Junipero Serra

14 Jan 2001 - by Arun Mahajan


Ron Karpel and Arun Mahajan, leaders. Rick Booth, Dee Booth, Ted Raczek, Noriko Sekikawa, Alex Sapoznikov, Joan Marshall, George Van Gorden, Maxym Runov, Diane Medrano, Debbie Benham, Heather Kirby, Karen Christie, Andy Marica, Dan Abernathy, Maxym B, Richard, Janet and Rachel Vassar, Dimitri Nechayev, Mary Chen, Sally Collins, Moe Khodayan and Nancy Fitzsimmons.

What a fantastic turnout! We had twenty five enthusiastic day hikers who liked to bag peaks and peak baggers who liked to day hike. We caravaned from Morgan Hill to the town of Greenfield to pick up adventure passes. Some did and some did not, following their personal principles about the beneficiaries of the emolument.

By ten am, all signed in and introduced, led by the sprightly ten year old, Rachel Vassar, we started hiking on the moist and soggy trail, the snow clad Junipero Serra peak inviting us to it's top, a lone cloud obscuring it's very summit. Periodic bursts of sunlight from between the gathering clouds made for fantastic scenery as we gained altitude and it was at about 3600 feet that we first spotted patchy snow on the ground. As we approached the final saddle it was snow all the way. The summit of Junipero Serra with it's distinctive fire tower was now clearly visible. The snow hanging on the branches of the pine trees and the low brush was so much that it seemed that we were on a hike in Tahoe. The higher peaks of the range, including Cone Peak, were all snowbound near their summits. In some places along the trail, the low trees, burdened by the weight of the snow, stooped down, making a low canopy over our heads and we had to bend low, sometimes even to our knees to get by. The atmosphere, what with the white trees and the clouds, had a positively gothic feel to it.

The summit area was completely covered with deep snow, maybe even a foot or so more and the decrepit and usually ghastly looking fire tower was fully shrouded with a layer of hardened icy snow. A rare treat indeed! We all had summitted a little before two pm. The cool winds and the clouds and the snow on the ground made us depart just a little past two pm, with only the Vassars adventerous enough to explore the rest of the summit area. On the way down, we could evidence signs of a quick thaw, the snow was getting softer and a lot of it had fallen down from the low trees.

By about 4.30pm, we were all back at the cars. It was a pleasure to go up this beautiful peak with such a good group and to bear witness to the extraordinary amounts of snow at the top of a mountain that is within a short distance from the Bay Area.

We looked back towards the peak. The lone cloud, which had temporarily departed, as if permitting us to climb, was now back and the cold bite had returned to the air. It was time for us to return and let solitude creep back to the peak that was once hailed by Pimkolam but now bears the name of the venerable padre.


For those so inclined, an Adventure Pass, one per car, may be had for $5. I am told that if found to be without one, the amount of the permit could be mailed in, within a 14 day period (thanks, Dana). One of the places to get this permit is the El Camino Liquor Store at the junction of El Camino and Elm in the town of Greenfield. Take the northern-most exit for Greenfield from Highway 101. Turn right at the exit. You are on El Camino. Keep driving till you cross Elm. The liquor store is on the right hand side. Their number is 831-674-2818 and they open at 6am (haarumph!).

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