Monday, November 13, 2017

W6/NC-035 Mt Isabel

Mt Isabel is the second highest peak in Santa Clara County, and is just south of the high point, Copernicus Peak. The whole area used to be on private ranches, but the county recently purchased the Nolan Ranch, which includes the summit and west face of the mountain. This makes summit access much easier. There are no roads or trails marked on the USGS quad, so I was worried that there would be some difficult navigation. It turns out I was worried for no reason. I started my hike at the Smith Creek fire station. Back in the horse-powered days, there was a stable and other buildings here to support travel up to the observatory on Mt Hamilton.
Mist rising in the early morning.
I put on my backpack, which was very light since I brought my MTR instead of the KX3. The lack of weight made the hike much more pleasant. There is a dirt road between the fire station and creek that leads to the trails in Joe Grant Park. Take this road and follow it into the trees and along the creek. After crossing a gate, the road crosses the creek and become more overgrown. The water was still low enough I could get across without getting my feet wet. In the end, it didn't make a difference, however, because the grass was so wet. The trail continues, crossing a seasonal stream at a metal pipe, then comes to a fence and gate. This is the border of the Nolan Ranch land. Cross the gate and stream, then follow the old ranch road uphill.
Pleasant hike along the creek.
Until I got onto the shoulder of the ridge, the ranch road was very faint, and extremely hard to follow in a few sections. Bits of it are visible on Google maps, if you look carefully. I marked my route as closely as I could on the caltopo map linked below. The road switchbacked up the side of the hill, with occasional views down to the stream I had been following. It goes generally south until you reach a large re-entrant, with cliffs on the downhill side. Here the road turned and climbed up the re-entrant to the ridge.
The road is faintly visible in front of me.
At the top of this feature, the road becomes much more defined. It climbs up the north side of the ridge, in the open forest, with great views up to Mt Hamilton. Near the spot marked 3312 it crosses to the other side of the ridge, and goes across the large bowl. It rejoins the ridge and continues climbing. There are some picnic tables part way up, in a shady area. Around here, a barbed wire fence starts parallel to the trail, on the right.
First view of the summit.
I stayed on the same side of the fence, and the trail wound through the trees and brush. Eventually I reached a point where the trail through the brush seemed to end. However, there was an opening between the bottom strands of the fence at this point that was extremely easy to get through. I crossed the fence, and followed the old ranch road up the ridge. Just below the summit another ranch road comes in from the south.
Setup at the summit.
I walked up to the high point, and looked for a register, but didn't see one. I then set up my gear in the clearing. I started on 30, as I usually do, and quickly got 10 contacts. I then went up to 20 and then to 40. I figured I'd try 440 first on my HT since it had worked well the day before on Mt Umunhum, and I wasn't disappointed. The first person to answer my CQ was driving up Bald Mountain near Shaver lake, in the southern Sierra. I then got a bunch of contacts in the Bay Area, and then a Summit to Summit with KD7WPJ who was also in the Sierra. I also got a few contacts on 2 meters.
Mt Hamilton
The hike down was easy, simply retracing my steps. Back at the car I then drove the rest of the way up the road to the summit of Mt Hamilton to check out the observatory and activate the peak.

Trailhead: Smith Creek Fire Station
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Follow the road/trail along the creek. Cross the creek, then follow the faint ranch road up the ridge. Where the trail seems to end, cross the barbed wire fence and follow the road on the other side up to the summit.
Red Tape: None.
Picnic tables on the way up.

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