On the Nifty Ninety

I finished up the San Francisco Bay Area Nifty Ninety peak list on my birthday, the fifteenth of June. It’s my first real list completion (I’m not counting “Everest by the Bay” as I didn’t follow a lot of the routes on those peaks). This is a relatively new list, published at the end of 2017 by the local Sierra Club. I had ascended 31 of the peaks when I became aware of the list, and tagged the remaining 59 over the next year and a half. Nothing on the Nifty Ninety is overly challenging, and it’s a fairly straightforward list to go after for a Bay Area peakbagger. Unlike the older California Coastal list (which I’ve referred to as the “CC list” here) everything here is on public land. Some brief thoughts on each of the individual peaks, along with links to some photos:

Federal Sites

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument (photos)

Berryessa Mountain (3057′)

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This is a bit of a haul from where I live in the South Bay, but very much worth it. Great views directly overlooking Lake Berryessa. It took me about seven hours round trip so plan accordingly if you’re interested, and avoid when it’s hot. Unfortunately this was burned badly in the County Fire last year and the trail, in good condition when I visited in December 2017, has been severely damaged.

Mount Vaca (2819′)

The Solano County high point. I did this from Mix Canyon Road back in 2015 in my first push through nearby county high points. Extremely easy but the communication towers somewhat spoil the scenery.

Point Reyes National Seashore (photos)

Mount Wittenberg (1407′)

Point Reyes Hill (1336′)

I did both of these over Memorial Day weekend last year. Point Reyes Hill is really the more interesting peak; I hiked it from Inverness Ridge, although you wouldn’t miss that much by just using the near drive-up approach as only the beginning of said trail really has any views. The top of Point Reyes Hill is an FAA facility but there are a couple of benches on top where you can look out towards the ocean. Mt. Wittenberg, on the other hand, is a forested summit with no views, only really notable for being the highest point on Point Reyes. Might be more interesting to combine a visit there with a longer Point Reyes hike.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (photos)

Hawk Hill (920′)

Hill 88 (950′)

Slacker Hill (915′)

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These are all in the Marin Headlands. The hardest part about Hawk and Slacker Hills is finding parking, but it’s obvious why these are popular; the views of the Golden Gate are spectacular. Hill 88, on the other hand, is a bit further back from the coast, near Rodeo Lagoon, and an actual hike.

John Muir National Historic Site (photos)

Mount Wanda (640′)

Nothing particularly notable about this one, an easy little jaunt near Martinez. There’s some ambiguity about which of two neighboring peaks is Mt. Helen and which is Wanda, so I just tagged both of them.

State Parks

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

Mt. St. Helena (4339′)

Mt. St. Helena South Peak (4003′) (photos)

The smart way to do these would be in one go. To get to the top of Mt. St. Helena South, you take the Mt. St. Helena trail to a saddle and then turns left instead of continuing straight for a short side trip. However, I did not do this the efficient way.

Mt. St. Helena was the third peak of the Nifty Ninety I ascended. While it is not a county high point itself, Napa County’s highest point can be found on its eastern subpeak. I drove here directly from Mt. Tamalpais, underestimated the time required, and ended up getting back to the trailhead right at dusk; however I would have likely ignored the south summit anyway as just a miscellaneous subpeak surplus to objectives.

Mt. St. Helena South was the third-from-last peak of the Nifty Ninety I ascended. The summit itself is pretty ugly due in large part to the 2017 Tubbs fire, which had burned over Mt. St. Helena since I last visited. Now the southeast subpeak is the only summit of Mt. St. Helena that I have yet to visit.

Table Rock (2460′) (photos)

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This uses the exact same trailhead as Mt. St. Helena but is 2.2 miles in the other direction. The really smart thing to do would be to park at the trailhead and do all three peaks in the same outing. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do that on any of my visits, as the park closes at sunset and I hit up other peaks on the way on each occasion; like Berryessa, this is a multi-hour drive from where I live. Table Rock itself isn’t really a peak but I’m glad it was here nevertheless; it’s a fun little Class 3 scramble overlooking the Napa Valley. It’s the kind of thing I probably wouldn’t have found myself but am grateful I visited.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park (photos)

Coyote Peak (N) (1170′)

This was a fun little redwood hike (I love redwoods so I’m never going to complain about them) but nothing special, especially for the distance I drove to get here. No views from the summit and nothing too interesting on the way either.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (photos)

Bald Mountain (N) (2729′)

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On the other hand, the views from atop Bald Mountain are great in all directions. This was well worth the drive. I did this as a nice loop hike through Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (adding the CC-listed Red Mountain on the way) and there are definitely options to extend the loop further if you has the time and inclination to do so—this only took me about three hours.

Olompali State Historic Park (photos)

Mount Burdell (1558′)

While this is the Olompali SHP high point, I did it the shorter way via the Mt. Burdell Open Space Preserve. It’s a worthy peak objectively but I found it a bit frustrating because there’s no clear high point and there’s no trail along the ridge, meaning you’re walking through thistles and sticker-spewing grasses. Plus there are enough trees that you’re not getting many views. The Open Space Preserve itself is quite nice though, if nothing too different than elsewhere in Marin. This ended up being my last Marin Nifty Ninety peak just because it’s a bit distant from everything else on the list.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park (photos)

Barnabe Peak (1466′)

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The state park high point, I did this right after Point Reyes, which was not necessarily the greatest of ideas because after the beginning the trail has very little shade. Apart from the heat though, this has very nice views (and a lookout tower) towards both Point Reyes and Mt. Tamalpais. A worthy inclusion.

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Mount Tamalpais (2571′)

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Not specified in the listing, but this is the east peak. I first visited this as a kid with my dad but reascended in June 2015 when going through local county high points. (Ironically, this isn’t the true highest point of Marin County—that’s still the paved-over West Peak.) It’s a short hike from the nearby parking lot, although you could make it a lot longer if you wanted. And of course, the views are great.

Angel Island State Park (photos)

Mount Livermore (788′)

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When I was growing up Angel Island was a thing I saw frequently but somehow never got around to visiting. I finally checked it out a couple weeks ago, taking the ferry from Tiburon and climbing to its top. Unfortunately it was a little too foggy to have much visibility, and the best views of Tiburon and Belvedere were actually a littler lower down, below the fog layer. I want to come back here at some point not just for the views but to also take the loop around the island and check out the various historic sites.

