BIG ROCK RIDGE (1,640+') AND MT. WITTENBERG (1,407') 4X March 14, 2004

Reading an article in the major San Francisco daily, I discerned that an easement had opened up a new trail and peak. Heralded as the "second highest peak" in Marin County, I was immediately interested. I thought that was wrong, or at least, contestable, as I had noted Pine Mountain (1,762'), once on a Sierra Club hike. The news made good reading, and I hear of talk for a second highest, County HP club.

It took awhile before I was finally able to think about doing this peak. It promised great views, so the photography should be fine. I motored off relatively late this weekend day, and noticed what was new in my route north of the Bay. It has been a long time since I last explored Marin County.

Following the precise directions given on another, SF Bay Area, hiking website, I parked at a tennis court, and began up the signed, "Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve," fire road at 10:40 a.m. The pictures on the website showed just how it was!

I resolved to make some good time climbing up. The road climbs nicely for good gain, and I saw a good scattering of poppies along the way. Essentially, you simply head for the top. Pretty obvious, once you know. As I ascended, I spotted another peak to the northwest. Alas, this far peak turned out to be higher, and thus diminished the fair prospect of counting this lower one, Big Rock Ridge, as a peak. It had a structure, or something, atop or along the peak.

Later, checking maps, I was to find this further point is the true highpoint and named, "Big Rock (VABM 1,887')." But there was some dips and difference to think about counting this lower point I was headed for. And the hiking website gave directions to this lower point as well, calling it the "summit." I came to a sign and gate indicating some access problems, further, maybe.

Turkey vultures flew about, and I did get a good view of this part of Marin County. The developed towns to the east contrasted with the verdant green hills to the west. San Francisco became visible through the haze (photo above). I topped out on the 1,640+' summit after 52 minutes of climbing. I snapped photos of the vistas in all directions, as is my drift, then zoomed in on scenic features. One poppy grew on top.

Not in the mood to continue to the further peak, with doubts as well, I started down at 11:40 a.m. Several mountain bikers were grinding uphill, with some of them walking their bikes up. I'd think this was too steep for them, with dangerous speeds on the downhill, but they must know what they are doing. I made it back to my car by 12:15 p.m.

Motoring off, I headed west on the Lucas Valley Road. The correct trailhead was passed, unbeknownst to me. I drove on this road through some private redwood groves. Coming to Nicasio Valley Road, I turned right (north), and passed through the little town of Nicasio, CA. Seems to be a nice grill, there. Turning left (west) on the road to Point Reyes Station, CA, I soon found myself at the National Seashore Visitor Center and main parking lot.

Making ready quickly, I started up this next peak, Mt. Wittenberg, by 1 p.m. The trail leads nicely through thick stands of trees. I remembered features from my early morning climb, in the dark, of last year. Topping out again after almost exactly an hour, I declined to stay long. Descending, I took the Sky Trail westward (photo below). There are some sights to be gained of the Point itself, with the hazy ocean, in the distance.

Snapping pictures of the signs at the trail junctions to keep my times, I somehow missed the Sky Camp. I turned left (south) on the Old Pine Trail. I would like to have hiked all the trails here as a goal, sometime. Decades ago, the Point Reyes area had been a favorite of many local Sierra Club backcountry skiers, seeking exercise when there wasn't enough snow to ski.

This apparently less used trail was cut through the thick understory, and the trees were impressive in height. Debris on the trail. It was hard to get a good picture, with the harsh sun and deep shadows. Well, I was getting a nice hike.

Back to the main Bear Valley Trail, I declined to make a long day by going out to the ocean, and chose to get home earlier. It was only some 1.6 miles from the Divide Meadow to the cars. I did this in unrushed comfort and good time, but without many great photos. It was 3:55 p.m. when I opened my trunk.

Driving back to Point Reyes Station, CA, I stopped and walked about to see what was new. It seems to have turned into a small but busy rec town, with many tourists and sightseers. I had passed maybe a hundred cyclists, enjoying the roads, on this fine day.

I caught the sunset (not a good one) back at the I-80 causeway east of Davis, CA, and finished my day glad I was not headed westbound on I-80!

Hiking some 11 miles total, I had done about 3,000' gain. I shot some 110 digital images. I used about half a tank of fuel.

Thanks to the recent rainless, and warm, spell, the trails were all dry. Flowers were sparse, with the poppies, baby blue eyes, irises, and buttercups, in spots. I was bothered by no bugs, and it was T-shirt weather all day. I carried and drank only a quart of water, along with some diet soda.