Sonoma County High Point Trip Report

Date: February 14, 2004
Author: Robert Greene

"Maverick makes an aggressive vertical move here, comes over the top and defeats the bandit with a missile shot. The encounter was a victory, but we've shown it as an example of what not to do."

The Plan: Drive from Palo Alto to Whispering Pines from 12:00 to 2:00, hike up and back aggressively in 4 hours just as darkness settles, home by 8pm. Actuality: I didn't get home until 2am!

Continuing in my typical "I don't have Sutter's book" mode, I harvested the most information available from the net -- that I needed to start at Whispering Pines and park at the Whispering Pines Tavern, loaded up the GPS with waypoints, and I was on my way.

Mapquest gave me my first setback; it suggested taking 101 North to Santa Rosa and cutting across to 29. I don't think this was optimal, the drive through San Francisco alone takes 20 minutes and, in this particular case, it turned out I was stuck in 20mph traffic for hours north of the Golden Gate. All that led to arriving at Whispering Pines Tavern at just after 3:30pm.

But I had my trusty lantern, so I was off. I walked off into the subdivision, and decided I'd avoid walking through someone's backyard. This meant I took streets that led generally south - I think the best approach would be to go directly east through the subdivision, and approach from the north. My approach led along roads for a while, but eventually the roads weren't going where I wanted to go, so I left them behind.

Showing my lack of topo-awareness, I picked almost the steepest ascent line to a local high point to the southeast of the Cobb East summit. There wasn't any snow on the southeast side of the mountain. After crossing the local high point, I descended back into the saddle to the East summit proper, joined a road for a while, then was back in the brush for the last push up to the summit. I cleared Cobb East about 6:00 pm in heavy fog. I considered briefly going back since darkness was coming -- but the siren call of the COHP was too strong. I remembered a network of roads north of the east summit, and I hoped they would connect me to my real objective. The road from the east summit leads northwest, and was covered in snow, so it was easy to follow. At the intersection point, I took the fork that went southwest (the left fork), and this led me in due course to the middle high point, with its electronic gear. This part was pretty quick and I was starting to feel better, it still wasn't dark! The road led between all the antennas and continued to the southwest. Perfect!

Unfortunately, I lost the road almost immediately -- my GPS track shows I missed a southward turn. Plus the road didn't go to the COHP anyway. I soon found myself slogging through some of the most incredible dense brush I've ever seen. I elephanted through some. Then, it was so dense that I climbed on top and actually walked (well, that's too strong a word) across the top of a huge pile. Then I crawled on my hands and knees under some for what seemed an eternity. Always, my GPS taunted me "only 0.2 mile to go". Did I mention that by now it was pitch black? There's nothing like being "lost" in a sea of impenetrable brush in the dark. The only saving grace was I knew I wouldn't be eaten by any bears because they wouldn't be able to get through the brush to get to me. (I've attached the topo of my GPS track -- the southernmost trail approaching the COHP itself -- I'd avoid that at all costs, that's where I spent hours bushwhacking).

Eventually I made it out of the chaparral zone into the pine zone. The last little bit of the approach was actually quite nice -- it looks like the brush is just starting to grow back, and most of it is spread out and only a foot or two tall, easy to step over! My GPS said I was near the COHP as I wandered into a clearing, just a bit farther northwest. I wandered over that way, and the miracle of GPS was apparent. A tree stump with a pile of rocks was in front of me, and I could see a little mason jar in the pile. Too cool. I signed the pad (last entry was 1-24-04, my hat's off to that guy!), saw Jim Sommerville's business card, and was ready to leave. It was 7:30pm, 4 hours to the COHP. I couldn't find any roads up there; I was hoping, but no such luck. In fact, it was so dark and so foggy, I could hardly find my hand in front of my face. I wondered if there were radio antennas, if there were, I couldn't see them either!

My plan was simple, go back to the middle Cobb, grab the road there and follow it down. Avoid that big clump of impassable brush I'd gone through on the way up. That was mostly successful -- the northern path was brushy, but pine. I'd say that's ok for a cross country route if you (foolishly) decided not to follow any roads like I did. On a side note, Topo! says I crossed the "road" but I didn't see anything that really looked like a road until I got to the middle Cobb. I'd guess that road is not maintained.

Once I got to Cobb Middle, I didn't find a road I liked. The branch to the northwest seemed bad to me, so it was back to brush-master. At least this part was downhill. The dark made it interesting since there were several sections of mossy rock that needed to be down-climbed. And then it started to rain. Luckily, the layers of mud I got from crawling to the top protected me. It actually took forever to get down that long, relatively-straight path I took. Interesting enough, there are several water collection points for Whispering Pines, and hoses that lead down the mountain from them. Kinda cool, and it made me feel like I was getting close.

I eventually ended up in someone's back yard -- but it took me out onto a road. Now the GPS failed me, after its stellar performance at the COHP. It said I was 64 feet from my car, and I was standing in the road in the middle of nowhere. It said my car was in the woods! So off I went, into the woods. I went through all kinds of crummy wooded Whispering Pines areas, and finally just dumped out onto 175 to the north of the hamlet. I walked back south down 175, found the Tavern, and my adventure was at an end -- 11:30pm.

Trip statistics: Distance 6.48 miles; 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (8 hours!)

GPS track