Mount Diablo State Park (photos)

Mount Diablo (3849′)

North Peak (3557′)

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Mt. Diablo is likely the easiest county high point in the state; simply drive up to the top and step into the visitor’s center. After spending a bit of time checking out the rest of the visitor’s center and admiring the views, I decided this was too easy even for me and hiked out and back to the north summit. This was in 2015.

Mount Olympia (2946′)

Eagle Peak (2369′)

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To get the other two peaks in Mt. Diablo State Park, I figured I’d just head up to Mitchell Canyon on the north side of the park and hike the other two peaks, making a big loop of it. Easy, right? Well, it took a good eight hours. However I’d call out Olympia in particular for having some really nice views to the north of Diablo, plus being isolated enough that you’re not going to encounter lots of people up there, a rarity for this crowded park. I’d recommend combining Olympia with North Peak as the relevant trail junction is just over 400 feet below the latter, and I seriously considered reclimbing North Peak on the spur of the moment but decided it was too hot for side trips.

San Bruno Mountain State Park

San Bruno Mountain (1314′)

I did this as a birthday hike in 2015. It’s the most prominent peak in San Mateo County and an obvious landmark when driving to and from San Francisco; the actual highest point is a little obscure because it’s next to a communications tower. I’d also like to revisit this one because I was here on a foggy day that, while making the hike itself quite comfortable, made the views all but non-existent.

McNee Ranch State Park

Montara Mountain (1898′)

Did this from San Pedro Valley Park on a very foggy August day back in 2015, while chasing local CC-listed peaks. Might be worth a revisit for views; it’s only a couple hours’ worth of hiking.

Castle Rock State Park

Goat Rock (2850′)

One of only a couple entries on this list that requires scrambling. You could rock climb Goat Rock from its base if you’re into that kind of thing. For lazy people like myself, there’s a trail that gets you most of the way there and then an easy scramble up to the top of the rock. The actual highest point is at the end of a somewhat narrow segment of rock that I suspect a lot of people skip.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Pine Mountain (2150′)

This probably should be delisted; the spur trail that takes you to the summit is marked, apparently permanently, “Area Closed for Plant Rehabilitation” and is somewhat blocked with deadfall. There are no views at the summit but there is a massive cairn. Alternative nearby targets include Buzzards Roost, which I still need to actually climb one of these days.

Mount McAbee (1730′) (photos)

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Based on the altitude listed this is actually a reference to McAbee Overlook, which is where I finished on 15 June. There’s a nice little bench at the overlook and a nice little view of the ocean, although it’s not anything particularly special. Still I’m never going to complain about a straightforward redwood hike. I skipped the bushwack to the actual summit due to lack of views and motivation to do so. Maybe another day, although 500 feet of prominence is not quite enough to get me excited about an otherwise uninteresting peak.

Chalk Mountain (1609′) (photos)

There are a number of ways to hike this. I went with a long loop from Waddell Beach, taking the Westridge Trail up and the Skyline-to-the-Sea (via Chalks Road and Henry Creek Trail) back. There’s a lot of extra up-and-down on this route; I estimated 2114′ extra elevation gain on the way in and 4700 feet of gain total. Not bad for a peak only sixteen hundred feet tall!

While on the way out along Chalks Road I heard a noise that I first took to be a leak in my water supply before looking to my left and noticing an unhappy snake on the hillside to my right. I quickly bypassed the snake but it would have been a long way to help if anything had happened.

The Henry Creek Trail has multiple crossings of West Waddell Creek. The last crossing, right before the Skyline-to-the-Sea junction, was pretty wide at this time (May 2017), if not notably fast, and required proper precautions in crossing. Be prepared to get your feet wet.

Henry Coe State Park

Mount Sizer (3216′) (photos)

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I took about seven hours to do the infamous “Sizer Loop” from Coe Ranch. This includes one of the steepest trails in the Bay Area (the Hobbs Road “shortcut”), which gains 1700 feet in just 1.3 miles. Sizer itself is nothing too exciting but it and its ridgeline have some pretty great views into the Coe backcountry.

Willson Peak (2651′) (photos)

Vasquez Peak (2210′) (photos)

Bills Hill (1988′) (photos)

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I made a very long loop of all of these from Hunting Hollow on Memorial Day. This would not have been possible without the weather being unseasonably cool and cloudy, otherwise I’d have gone through way too much water to make this viable. Willson and Vasquez should generally be combined as they’re on nearby ridgelines but Bills Hill is its own special brand of fun, as the trail to the top is heavily overgrown and full of ticks. The view from Bills to the west is quite nice though once you do get up there.

Burra Burra Peak (2281′) (photos)

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I did briefly think about trying to cram this into my Memorial Day hike but it would have been too much. Instead I tagged it a couple weeks later from Dowdy Ranch. An easy hike (with annoying flies at the top). Be careful of Dowdy’s early closing time; I drove out at around 5pm and encountered a ranger on the way down who had just closed the gate going up and told me that it wasn’t locked but to just close it behind me when I got to it.

North Bay Regional Parks

Mount Hood Regional Preserve (photos)

Mount Hood (2730′)

I did this from Pythian Road on Memorial Day 2017 after hiking to the top of Sonoma Mountain (2463′), the most prominent peak in the county, earlier that day. The summit of Hood Mountain itself is nothing special but a short detour from the summit gets you to the Gunsight Rocks, which have spectacular views right down into the Sonoma Valley. Unfortunately his area was burned over badly in October of that year so I suspect the forest hike is a bit less pleasant than it was when I did it. If focused on the Nifty Ninety, I’d try to combine this with Sugarloaf Ridge State Park as it’s only a short drive away.

Loma Alta Open Space Preserve (photos)

Loma Alta (1592′)

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This has great views of central Marin marred, in my case, by surprisingly strong winds. The parking is directly off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The hiking took me a bit under an hour each way. A lot of the Marin peaks that follow (and precede, for that matter) are easy, fairly short hikes that can and should be done in conjunction with each other.

White Hill Open Space Preserve (photos)

White Hill (1430′)

The hardest part of climbing White Hill is finding where to legally park as there are signs rather ambiguously restricting street parking. I’m not entirely sure my parking spot was 100% legal but figured it was close enough that I was unlikely to get in trouble in the time it took me to summit and return. The views are really good for a fairly low-effort summit.

Mount Tamalpais Watershed

Pine Mountain (1762′) (photos)

The second Pine Mountain on this list! The real highlight of this hike for me was not the peak (which has good views but nothing that distinguishable from any of the other nearby peaks) but the waterfalls I visited on the way back. Carson Falls has multiple stages for a good 75 feet of water drop.

