San Benito County High Point Trip Report

San Benito Mountain (5241 ft)

Date: June 20, 1998
Author: Andy Martin

To complete this CA trip, I headed after easy San Benito Mountain. It had defeated my earlier auto attempt from the west on Monday June 15, but today I was going to follow Suttle's book down to the last comma, and success was inevitable!

After a long drive over a miserable, poorly paved road I got to the old mining town of New Idria. From here Suttle says "the road becomes dirt and winds upward 3.5 miles ..." oh damn - a big washout!

A short and rough detour led over private land, where the property owner had placed a locked gate and a sign helpfully listing the BLM phone number. I pondered my cruel fate - let's see - start a 12 mile hike at 3:30? - nope. Drive back from Tucson AZ next weekend? - naw. Ask the property owner for a ride? Might as well try. I tried to stay in the center of the road as I strolled uphill a bit, as "private property" signs were sprinkled around with abandon.

The first residence had caged Dobermans guarding either side of the main entrance. One was trying to leap out, but was not coming within a foot of the top - a good sign per Fred Lobdell's lore of dangerous dog antics. I caught the eye of a couple of men dismembering an old car in the back yard. They strolled over, and I asked the older gent if New Idria possessed taxi service to San Benito peak. The answer did not seem encouraging, but after discussing the road repair situation, and my county HP goals, he agreed to unlock the gate. My heart rose - but then - could the Honda ford the stream and manage the steep banks??

He pointed to his own car as proof that an auto crossing is possible, but his clearance seemed higher, and the front & back bumpers sort of sawed off & bashed up. Well, what the heck, should at least give it a try with the wife's car, eh? After all, if it got stuck, these fellows would be highly motivated to help tug it out of the stream, where it would block their only access to the civilized world. I punched the gas pedal and the stream was crossed, though with a distressing thunk from the rear.

From here it was clear sailing for the next 4 miles, till I reached a road-obstructing mud hole. Now the hike was only 4 miles, but lets do a little wading first. Hmmm - bottom not too deep over here - can do some drainage over there - this rock can bash down the old ruts - aw heck, lets go for it. The car splashed through OK, and finally I reached Suttle's parking point at "the moderately steep jeep road".

Well, after getting that far the jeep road looked pretty tame and I rocketed to the top on the first try. The BM was off in a rock pile, so I had to walk that far. The descent was highlighted by many a thunk, sploosh & bang, and the gate keepers were good enough to unlock the portal and let me finalize my escape. When last seen they were writing a nasty note to some poor soul parked a bit too close to the gate.