Archive for the ‘Oakland peaks’ Category

1684 Hill

16 November 2015

I took this photo last Tuesday, the day after our nice good rain. If you weren’t outdoors last week, you missed a brief moment in the Oakland year that lasts just a few days.

1684hill

It’s the period between the first significant rain and the sprouting of the grasses. The first rain drenches the ground and changes the dry, gold-brown hillsides to a rare saturated dun color. Soon afterward the hills flush green, and we’re off to a new year in the Mediterranean climate cycle that governs the Bay area. Think of it like the week between Christmas and New Years, only it’s in the calendar that plants use.

This is a special hill at the southern end of the Berkeley Hills overlooking Route 24. Old topo maps mark it with its elevation of 1684 feet. To the right of this photo, shot from Skyline Boulevard near Radio Tower Hill, the ground plunges to the water gap and roadcut of Route 24. On the other side of 24 the ridge resumes, under the name Gudde Ridge, and rises to the peak of Round Top. So 1684 Hills is a northerly extension of Gudde Ridge. The following shots from 1684 Hill are from a visit in July 2013, during the gold season of the plant calendar.

1684-view-south

Gudde Ridge (and its northern extension) is held up by the thick lava flows of the Moraga Formation. Like most of the rocks in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills, the Moraga Formation is tilted up to nearly vertical. You can reach 1684 Hill by an informal path off the Skyline Trail. The lower western slope of the ridge is underlain by Orinda Formation conglomerate, but basalt makes up its bulk.

1684-moraga-basalt

Let’s look back west toward Radio Tower Hill. Last week’s photo was taken from the little saddle at the left edge.

1684-view-west

The view north takes in the upper part of Siesta Valley. That’s Vollmer Peak in the middle, highest point in the Berkeley Hills. Grizzly Peak is just out of sight at the left, but the tip of its radio tower shows.

1684-view-north

The view east overlooks lower Siesta Valley and Mount Diablo.

1684-view-east

On a clearer day I imagine the Sierra Nevada is visible along the left horizon.

Encounter with Sugarloaf Hill

24 August 2015

As promised, here’s a look at Sugarloaf (a/k/a 1175) Hill.

sugarloaf1

Sugarloaf Hill is on the rear side of the Merritt College campus and is in the Leona Canyon Preserve. The East Bay Regional Parks District has plans to enable access to Leona Canyon when the college is closed, though it seems like a low priority for them.

The trail up the hill is not marked or mapped, but it’s not hard to find. As you go up through the woods, you’ll pass exposures of the Leona “rhyolite” that underlies this whole area.

sugarloaf2

Once above the trees, the campus unfolds below you. This shot also shows the range of habitats on the hill. (It’s a 1000-pixel shot; there are three more later in this post.)

sugarloaf3

The upper part of the hill is largely grassland with ferns and some bedrock. The soil is very thin. This land used to be grazed. The grassland, says the EBPRD, is dominantly non-native species. It doesn’t mention the ferns, considering them part of the forest biome.

sugarloaf4

Besides grassland, the hill comprises shrubland and oak/bay woodland. Some parts are pleasingly mixed.

sugarloaf5

The view west over Leona Canyon juxtaposes grassland and forest. The forest is typical coast live oak and bay laurel, along with buckeye and hazelnut and a whole bunch of different native shrubs. The houses are on Campus Drive.

sugarloaf6

And this view south over Leona Canyon shows the shrubland, consisting of coyote brush, sagebrush and poison oak. It’s quite overgrown. Absent grazing or fires, this tends to turn into oak/bay forest.

sugarloaf7

The rocks don’t form many outcrops, per se. There are abundant boulders like this one. They’re naturally covered with lichens, so you have to search to see any details of this metamorphosed volcanic sandstone. Please don’t take a hammer to this stone—besides being protected by EBRPD rules, it deserves to look the way it wants. (1000px)

sugarloaf8

The point of a hill, so to speak, is its top and the views it makes available. When I climbed Sugarloaf Hill it was a cool and hazy day, so the next two photos are just versions of what you might see from there. Here’s looking north toward the ridge of Redwood Peak, over the ballfields and solar array of Merritt College. (1000px)

sugarloaf9

And here’s looking south over Leona Canyon from the summit. The rectangle of boulders is I think the work of idlers rather than the remnants of an old foundation. On the horizon, from left to right, are the dimly seen Knife, the dark wooded ridge behind Lake Chabot, and tree-topped Fairmont Ridge behind the hills of Knowland Park. (1000px)

sugarloaf10

Your viewing may vary.

