Fremont Older, St Joseph’s Hill

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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Yesterday I went to Purisima and spent five hours pulling French broom. Hard work. Jacky’s hiking class went to Wunderlich park.

Today was promised to be a little cooler than yesterday, so I thought I would finish hiking all the trails at Fremont Older, then go to St Joseph’s Hill and hike all the trails there.

Parked on Stevens Canyon road, entered the preserve from the west side. Lots of mountain bikies, hikers, horses. Horses? The place adjoins Garrod Farms, which boards and rents out horses. Not as many dogs as one could imagine, but it may be too hot and too far for the dog-walkers. Steep, hot and sunny, hard work. I heard a couple of mountain bikies trading information about a ranger with a radar gun (15 mph maximum speed). A few minutes later, I saw him. I told him the bikies were swapping information about him. “That’s fine,” said he, “They’re doing my job for me.”

On a previous visit, I had missed a couple of loose ends all the way at the other side of the preserve, so I had to pick them up. One is just a paved back road — moomph! But along its course was a beautiful little shrine. Ok, that makes it worth the while.

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Saw two other rangers, talked with both. They really patrol this place heavily! I told one ranger I was thinking of going on to St Joseph’s hill this afternoon; he tried to discourage me.

This preserve has 14.7 miles of trail, and I hiked 11.8 miles here today, 2600 feet of vertical gain. This is my third visit, but clearly, I haven’t been efficient in minimizing redundant trail distance.

Running low on water — I have another full quart bottle in the car, having already drained the quart bottle I took with me, along with a big bikie bottle — when I passed through the picnic area on the way back to the car. There was a drinking fountain, so I refilled my big bikie bottle. Glad I did; I would have been negative by the end of the day without that boost.


It was only noon, so of course I went to St Joseph’s hill. Never been here before. It’s a small preserve, only 4.2 miles of trails (7 miles of hiking to cover them all), but presumably vertical (yes: 1800 vertical feet by the time I had hiked all of them). More hot and dry, alleviated by a bit of a breeze now and then. On the way home much later, the car thermometer read 97 degrees F, so I had an excuse for dragging my ass by the end of the day.

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The trail passes under a pair of high-voltage power lines. Highway 17 runs through the valley here, the major route from the bay area to Santa Cruz, and they have taken measures to protect the wires from low-flying aircraft and vice-versa. I suppose news and traffic helicopters would be most at risk.

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Jones trail drops down into Los Gatos, where there is a loop called the Flume trail. As expected, it has a very uniform grade, until the very end where it steeply switches back to rejoin Jones trail. Pressurized iron pipe renders flumes obsolete; I think that’s the Los Gatos creek trail down along the pipeline, which looks like a dreadful place to hike. Actually, much of St Joseph’s hill is also pretty unattractive: the trails run right along the property boundary, and the neighbors to the north and east have erected chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

The major higher trails are associated with the monastery: Novitiate trail, but if you were a brother instead of a novice, you could use the Brothers Bypass trail.

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Limekiln canyon back into the Sierra Azul range, and a quarry that I didn’t even know existed. To the right, a collapsed hillside, revealing blue rock that may be serpentine. The Limekiln trail runs past its base, so I will get a closer look when I hike that preserve.

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Redwoods aren’t the only red wood here. This is a eucalypt!

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We have a view out over Lexington dam reservoir, which is so low that the old towns, long inundated by the lake, have re-surfaced. I thought the picture below might in fact be the old town of Alma, but when I zoom further in, it’s clear that these are just rocks.

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In terms of the anvil award for patrolling all the trails in the entire open space district, I am down to only three more preserves. They are all down here in the south end of the region, where I have been putting them off until the weather cools. I have a volunteer project next weekend at Mt Umunhum, so it will be a chance to see how the autumn is evolving there.

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