Pilot Knob (1187′) (photos)

This is a spectacularly easy hike (ascent took me less than twenty minutes) but you’re looking directly at Lake Lagunitas when you get to the summit, and you’re close enough to Mt. Tamalpais that you get some of the best views up to the actual mountain that I’ve seen. Recommended especially for the lazy.

San Pedro Open Space Preserve (photos)

San Pedro Mountain (1058′)

One of the less exciting Marin peaks. The summit is too broad and flat (and surrounded by brush) for any views, plus it’s marred by communications equipment. There’s some nice looks into San Rafael on the way up though.

Skyline Wilderness Park (photos)

Sugarloaf Mountain (1630′)

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I did this in March and it was worth it for the wildflowers alone. The actual summit here is not particularly interesting but on the switchbacks just below the summit you get great views of Napa and the northern end of the Bay itself. Skyline Wilderness Park also has a pretty nature garden near the parking area that makes for a nice spot to relax.

Hiddenbrooke Open Space (photos)

Sulphur Springs Mountain (1112′)

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This felt a little weird to me because the hike rises directly over a subdivision and an associated golf course, until they’re blocked by intervening hills near the summit. The trail was a bit muddier than I was expecting due to recent rainfall.

San Francisco Regional Parks

Mount Davidson (925′)

The San Francisco City and County high point, crowned by a large cross that technically lies on private property. A surprisingly fun park to wander around in that feels more wild than it really should. No views from the summit but what I suspect are probably good views of the city from the trail; it was too foggy when I visited to know for sure.

Twin Peaks (922′)

The big tourist viewpoint in the City. The actual summits are slightly less full of people than the parking area and overlook but it’s still very, very busy. Understandable; you’re looking right at downtown San Francisco.

Mount Sutro (908′) (photos)

Tank Hill (650′) (photos)

Corona Heights Crag (510′) (photos)

Bernal Heights (459′) (photos)

Hayes Hill (265′) (photos)

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I took a nice long walk through San Francisco and hit up all of these on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend last year. Sutro has no views but feels the most wild of any of these, as you have to do a bit of trail walking through a tree-filled city park to get to the top. The rest of these are right next to city streets and offer various perspectives on the City. Fun and easy.

Nob Hill (325′) (photos)

Russian Hill (300′) (photos)

Telegraph Hill (275′) (photos)

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This was an earlier walk through San Francisco, but with a twist—I was in the City for a work training session that let out early, so I decided to take the rest of the day to tag some peaks, made a bit spicier by the need to conform to the Muni/Caltrain schedules. The highlight here is Telegraph Hill, home of Coit Tower. I’ve still never actually been inside of Coit Tower (it was closed when I got there) but it really is a nice little area, with the Filbert Steps a fun route down.

East Bay Regional Parks

Ohlone Wilderness

Rose Peak (3817′) (photos)

Schlieper Rock (3080′)

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These are both on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, which can be approached from either Del Valle or Sunol Regional Parks. When I first visited the Ohlone Wilderness in 2016, I came via Del Valle, as my primary objective was the Alameda County high point which is notably closer to Del Valle than Sunol. On the way back, I scrambled up Schlieper Rock to enjoy the view across Williams Gulch. I had considered tagging Rose Peak that day but decided I didn’t want to deal with the extra elevation dip of Indian Creek.

Williams Gulch, of course, is the most frustrating feature of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail from Del Valle, adding five hundred feet of extra elevation gain in each direction. (It’s especially brutal on the way out at the end of a long day.) Not wanting to deal with it yet again when I finally got around to Rose in April, I started from Sunol and had a fairly gentle but long hike through the cows to the top. It was surprisingly pleasant for a peak I had been putting off for a while, with views in all directions, including the “back sides” of Mission Peak and vicinity.

Mission Peak Regional Preserve

Mission Peak (2658′)

Monument Peak (2594′)

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Mission Peak may be one of the most congested peaks in the Bay Area. The parking lot is consistently full and the neighbors don’t want hikers parking on their streets. The main trail up is packed and so is the summit (complete with a photo-friendly pole). Why? Because of the views, directly overlooking Fremont and the South Bay as a whole.

There’s no way to get around the crowds at the summit, but you can enjoy a bit more tranquility on the way up by taking instead the Horse Heaven trail. This puts you on the south side of Mission Peak when you reach the ridge, and traversing further south leads you eventually to Monument Peak, passing on your way Mt. Allison, the private-property highest point in the area. I saw very few others along the ridge and it made a pleasant change from the hordes at Mission.

Tilden Regional Park

Vollmer Peak (1905′)

Grizzly Peak (1740′)

I did these together in March 2017 as part of a cloudy day spent bagging peaks in the Oakland Hills. All of these peaks are extremely easy, with most of the day’s activity being driving. Vollmer is slightly spoiled by communications towers at the top but there are good views in every direction if you’re willing to walk around said towers and look around trees. Grizzly is one of the more questionable list inclusions in my opinion as it has somewhat questionable access (again, a communications company) and the view is really no improvement on what you can get from the parking area.

Wildcat Peak (1211′)

I ran out of time for this on that day in 2017 so did this with my friend Marissa in December 2018—my last peak of the year. It’s another easy peak in the Oakland Hills but has a nice little circle on top where you can walk around and check out the 360 degree views.

Sunol Regional Wilderness

Vista Grande (1840′) (photos)

Flag Hill (1360′) (photos)

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I decided to check out Flag Hill and Sams Peak in a November 2017 trip to Sunol. Flag Hill isn’t too exciting on its own but looks directly down into the parking area and the road to Little Yosemite. This is an area of the park while, not unpopular, doesn’t see as many visitors as the Little Yosemite trail. Sams Peak is a bit further beyond and, while not on the Nifty Ninety list, was the main objective of the day, having 300′ of prominence and views to the north.

Vista Grande was a bonus “peak” that I hit at the end of the day, driving over to Welch Creek Road and walking over. It’s really more of an overlook, with views over the entirety of the Sunol Regional Wilderness south of Welch Creek Road, although I did make sure to step over the highest ground nearby.

Maguire Peak (1688′)

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Usually referred to as the Maguire Peaks plural, although I’ve only been to the higher summit. A fun hike from Welch Creek Road in a less developed part of the park. I ran into another hiker at the summit and we chatted for a while about various topics, including the flowers and the lizards that frequented the summit.

