Hiking Stats as of 11/17/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Feb 14, 2015 - Bald Hill / High Point / Potato Hill / Grassy Hill / Duff


Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 15.99 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,074 feet

Trip Time: 6:48

Maps and Stats:
This winter has been heavily focused on the CC peak list, a collection of 302 peaks in coastal California areas. They provide a great alternative during the Sierra off-season, giving me ideas to visit places I would otherwise have not heard of. A great way to tour the western third of the State, from Oregon down to near San Luis Obispo. Today Kyle and I would team up again, aiming for 2 more CC peaks just south of Robert Louis Stevenson Park, east of Calistoga. While we were at it, there were 3 other named bonus peaks that we planned on tagging to make it a 5 peak day.

We carpooled from Vallejo and arrived at the Oat Hill Mine trailhead where we found limited parking, with the areas on the right signed for parking for a local business only. A lot of cars had parked across the street in an overflow area, but somehow a spot had just opened up right in front of the start which I gladly took. We got going a bit after 11 AM, under bright sunny skies. There was a main trail, really a very old mining road, very gentle in grade and long since abandoned, but also many use trails that led up much more directly to the ridge above. We quickly tired of the mine road and set off on one of those trails thinking maybe we could cut off some distance. This didn't actually work, but it was a nice diversion nonetheless. We found a lantern at what may have been a campsite on top of the first ridge, but unfortunately the use trail didn't continue and we had to circle around a bit to get back to the mine road.

About an hour in we had our first views towards Duff, which would be the last and most interesting summit of the day. But first things first. Bald Hill, a grassy named "summit" lay just off the trail to the left, and we struck out cross country (if walking through ankle high grass is considered cross-country) It was a little before 12:30 when we reach the summit, and found it to have a cool class 2ish rock to climb. There were also some good views towards Duff ahead, the surrounding landscape and over to nearby Mt. St. Helena and the Palisades.

We descended back to the road, abandoning it a short while later when it became time to head off into the Duff Ranch, the new acquisition of the Napa Valley Land Trust. It was a bit tough to locate the trail at first, but soon enough we found the road and crossed into the Trust land. This part of the hike was quite enjoyable, and it appears that the Trust will soon open it up, with trail markers found at several junctions and helpful signs indicating the direction to head to avoid trespassing on private property. Like I had encountered on a recent trip to Poverty Ridge, there were motion sensor cameras attached to trees, looking to document the local wildlife. Fortunately there were no deer carcasses hanging from the branches above the camera, as had been the case on Poverty Ridge. As we neared our second summit of the day, High Point (the first CC summit), we struck off cross country from the trail, emerging on a rocky hilltop. It was a little after 2 PM when we got to the summit, having taken 3 hours to get there. We located a summit register placed by David Naylor in 2012. Since then it had only been signed by Jerry Kohn, Daryn Dodge, Mary Zeiler and Bob Burd. We signed in and then went back down to the trail for the easy hike over to Potato Hill.

Potato Hill is also on the CC list, although easily reached from High Point and not really offering anything new in terms of views or challenge. I admit it was a bit of a fun diversion to climb up some rocks on its western flanks, as we had initially tried to circle it to approach from the east but there was too much brush. The summit is lower than High Point, and there are higher peaks beyond it as well. Anyway, it is on the list so we climbed it, didn't find a register, and went back down. At this point we turned around, with a plan of visiting Grassy Hill and Duff on return. We connected back up with the Duff Ranch Trail and followed it back. Around 3:15 we started up Grassy Hill, and found a summit register which contained the same signatures as we had found on High Point. Not much in the way of views and we didn't linger, we headed towards Duff.

Duff was the best part of the day, being the furthest off trail and requiring a modest amount of route finding to get to. Once we got to the base, it was an easy climb up the boulder strewn hillside. The top of Duff was pretty flat, boulders dotting the green grass, and the actual summit being on top of some easy to climb rocks. We knew that there was supposed to be a benchmark up here, and we started on our treasure hunt to locate it. Using the Peakbagger App for Android I pulled up the survey marker details, and read them aloud to Kyle. We easily found a reference marker and following the arrow and the description in the App we searched where we thought it should be but couldn't find anything. I widened my search perimeter and Kyle kept looking where the clues told us it should be. After several minutes he yelled out that he had found something, and started clearing away a layer of dirt and debris from what turned out to be a buried benchmark. That was pretty cool, as it had probably been buried for quite some time. Certainly more cool than the lame alien rock formations that someone had spent their summit time building. It was nearly 4:30 by the time we were back on the trail, suddenly populated with people as we neared the trailhead. We were back to the car a bit before 6 PM, and set in for the always slow drive south through Napa Valley.

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