1175 Hill (Sugarloaf Hill), an Oakland local hero

17 August 2015

When I was writing for About.com, I started a photo gallery of peaks. My philosophy was that there are lots of mountains besides the famous ones, like Mount Diablo, that are local heroes. Even a minor eminence can be the center of a neighborhood, and a hillock the heart of one kid’s fantasy world. I also entertained the idea that every hill and mountain is capable of being photographed in its heroic moment, so to speak — posed at a particular angle, in the right setting of weather and time of day.

Which brings me to 1175 Hill. You’ve surely seen it on the eastern skyline as you look past the Oakland LDS temple. I don’t know its local name, so I call it by its elevation, as shown on the local topo map. It’s part of our landscape.

Let’s circle around it, going clockwise. The photos were taken at various times during the last three years.

This view is from McKillop Drive across Sausal Creek. The palms are on Fruitvale at School Street.

hill1175a

Here it is in a view along Macarthur Boulevard in the Dimond district.

hill1175b

This view is from Skyline Boulevard at Serpentine Prairie.

hill1175c

This is from Bacon Road, looking across the big solar array in back of Merritt College.

hill1175d

Here it is from Skyline down around Lexford Place. We’ve gone halfway around the hill.

hill1175e

From the Artemisia Trail, down in Leona Canyon, the hill appears at its most imposing.

hill1175g

We can look straight up the hill’s axis from the top of Elysian Fields Drive.

hill1175f

From the west side of Leona Canyon, on the Pyrite Trail, is the last good glimpse of 1175 Hill. Houses along the ridgeline on Campus Drive get in the way, keeping the best views in their back yards.

hill1175h

And we close the circle at Merritt College. This is how the hill looks right next to the bus stop, a real ornament to the campus.

hill1175i

The hill has a city survey marker on its top, which is presumably where the elevation was measured. On topo maps before the 1959 version, its elevation is shown as 1168 feet, without a symbol. This signifies that its elevation was probably determined from stereo aerial photos. The 1897 and 1915 maps show it as no higher than 1120 feet. So I can say that as civilization approached and surrounded it, this hill has grown in our estimation. I hope with this post to further raise its esteem.

I’ll show you its geology and some views from its top next week. Until then, can anyone tell me if it has a local name? [Addendum: I now know that the Parks District knows it as Sugarloaf Hill, a common name across the whole country for steep, round-topped hills. See the comments]

Grizzly Peak

20 December 2014

Grizzly Peak is the second-highest point in Oakland, at 1754 feet elevation (sources differ). As you approach it on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, it seems to loom quite high.

grizpeak1

That’s an illusion caused by the eucalyptus forest. As you get closer, you start to see through the trees.

grizpeak2

And from the bay side, the peak has a mohawk look because the trees are stripped off its northern half.

There’s a vague trail up the south side. Even in its true contours, Grizzly Peak is a steep little climb, and the thick layer of leaves is slippery. I’d rather the eucalyptus trees weren’t here, but they do offer a lovely privacy.

grizpeak3

And underfoot are rocks! The peak is mapped as the Moraga Formation, a set of lava flows from 9 to 10 million years old. This is the stuff connected to the volcano at Round Top.

grizpeak4

The top of the peak has a broadcasting tower of some sort, with a fenced-in support building at its foot. There used to be a lookout tower here, and a benchmark nearby attested to its elevation. Mount Diablo is almost exactly due east—not that you can see it through the damn eucalyptus.

You could walk up the access road instead. Either way, you can’t get any closer to the peak per se than this.

grizpeak5

That route offers nice views, and it takes you past a lot of broken rock, if you have your heart set on a specimen.

grizpeak6

Most of the rock is like this—weathered and fractured. There’s no easy way to tell what causes the strong layering, as this rock has been tilted almost vertical and then eroded by the fog, rain and earthquakes of the Berkeley Hills.

grizpeak7

It’s hard to expose unaltered bits. What’s there is a medium-gray, featureless stone that geologists typically call andesite until they can study it in the lab.

Grizzly Peak is not a place to stay long, but it seems that there are those who love it.

grizpeak8