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness (photos)

Las Trampas Peak (1827′)

Vail Peak (1787′)

Eagle Peak (1720′)

I’m not entirely sure why Las Trampas has three peaks on this list. It’s a nice park and a nice ridge walk, to be sure, but Vail in particular doesn’t have any views and a mere hundred feet of prominence. Las Trampas Peak is the standout here, although Eagle Peak does have a nice view of Mt. Diablo. To the west of the trailhead is Rocky Ridge, a P1K that I still need to visit; I would have done it when I visited the first time had I had the requisite permit.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Round Top (1763′)

Another peak I bagged on that Oakland Hills day. The summit is unremarkable (communications towers and view-blocking trees) but the loop trail itself has some interesting signage about the area’s volcanic legacy. May be worth a revisit on a less cloudy day when I have more time to complete the loop.

Brushy Peak Regional Preserve (photos)

Brushy Peak (1702′)

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This summit can only legally be accessed via a guided tour from the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District. The summit itself is yet another forested East Bay summit with marginal views. However the Brushy Peak Regional Preserve lends itself to a nice loop hike at the far eastern edge of the Bay Area, with nice views over both Livermore and the hills to the east. The loop hike is good, the peak is meh.

Redwood Regional Park

Redwood Peak (1619′)

This was my first stop on that Oakland Hills trip I keep mentioning. It’s a nice little redwood hike that was a good warmup for the day, even if there’s nothing really to see at the top. (Except redwood trees. I like redwoods!)

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve (photos)

Rose Hill (1506′)

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Tucked away near Antioch, I headed here after Mt. Wanda. The trail to Rose Hill takes you through the historic Rose Hill Cemetery, where those who died in the coal mining town of Somersville in the second half of the 1800s are buried. Once past the cemetery, the trail up is surprisingly steep and leads you to good views especially to the north, looking towards Suisun Bay. Unfortunately I just ran out of time to check out the visitor’s center and mines before closing time, but I’d be interested in coming back at some point to get more on the history of this area.

Briones Regional Park (photos)

Briones Peak (1483′)

Mott Peak (1424′)

Russell Peak (1357′)

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Another cow-infested East Bay regional park. Again, probably all three peaks don’t really need to be here (although annoyingly, the peak with the most marginal views would be Briones, the high point), but it’s a nice excuse for a loop around this park. I also added Table Top as a bonus peak along the way, between Briones and Russell.

Dublin Hills Regional Park

Donlan Point (1139′)

An exceptionally easy peak overlooking Dublin, as well as the houses built right nearby. Lots of cows, and grass that wants to spread its seeds on you.

Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park

Gossip Rock (1080′)

One of the more questionable entries on the CC list. I first visited Dry Creek Park for this point in January 2016. You can imagine the rock as a “gossip” place for the Native Americans who lived here back in the day but otherwise this is mainly an excuse to walk through the park. Obviously, worth combining with Tolman if you’re here for the Nifty Ninety.

Tolman Peak (995′) (photos)

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A bump near Walpert Ridge, which is sadly on private property on the other side of the park boundary. Perhaps the most notable thing about Tolman is the geocache on top commemorating United Flight 615, which crashed about 87 feet below the peak on 23 August 1951.

Garin Regional Park

Garin Peak (948′) (photos)

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From Dry Creek Park it is only a quick drive along Mission Boulevard to Garin Park. Garin has a couple hundred feet of prominence, which is enough for good views over the Bay as well as more casual views toward the house-choked hills behind it.

Peninsula Regional Parks

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

Windy Hill (1905′)

There are two ways to hike this peak; from the Spring Ridge Trail, 1200 feet and a couple miles below, or Skyline Boulevard, right next to the summit. I did it the lazy way. This was back in July 2015, when I was on my first rush of CC-listed peaks; it was my ninth Nifty Ninety peak.

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

Borel Hill (2572′)

This is just a bit down the road from Windy Hill via Skyline Boulevard. Like Windy, this treeless summit has great views of the Peninsula and South Bay. I did this CC-listed peak right after Windy.

Mindego Hill (2143′) (photos)

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This peak, on the other hand, is not on the CC list. I’m glad it’s on the Nifty Ninety because otherwise I might have missed out on this fun little jaunt in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with views clear on out to the Pacific. My summit experience itself was marred by a few kids that were enjoying themselves a bit too raucously for my tastes. Off the trail, there’s also the Council Circle which has good views of nearby Langley Hill; the trailhead also has a nice scenic overlook if you don’t want to hike.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

Black Mountain (2812′)

This one’s more about the exercise than the views. Via the Rhus Ridge Trail, this will gain you 2240 feet in about five miles, and there are steeper options if you want them. The summit area has a bunch of rocks over a large, somewhat flat area; not too exciting but a good spot for lunch.

Upper Stevens Creek County Park

Table Mountain (1852′)

This has my vote for most pointless entry on the list. No views, no clear summit, and the worst part is that the trailhead from Skyline Boulevard is a good seven hundred feet higher. Not really sure why you’d visit except for the list credit and maybe the exercise, although there’s plenty of more fun hikes you could do for the latter.

South Bay Regional Parks

Joseph D. Grant County Park

Antler Point (2995′) (photos)

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I did this from the Hotel Trailhead, fifteen hundred feet below. The highest peaks in Santa Clara County are mostly on private property, but this, the highest point in the park, makes a fine substitute, and you can extend your route here depending on just how much of the park you want to visit. There are really two places to visit at the top; an overlook with a bench and views of San Jose, and the actual highest point. You also have an up-close-and-personal look at the Mt. Hamilton ridge, twelve hundred feet above.

Mount Hamilton (4213′)

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A drive-up from the Mount Hamilton road, overlooking the South Bay. Obviously, check out the observatories when you’re here. This is not technically the highest point in Santa Clara County; for that, you need to go a bit further along the ridge (and the road) to Copernicus Peak, at 4360+’. A spur-of-the-moment visit here in May 2015 is what got me back into hiking and peakbagging; I looked at Copernicus from the observatory, said to myself “huh, is that the highest point in the county”, and the Internet provided.

Almaden Quicksilver County Park (photos)

Mines Hill (1728′)

Church Hill (1450′)

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Almaden Quicksilver is less interesting for its peakbagging than it is for its history. This was the site of the New Almaden mercury mines, in operation for over a century. Mine Hill overlooks both the crest of the Sierra Azul (including nearby Mt. Umunhum) and is worth the trip to the top. On the other hand, while I’d absolutely recommend visiting the area of Church Hill to see the structures remaining from English Camp, the actual summit has little to recommend it.

