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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
It was Martin Luther King Day, and with the extra day off from work I wanted to get in a second weekend hike. David Sanger and I had been corresponding about hiking the Panoche Hills area, a small subset of the Diablo range located off I-5 in the middle of the State. We had three targets, Panoche Hills Highpoint, Ponoche Mountain and Griswold Hills HP, with Panoche Mountain and Griswold Hills HP being on the CC list. They would be done in three separate hikes, always an easier proposition since each one would not require us to carry much of a pack.

We met up at the McDonalds in Westley at 6:30 and David did the driving, exiting the freeway at the sign for Mercey Hot Springs Resort. Much of the Panoche Hills land is on public BLM land, and we found the main access road to be in great condition for the 3 miles it took to get from Little Panoche Road to the park, although once in the park it deteriorated quite noticeably. Upon entering the park there were no vehicles parked, although it isn't clear what you would do from the parking lot.

Panoche Hills HP

We elected to go to Panoche Hills HP first, driving through some pretty serious fog and clouds en route. We ran into a hunting group (shooting seems to be really big in this area), but it did not seem likely that they would have much success given the fog. We drove to within about a quarter mile of the peak, parked and quickly hiked up. The peak was coming in and out of the fog, creating some neat views on the short hop up. It was a matter of minutes to attain the summit, and we collected some summit shots and spent several minutes watching as the fog danced around the surrounding hills. There was some seismic equipment on top, but no register. Given the little effort to reach the top a register would be a bit much.

Panoche Mountain

Upon returning to the car we headed back the way we came until reaching a much worse side road which would provide us access to Panoche Mountain. We made our way to a radio tower about 2 miles away from the peak. David attempted to continue past this point, but the road became impassable and he quickly changed his mind and backtracked to the turnout by the antenna where we hopped out started the hike. The fog meant that we wouldn't have much of a view on this 4 mile round trip hike, and I could only imagine how striking the steep hillsides would look when fully revealed. The final push up has a small gate which must be to stop motorized travelers, although given the narrow ridge you would be taking a real risk by attempting to get to this peak by any other way other than on foot. The top of the peak has a giant radio facility, fenced in and topped by barbed wire. We could see a benchmark inside the fence and tried to get a clear view. No views to be had, however, owing to the fog. A bit less than 2 hours after starting we were back at the car.

Griswold Hills HP

To get to Griswold we had to head back out to Little Panoche Road and head south, past the Mercey Hot Springs. It took about 45 minutes over excellent roads to make the drive over to the nice parking area at Griswold. It was a bit of a challenge to find the actual starting location for the hike - one must cross a 10 foot deep channel, and head due east. There is a single trail marker to give a bit of comfort that you are in the right place. The hike switches back and forth up the hill, and quite quickly the views opened up and within 20 minutes we had a top of the world feel although there was still much work to be done. We stayed on the trail as it lost some of its steepness, and only briefly losing it for a few moments now and again. As we made our way above the clouds the temperatures warmed up, although we had done most of the hard work by this point. This was proving to be a challenging and fun hike, and I was glad we had a chance to do some "real" hiking after the previous two easy peaks.

About an hour and forty five minutes after starting we were on the summit, and had our best views of the day. One side of the mountain was blanketed in fog, while the other was completely clear. There was a constant battle between these two sides, with the foggy side sending in fog and the clear side burning it off as quickly as it came in. We looked around for a register but could not find anything. We didn't stay longer than about 10 or 15 minutes before getting started on the nearly 3 mile descent. It didn't take long before we approached the fog line again, and we spent a good portion of the return absent views. We were back at the car around 3:45, having accomplished our 3 peak objective on the day.

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