A Valentine’s Day Hike – Mount Umunhum beckons

Mount Umunhum, the highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains at 3488 feet is an ubiquitous presence in our life. The cube, an abandoned air force radar station and a relic of the cold war, on top of Mount Umunhum is clearly visible from our backyard. Our family had attended the grand opening of the designer trail, a 3.7 miles trail, from Bald Mountain to the summit in September of 2017. I was fortunate to get a guided trip down from the summit to Bald Mountain parking lot on that day. After that day, I had done the 7.4 mile round trip hike several times in different seasons.


However, the sixteen mile or so round trip hike from the Hicks Road parking lot up to the summit is a different matter altogether. I think the hike is moderately challenging, the nearly twenty two hundred feet elevation from the Hicks Road parking lot to the summit in about eight miles is OK except in few patches where the grade is steep and taxing. The hike, I should say, is more a test of endurance than being really challenging. Constantly changing microclimate of the mountain can be a challenge for unprepared hikers. For us, the day started cool but sunny at 40F. As we went up, we faced drizzle, light rain, warm sun forcing us to take off our jackets and howling winds at the summit. After about twenty five hundred feet, it was misty all through.


Sometimes in 2018, I along with my wife tried to hike up from Hicks Road but after about three and half miles and after hiking up a steep grade, she did not feel well and we returned back. Then sometime during the summer of 2019, I did that hike alone. But such a long hike in summer, unless, done really early in the morning, is not pleasant.


I was planning do this hike up to the summit from Hicks Road this winter. However my wife won’t allow me to do this alone and she planned to join. Something or other came up during few of the previous days we planned and ultimately everything fell in place on Valentine’s Day.
Thus we ended up on the trail on this Valentine’s Day and we did it our way, slow and steady. Started our hike up at about 8:45AM and at 6:30 PM, when we returned to the parking lot, ours was the only car there and the gates on Mount Umunhum Road were closed. Thank God that the exit gate opened automatically.

Cube on Mt Um as seen from the trail
Guadalupe River, just a stream here
What secret she holds down at the bottom of the gorge
At the summit. Cube was not tilted, my camera was.
Tree Arches
City lights seen from the trail during return trio

Valentine’s Day ended on a high note.
The body was sore but the spirits were high. To be on the trails with your valentine on Valentine’s Day is a reward itself.


Featured image is of Mount Umunhum from Hicks Road parking lot. Taken by author on February 14, 2021.

Cactus Flowers and Shade Trees : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Backyard

This week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt from Frank  is  “Backyard“.

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Backyard trees in the morning sun as seen from my breakfast nook.  All the trees are in my backdoor neighbors yard.  Flowers and leaves from the trees make my backyard quite dirty but they provides nice shade in summer afternoon as the sun moves to the western sky.  Therefore I have learnt to tolerate the extra work and coexist.

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Photo above is from my extended backyard. Couple of minutes walk from my house is a creek. Nearly a kilometer long portion of  the creek divides the newer and older areas of the subdivision. The creek runs completely dry in summer.  On our side of the creek, the trail by the side of the creek is shaded by trees and on the other side is a wide trail.  In summer the creek bed is choke full of  dry reeds that give shelter and nesting environments to wild birds and animals, mainly quails, ground squirrels, gophers, moles and hares. Saw these beautiful cactus flowers during morning walk with my dog, Skooby. 

Many had commented that it looks like a human foot.20180905_100702_Richtone(HDR)_3

Note: All photos taken by author on September 5, 2018. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.

Early Spring in NorCal

Spring has arrived early in NorCal, at least around the area I hike on Sunday morning with my friends. Day started nice and cool with a mild breeze and warmed up by the time we completed our seven miles hike on the mountains. Surprise of the day was abundance of flowers so early on along the trails. Alas, no red roses that I could take back to my lady love.Earlyspringcollage