St. Joseph’s Open Space Preserve

St. Joseph’s Hill (1253′)

Easy but fun; St. Joseph’s is accessed from near the Lexington Reservoir and provides good views of the same. I recommend making a loop hike of this; it took me just a bit over an hour.

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Mount Umunhum (3486′) (photos)

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One of the highest peaks in the Sierra Azul, this was cleaned up and finally opened to the public in September 2017. I visited a month later via the Umunhum Trail from the Bald Mountain Parking Area, and would highly recommend this route rather than just driving up. Atop Umunhum is a Cold War facility in the shape of a cube that’s visible from much of the South Bay. It’s also home to some interpretive signage about its years as an Air Force facility, a Ceremonial Circle, and outstanding views of the Santa Clara Valley. Make time to visit!

Mount El Sombroso (2999′)

Ticked this one off my list in December 2016 when I just needed to get out of the apartment. From the Limekiln Trailhead I made a bit of a loop, ascending via the Priest Rock Trail and descending via the Limekiln Trail. El Sombroso overlooks the higher nearby mountains of Umunhum and Thayer, and the trail provides looks down toward the South Bay.

Bald Mountain (S) (2387′) (photos)

This should really be done along Umunhum as it’s just a quick jaunt from the trailhead. I, however, did not do this as I didn’t really know about Bald Mountain when I first visited Umunhum, prior to the existence of the Nifty Ninety list. So I stopped by right before heading over to Almaden Quicksilver; the trailheads are quite close to each other.

Santa Teresa County Park (photos)

Coyote Peak (S) (1155′)

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The highest point of the Santa Teresa Hills, Coyote Peak has nice views of the Bay Area from the south. I made a nice loop through the hills on this hike, and I’d recommend doing so when visiting this area.

Uvas Canyon County Park (photos)

Nibbs Knob (2694′)

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Tucked away in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, to get here one has to first pass through the Swedish retreat of Sveadal. The hike up to Nibbs Knob is steep, with 1600 vertical feet gained in 1.7 miles. The summit itself has a picnic bench with views towards Loma Prieta, the highest point in the range at 3786′. (Loma Prieta would make a great addition to this list if it wasn’t technically off-limits.)

Back at the trailhead, I checked out the several waterfalls of Uvas Canyon. There’s decent variety and in December 2018 there was definitely a good amount of flow. If you’re here, they’re definitely worth seeing.

Mount Madonna County Park (photos)

Mount Madonna (1897′)

The southernmost peak of the Nifty Ninety. It’s not too exciting in and of itself but I hiked it from a few hundred feet below to get in some redwoods before reaching the summit; I get the impression one of the primary attractions of this park is as a camping area. There’s also a goat paddock near the top.

Highpointing Season!

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It’s June, and that mean it’s time for the summer highpointing season to finally kick off. My plans for this year:

Counties

I have concrete plans for the following:

  • 9 June: Laveaga Peak (3801′). Highest and most prominent point of Merced County, CA. With a group of fellow county highpointers for what will be the first legal ascent by any of us. (I’m pretty excited for this.)
  • 4 July: Thurston Peak (9706′). Highest point of Davis and Morgan Counties, UT. In conjunction with SpikeCon. There are a couple of route variations and I’m still locking down exactly how I plan to do this. (And of course, subject to change based on weather.)

I’m also hoping to swing by SoCal at some point in the fall for Santiago Peak (Orange: 5687′), Hot Springs Mountain (San Diego: 6533′), and Blue Angels Peak (Imperial: 4548′). Thanksgiving sounds like a good time for this.

I believe I am out of county high points that can be legally ascended in the course of a day from home, and there isn’t even much that can be sensibly done over a full weekend. The biggest possible exception here is White Mountain Peak (Mono: 14,246′) and the big question there would be whether trying to do it as a weekend blitz is sensible from an acclimation perspective, as well as not being super tired on the drive home.

Unfortunately there’s only one other three-day weekend during the summer season and that’s Labor Day Weekend, which I hope to spend targeting either Eagle Peak (Modoc: 9892′) and Hat Mountain (Lassen: 8745′) in far northeastern California or Salmon Mountain (Humboldt: 6956′) and Bear Mountain (Del Norte: 6411′) in northwestern California. Hard to plan this in advance without knowing weather and wildfire status.

If all goes well this should put me at 44-47 of 58 California county high points by the end of 2019.

International

I am not currently planning on ascending anything of note during my trip to Ireland for the 77th World Science Fiction Convention. I looked into trying to squeeze in Carrauntoohil (1039m), the country high point, but I don’t think I can make it work logistically without spending way too much time away from the convention. (Kippure (757m), the highest point of County Dublin, is more feasible but still requires a car.) I haven’t figured out what the highest point of the City of Dublin itself is yet.

Other

Not the highest point of anything, but I do plan on completing the Nifty Ninety list on McAbee Overlook (1730′), in Big Basin State Park, on my birthday, 15 June. If anybody wants to come along I expect to be hitting the trailhead around 9am.

This is going to be a very late Sierra season due to high snow levels but I am potentially and particularly interested in weekend ascents of Granite Chief (9006′), Mokelumne Peak (9334′), and Mt. Hoffmann (10,850′), most prominent peaks of Placer, Amador, and Mariposa Counties, respectively.

Additionally, well, I maintain this wish list for a reason.

Notes from Table Rock

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I climbed Table Rock (2462′) in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park on Saturday. Some quick thoughts:

  • There are better things in life than sitting where you can look straight down into a valley and see the tiny little signs of habitation. But not many.
  • When somebody is shooting somewhere below you, it’s really quite loud. And it echoes.
  • First time in a while a rock has made me bleed my own blood; scraped my elbow downclimbing the Class 3 summit block. Need to practice getting down a bit more, I think.
  • I am super ready to take a break from peaks with overgrown trails, as I don’t find dodging brush particularly enjoyable. (Bills Hill was the worst for this.) This was Nifty Ninety peak #86 for me, and I tagged Mt. Caroline Livermore and the south peak of Mt. St. Helena on Sunday to make 88. Still aiming to finish on my birthday….

County High Point Mentions in Hugo Finalists (Part One)

I knew of Ursula’s longstanding love of Steens Mountain in the remote high desert of the farthest corner of southeastern Oregon, a landscape that had informed the world of her novel The Tombs of Atuan, as well as her poetry-photography collaborative collection Out Here.

