Halloween night, as a winter storm came rolling through California. Tahoe was under a winter storm watch through mid day Saturday, so a trip up to see the the winter scene was out of the question. That's okay though, because there are many peaks closer to home that are too hot to hike in summer but perfect for this time of year. I was perusing the list of California Peaks with over 2,000 feet of prominence, and saw that the highpoint of the Sonoma Mountains met this criteria. There are 164 such peaks in the State, and as it turns out I have only done 20. Prominence measures how far you would have to descend from a mountain before connecting to a higher mountain. It turns out that the Sonoma Mountain HP is also the most prominent peak in Sonoma County. And it is on the CC list. The hike itself was too short, however, so I looked at area peak lists and found another CC peak, Hood Mountain, about a 15 minute drive on the other side of the valley. This would do just fine, about 14 1/2 miles and over 4,000 feet of gain on the day. These would be CC Peaks 43 and 44 for me.

After walking the dogs I drove up to Kyle's house from where we carpooled north to Jack London State Park, located just west of the small town of Glen Ellen in the heart of the wine country. It took a little less than an hour to get to the entrance, where we paid $10 to enter and park. Geez, this better be worth it. The gate attendant offered up many suggestions as to what we might want to do, including visiting the historic house on site or the grave. But we were opting for the far less cultural route and went straight ahead to the trail leading away from all of the attractions where we got started at 11:15. There were several informational signs near the start, informing us of who Jack London was and why there is a State Park named after him. We were on a tight schedule with 2 peaks to tackle, so we didn't stop to take it all in as much as we probably should have. The trail starts out wrapping around a vineyard before starting uphill through a mostly treed hillside. The trail was not all that steep, and had gentle switchbacks leading up to an overlook area where some filtered views of the valley below could be had. We followed the Mountain trail up, continuing to follow all signage indicating we were going to the "Park Summit" although we knew that the highpoint we were looking for was not actually in the park.

After a bit more than an hour we emerged at a junction where an obvious use trail led uphill towards an antenna while the trail veered left to go on to the Park Summit. We were a bit surprised by the sight of such an obvious trail and were more than happy to not have to fight through any brush to gain the summit. This was by far the steepest part of the trip up, although it wasn't terribly long. The use trail ended at a barbed wire fence, but we could see that the fence was down about 30 feet away from us, and we opted for the easy walk through the broken fence rather than having to climb over or under the thing. There was a sign on the ground imploring people to help "protect the natural resources" on the summit which is laughable considering we were approaching a series of ugly antenna just beyond the sign. The actual summit was perhaps another fifth of a mile beyond the antenna, marked by a large pile of rocks built into a summit cairn. The top of the mountain is very flat, and diminished the views just a bit. But the views were still very good, especially towards Mt. St. Helena and towards the Bay. We could even see San Francisco and Oakland, and could make out the buildings in each City.

We didn't spend too long on top, and made a quick descent back down. As we descended there were more and more people milling about, although we didn't see anyone until we were back within the park boundary. In about an hour we were back down to the buildings near the parking lot and back to the car by 2 PM after a 2 3/4 hour hike. I started up the car and we drove across to the eastern side of the valley, heading up Adobe Canyon Road looking for the trailhead for Hood Mountain.

There are 3 trails leading to the top of Hood Mountain. I had read online that 2 of the locations were within State Park lands, thus requiring a fee to park. The third was supposedly just outside of the Park lands on Adobe Canyon Road. Oddly as we drove we saw a sign informing us that we were entering the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, and shortly after I saw a parking area and quickly made the left turn into the lot. There was a self-issue permit kiosk, much to my dismay. We had been looking for a turnout to park on the way in but hadn't seen anything, so it was this or nothing. In fairness, we actually didn't see that we were in a fee lot until after I had locked the car and put my pack on my back. I didn't want to stop and take on the hassle of filling out a permit so I told Kyle I would pay when we got back, not really sure if I would do so or not. I suppose I was thinking that if the hike was fun I would pay. We got started at 2:20, and the trail immediately crosses two nicely built bridges over a stream that had water flowing, probably from the Friday storms. Once the uphill portion started it was from the start a bit steeper than the Sonoma Mountain hike, and much more exposed to the sun. We were actually feeling a bit warm, despite temperatures in the 60's. Once we hit the first little ridge we could see what we thought was the peak in the distance, although it turned out the peak itself was actually a bit further still. But then the trail started descending. This was somewhat confusing, but there was only 1 trail so it couldn't be that we took a wrong turn. In total we lost about 150 feet switchbacking downhill until we bottomed out at a large rockfall from where the trail quickly resumed the uphill momentum.

As we got higher up the views started opening up, although we were still fully exposed in the sun as we crossed into the Hood Mountain Regional Park. We kept a brisk pace uphill, with the trail seemingly continuing to get even steeper. We finally had a break from the sun as the trail switched to the northeastern side of the mountain and took us through a nicely forested and shaded area. The views were now outstanding, and we could finally see the peak not too far ahead. We kept going up until we reached the junction with a small spur trail which turned left to Gunsight Rock while we took the main trail towards the summit of Hood Mountain. We arrived on top at 3:50, making for a tough 1 1/2 hour hike given our brisk pace. The summit itself was not all the great, with limited views. There is a 4 foot rock that is the actual highpoint, and from the top of that I could at least get some descent views.

There was little reason to linger, despite our fatigue. We decided that we would head back down and visit Gunsight Rock and take a break there. It took less than 15 minutes to make the trip over to Gunsight, and the views were the best of the day, as advertised. There were two large rock outcroppings, and so Kyle took one while I took the other. We sat and rested for a good 20 minutes, taking in the views and chatting about the recently completed World Series. After recharging we got started on the descent, following the same route as we had taken up. At the giant rockfall Kyle spotted a giant log that I suppose serves as the bridge if the stream is flowing, but we decided to use it anyway. We were starting to lose a little bit of daylight as we crossed the two bridges and arrived back at the car by 5:40. Upon arriving my fears were realized as there was a piece of paper under my windshield wiper. I cringed as I pulled it out but was relived that it was not a ticket, but a friendly notice asking me to pay. Of course I was going to pay anyway, and so I was happy to pay the $8 parking fee. I only had $7 in small bills (I had a $10 bill but was not going to use that) but I was able to scrounge up $1 in loose change to complete the $8 payment. It took some doing to get the envelop to fit in the comically narrow opening into the payment box, but after a few attempts I got it in. Expensive hobby, this hiking business! It took an hour to get back to Kyle's and another hour for me to get back home.

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