—David Naimon, Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing (Portland, Ore.: Tin House Books, 2018), p. 53

Steens Mountain’s summit, at 9,733 feet, is the highest point of Harney County. It’s been on my to-visit list for a while but hasn’t really bubbled up to the top due to, as mentioned, its sheer remoteness; the nearest town with a gas station is Burns, about ninety miles away. The Tombs of Atuan mention makes it an even more intriguing visit though, as does the mention of incredible local stargazing. (I really need to remember to bring my binoculars on my car-camping trips; the last truly dark skies I saw were at Hinkey Summit, in remote northwestern Nevada, and they were spectacular.)

I use “Steens Mountain’s summit” advisedly, as the mountain itself is a huge fifty-mile fault block that rises directly from the nearby Alvord Desert, five thousand feet below. Beyond the Alvord Desert is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which you may remember from the 2016 occupation of its headquarters by armed seditionists. Or “Right-Wing Loonybirds”, as Le Guin called them.

Books Acquired, 6-12 May 2019

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I’ll write about something other than just books acquired at some point, I promise. Just haven’t had time lately.

Kind of a quiet library book sale this week:

Bova, Ben (editor). The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B. Doubleday, 1973. SFBC hardcover. Second in a set of what SFWA considered to be the best science fiction novellas that predated the Nebula Awards. It’ll sit next to Volume Two A on my shelf.

Brin, David. Infinity’s Shore. Bantam Spectra, 1996. First edition hardcover. Second in the Uplift Storm trilogy. No. 745 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Kuttner, Henry. The Best of Henry Kuttner. Nelson Doubleday, 1975. First edition SFBC hardcover. Predates the trade edition by two months. Another in the Ballantine Classic Science Fiction series, and fortuitously acquired in time to do some Retro Hugo reading—this includes both “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “The Proud Robot”.

 

Books Acquired, 29 April-5 May 2019

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Dragging the local used book stores for this year’s Hugo finalists finally turned up something!

Nevala-Lee, Alec. Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Dey Street, 2018. First edition hardcover. Hugo finalist for Best Related Work. I nominated this, and I think it’s exactly the kind of thing the Related Work category should be showcasing. A look at the origins of American science fiction viewed through the life of Astounding editor John W. Campbell and those he influenced.

On the way back home from Brushy Peak on Sunday I hit up a couple of library bookstores on the off chance they had anything good. I like to do this when I have time because library “books for sale” sections are both extremely cheap and (when non-local) I haven’t picked them clean recently. The result, from Livermore for $1:

Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August. Macmillan, 1962. Third printing of the first edition hardcover. Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Replaces a paperback copy. Unfortunately price-clipped, but other than that a quite decent hardcover copy. Obviously this should not be your first stop for an understanding of the causes of the First World War (the historical analysis has not aged well) but a classic non-fiction read nonetheless.

And of course while in the area I had to check Half Price Books:

Dick, Philip K. Martian Time-Slip. Ballantine, 1964. First edition mass-market paperback. A classic Dick novel about a Martian colony, expanded from a 1963 novella. No 140 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Book Acquired, 22-28 April 2019

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I misread an advertisement for a Half Price Books tent sale as applying to everywhere instead of just the Citrus Heights location. Discovering my error, I of course didn’t bother to drive all the way up to Sacramento, but did check the Fremont SFF shelves just in case there was something I particularly wanted.

Novik, Naomi. Uprooted. Del Rey, 2015. First edition hardcover. Nebula Award and Hugo finalist for Best Novel; Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Supplements an ebook. I’m not hugely big on fairy-tale inspired stuff but I really liked this; it’s about a girl, a mage, and a corrupted forest.

Books Acquired, 15-21 April 2019

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Too many books to stack safely, I think.

Monday night means free books from FOPAL, and when there are several shelves of SFBC selections? Yeah. The major limiting factor was the size of my book bin.

Anderson, Poul. Annals of the Time Patrol. Nelson Doubleday, 1984. First edition thus, SFBC hardcover. Omnibus collecting the Time Patrol stories published up to that point.

Anderson, Poul. Beyond the Beyond. New American Library, 1970. SFBC hardcover. A collection of various Anderson novelettes.

Anderson, Poul. The Earth Book of Stormgate. Berkley/Putnam, 1978. SFBC hardcover. A linked short story collection from Anderson’s Technic History.

Bear, Greg. Eon. Bluejay Books, 1986. SFBC hardcover. Shortlisted for the Clarke Award. First in a trilogy. No 12 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Benford, Gregory. Across the Sea of Suns. Timescape Books, 1985. [SFBC hardcover. Second in the six-book Galactic Center series. No 583 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Benford, Gregory. In the Ocean of Night. Dial Press, 1977. SFBC hardcover. Nebula finalist for Best Novel. First in the six-book Galactic Center series. No 582 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Brunner, John. The Crucible of Time. Del Rey, 1984. SFBC hardcover. Fix-up science fiction novel.

Brunner, John. Players at the Game of People. Nelson Doubleday, 1980. First edition SFBC hardcover. Predates the trade edition by two months.

Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. Doubleday, 1970. SFBC hardcover. Hugo Award for Best Novel. A dystopian novel about the overpopulated future of 2010, with narrative techniques borrowed from Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy. One of a small handful of Best Novel Hugo winners that I haven’t read yet. No. 4 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Brunner, John. The Stone That Never Came Down. Doubleday, 1974. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel.

Brunner, John. The Wrong End of Time. Doubleday, 1972. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel.

Disch, Thomas M. Triplicity. Nelson Doubleday, 1980. First edition thus [K10], SFBC hardcover. Omnibus containing Echo Round His BonesThe Genocides (1966 Nebula finalist), and The Puppies of Terra (supplements an Ace Double edition).

Donaldson, Stephen R. The Illearth War. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977. SFBC hardcover. Second in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. Replaces a paperback copy. No 880 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Gerrold, David. The Man Who Folded Himself. Random House, 1973. SFBC hardcover. Hugo and Nebula finalist for Best Novel. No 933 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Gibson, William. Spook Country. Putnam, 2007. First edition hardcover. Second in the Blue Ant Trilogy. A nice copy that I’m surprised was free, although this had a large print run judging from what I’ve seen at used bookstores.

Gunn, James E. The Listeners. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972. SFBC hardcover. Shortlisted for the Campbell Memorial Award. Fix-up science fiction novel.

MacLeod, Ken. Engine City. Tor, 2003. 1st U.S. edition hardcover. Third in the Engines of Light trilogy. A nice copy except for a bit of dogearing. I should probably track down a copy of Dark Light at some point.

MacLeod, Ken. The Sky Road. Orbit, 2000. Trade paperback edition. Hugo finalist for Best Novel. Fourth and final novel in the Fall Revolution sequence. No 937 on Mt. Tsundoku.

MacLeod, Ken. The Star Fraction. Orbit, 2000. Second printing of the trade paperback edition. Shortlisted for the Clarke Award. First novel in the Fall Revolution sequence. This copy has a big “2 for £10” sticker on the cover from Blackwell’s Bookshops. N934 on Mt. Tsundoku.

McDevitt, Jack. Cauldron. Ace, 2008. Second printing of the mass-market paperback edition. 2009 Nebula finalist for Best Novel. Sixth in the Academy series. A tiny remainder mark on the bottom.

McDevitt, Jack. Chindi. Ace, 2003. Seventh printing of the mass-market paperback edition. 2004 Nebula finalist for Best Novel. Third in the Academy series. No 701 on Mt. Tsundoku.

McDevitt, Jack. Infinity Beach. Eos, 2001. Third printing of the mass-market paperback edition. 2001 Nebula finalist and Campbell Memorial shortlist for Best Novel.

McDevitt, Jack. Omega. Ace, 2004. Fourth printing of the mass-market paperback edition. Campbell Memorial Award; Nebula finalist for Best Novel. Fourth in the Academy series. No 702 on Mt. Tsundoku.

McIntyre, Vonda N. The Exile Waiting. Nelson Doubleday, 1975. SFBC hardcover. Nebula finalist. The book club edition predated the trade release by five months, but I’m not sure when this copy was printed; there was no gutter code on page 211 and the first printing would have “30R” there. It is a mystery.

Niven, Larry. The Ringworld Engineers. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. SFBC hardcover. Hugo finalist for Best novel. Sequel to Ringworld. Replaces a paperback copy. No 295 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Pohl, Frederik. Starburst. Del Rey, 1982. SFBC hardcover. Expansion of the Locus-winning novella “The Gold at the Starbow’s End” (1972).

Sheckley, Robert. Mindswap. Delacorte Press, 1966. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel about switching minds for space tourism purposes.

Silverberg, Robert. Majipoor Chronicles. Arbor House, 1982. SFBC hardcover. Collection of linked stories that forms the second in the Majipoor series.

Silverberg, Robert. To Live Again. Doubleday, 1970. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel.

Silverberg, Robert. Valentine Pontifex. Arbor House, 1984. SFBC hardcover. Third in the Majipoor series, and last in the initial trilogy.

Simak, Clifford D. A Heritage of Stars. Berkley/Putnam, 1977. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel.

Simak, Clifford D. Shakespeare’s Planet. Berkley/Putnam, 1976. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel.

Simak, Clifford D. The Visitors. Del Rey, 1980. SFBC hardcover. Science fiction novel about aliens visiting Earth.

Simmons, Dan. Olympos. Eos, 2005. First U.S. edition hardcover. A more battered copy than I’d pay money for (with binding damage from page 337 onward), but it’ll still look good next to Ilium on the shelf.

Tiptree, James Jr. Up the Walls of the World. Berkley/Putnam, 1978. ISFBC hardcover. Tiptree’s first novel (having previously worked at shorter lengths), for which she declined a Hugo nomination. There’s a picture of the author on the back cover, which for some reason greatly amuses me.

Varley, John. The Ophiuchi Hotline. Dial Press, 1977. SFBC hardcover. Part of the author’s Eight Worlds setting. Replaces a paperback copy. No 848 on Mt. Tsundoku.

White, James. Ambulance Ship. Del Rey, 1979. First edition mass-market paperback. Fourth in the Sector General series. No 310 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Yulsman, Jerry. Elleander Morning. St. Martin’s Press, 1984. SFBC hardcover. An alternate history novel in which Hitler is assassinated in 1913. No 138 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Finally, one pickup from the Half Price Books in Berkeley that I stopped by on the way home from a hiking excursion:

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins, 2008. First edition hardcover. Hugo Award for Best Novel; Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. I had held off on picking up a copy of this for a while under the mistaken impression that the U.K. publication had priority, but finally looked up the publication dates myself and found that the U.S. edition was released on 30 September; the U.K. edition was not until 31 October. With that knowledge, this was fairly easy to track down. Another one of the small handful of Best Novel Hugo winners that I have yet to read. No 5 on Mt. Tsundoku.

Books Acquired, 8-14 April 2019

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Friends of the Palo Alto Library book sale weekend:

Asimov, Isaac. The Foundation Trilogy. Doubleday, 1963. SFBC hardcover. Omnibus containing FoundationFoundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series. I usually try not to buy book club editions, but this is one of the exceptions; it’s a big omnibus of books that are well out of my price range in first edition. Plus the ebook version is a questionably edited 1990s edition.

Bolander, Brooke. The Only Harmless Great Thing. Tor.com, 2018. First edition trade paperback. Hugo and Nebula finalist for Best Novelette. Supplements an ebook. I had some comments on this in my Nebula novelette roundup.

Boucher, Anthony (editor). A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Volume 2. Doubleday, 1962. SFBC hardcover. The Discount Room had a massive selection of Science Fiction Book Club releases. As mentioned above, I usually try not to spend money on these, but I have a weak spot for really good collections. James Davis Nicoll mentioned Boucher’s Treasury in a recent Tor.com post. It contains some great classic science fiction. Sadly the Volume 1 present was missing its cover and I do have to have some standards to stop my apartment from overflowing with more books than it already is.

Brown, Fredric. The Best of Fredric Brown. Nelson Doubleday, 1977. First edition SFBC hardcover. My other exception for Science Fiction Book Club purchases is for true first editions—in this case, the book club release predated the trade release by four months. The Ballantine / Del Rey Classic Science Fiction line of the 1970s is one of those lines that I pick up whenever I see reasonable copies at a book sale.

Campbell, John W. The Best of John W. Campbell. Nelson Doubleday, 1976. First edition SFBC hardcover. Similar to the Fredric Brown collection, except the book club release only predated the paperback by one month.

Gerrold, David. When Harlie Was One. Nelson Doubleday, 1972. First edition SFBC hardcover. Hugo and Nebula finalist for Best Novel. Predates the trade edition (a paperback original) by three months.

Le Guin, Ursula K. Lavinia. Harcourt, 2008. First edition hardcover. Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. This was shelved as historical fiction by the book sale.

Knight, Damon (editor). A Science Fiction Argosy. Simon and Schuster, 1972. SFBC hardcover. Another of those great big anthologies that collect a lot of good classic science fiction.

Russell, Eric Frank. The Best of Eric Frank Russell. Ballantine, 1978. First edition mass-market paperback. See above for comments on this publication line; this is an example of the trade editions. (I don’t think this one got a book club release).

Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. Edited by J. H. Walter. Methuen, 1954. Second Arden edition hardcover. Another thing I like picking up at book sales: critical Shakespeare editions.

Silverberg, Robert. The Second Trip. Nelson Doubleday, 1972. First edition SFBC hardcover. Originally serialized in Amazing, July–September 1971. Predates the trade edition (a paperback original) by five months.

Silverberg, Robert. A Time of Changes. Nelson Doubleday, 1971. First edition SFBC hardcover. Nebula Award and Hugo finalist for Best Novel. Originally serialized in Galaxy, March–May 1971. Predates the trade edition (a paperback original) by two months. Because I am a dumbass, I managed to load this on my car atop some sticky clothing label tape that was impossible to remove without damaging the back of the dust jacket. Less disfiguring than it could be given that it’s white, but I’m still annoyed at myself about this.

Stross, Charles. The Apocalypse Codex. Ace, 2012. First edition hardcover. Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Fourth in the Hugo-nominated Laundry Files series, which is currently projected to run eleven or twelve volumes. Bob Howard visits America. The publication history of The Laundry Files is a bit weird so I’ve attempted to summarize it below.

Wells, Martha. All Systems Red. Tor.com, 2017. First edition trade paperback. Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Awards for Best Novella. First in the Murderbot Diaries, which currently consists of three subsequent novellas and an upcoming novel. Supplements an ebook. I mainly didn’t pick this up in print before due to laziness. The story of a secretly free security construct who’s too busy watching TV to go on a murder spree and realizes they might actually care about people. Highly recommended.

 

A Brief Note on First Editions of The Laundry Files

This is just the novels. For a complete list of fiction and reading order for The Laundry Files, see Stross’s website.

Book U.S. edition U.K. edition
The Atrocity Archives Golden Gryphon (HC)
1 May 2004
Orbit (PB)
June 2007
The Jennifer Morgue Golden Gryphon (HC)
November 2006
Orbit (PB)
6 September 2007
The Fuller Memorandum Ace (HC)
6 July 2010
Orbit (PB)
1 July 2010
The Apocalypse Codex Ace (HC)
3 July 2012
Orbit (PB)
19 July 2012
The Rhesus Chart Ace (HC)
1 July 2014
Orbit (HC)
3 July 2014
The Annihilation Score Ace (HC)
7 July 2015
Orbit (HC)
2 July 2015
The Nightmare Stacks Ace (HC)
28 June 2016
Orbit (HC)
23 June 2016
The Delirium Brief Tor (HC)
11 July 2017
Orbit (HC)
13 July 2017
The Labyrinth Index Tor.com (HC)
30 October 2018
Orbit (HC)
30 October 2018
Lost Boys Forthcoming late 2020

Notes:

  1. The Atrocity Archive was originally serialized in Spectrum SF #7-9 (November 2001–November 2002).
  2. The Atrocity Archives contains both The Atrocity Archive and “The Concrete Jungle”, an original novella.
  3. The Jennifer Morgue also contains the novelette “Pimpf”.
  4. UK copies of The Annihilation Score were available on 1 July 2015 at an author signing in Edinburgh.
  5. UK copies of The Delirium Brief were available on 12 July 2017 at an author signing in Edinburgh.
  6. North American copies of The Labyrinth Index were available on 20 October 2018 at an author signing in Toronto.

Rose Peak

Rose Peak (3817′)
7 April 2019
4:19↑, 3:36↓

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I’ve been to the Ohlone Regional Wilderness a couple times, but never gotten to its highest point, Rose Peak. At 3817 feet, Rose Peak stands just 32 feet short of Mt. Diablo and is the highest legally accessible point in Alameda County. Previous excursions to the Ohlone Wilderness were from the Del Valle Regional Park; to switch things up a bit, I decided that when I tagged Rose Peak I’d do it from the Sunol side.

This past weekend was the first weekend of the year when Sunol Regional Wilderness gate hours extended to 8pm. Wanting to give myself an ample amount of time to finish this 19-mile hike, I decided that this would be a good weekend to go for Rose Peak while still using my Ohlone Wilderness Permit from last year; it doesn’t expire until 10 May. I got to the trailhead at 10am and set off; not from the visitor’s center, as is standard, but from Camp Ohlone Road, where parking was available.

It was a beautiful spring day, with green hills fed by our wet winter. Less beautiful was my Camelbak springing a leak maybe twenty minutes into the hike. Half my water supply was now dripping from my pants. That annoyance aside, the McCorkle Trail soon rose into the Sunol Wilderness and the crowds of people thinned out. After some nice single-track through the woods, I reached signpost 19 and a gate towards camping areas. Past this gate, there was almost nobody except me and the cows.

The Ohlone Wilderness Trail winds its way up through San Francisco Water Department land and then reaches the Ohlone Regional Wilderness proper. This area was full of blooming wildflowers fed by the recent rains. Fortunately, it wasn’t too muddy except where cows had trampled the trail. I had to dodge around a couple cow groups that were intent on blocking the trail (and of course, plenty of cow pies left on the trail), but the open serpentine grasslands of this area make that easy. There are some great views of the back side of the Mission Peak area.

After a bit of a dip to cross the South Fork of Indian Creek (2800′), it’s a couple miles uphill to the summit of Rose Peak. It might not be the highest point of Alameda County, but it has better views than the true high points due to a paucity of trees at the top. You can see Mt. Diablo, Mt. Hamilton, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the South Bay, and many other points of interest. The Ohlone Wilderness trail map has a good compass indicator of what’s in sight.

The summit register was a complete mess of loose papers. I found a usable pen and a bit of space to sign in. I noted my nominal completion of the Everest by the Bay peak list, although I’m not sure it really counts; I usually took shorter routes than those described. On the other hand I’m pretty sure I have gained more than thirty thousand feet in climbing various Bay Area peaks, so whatever.

I started back at about 3pm; the journey back was uneventful except for a quick view of a coyote running by in the distance. When I got back to the Sunol Regional Wilderness, I detoured once past the gate at signpost 19 to Camp Ohlone Road. It’s much more boring than the McCorkle Trail, but I was okay not reascending a couple hundred feet. I got back to my car a bit after 6:30pm, well before closing time, and headed home.

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San Francisco Bay Area Nifty Ninety: 73/90
California Coastal Peak List:
61/302