Observation Log: Comet NEOWISE

After observing Comet NEOWISE last night from home via binoculars, I wanted to see what it looked like from somewhere with a darker sky. I headed out to Highway 1 and parked near Bean Hollow State Beach, in a gap in the fog layer, around sunset (8:27pm). The first visible “star” in the sky was Jupiter, easily resolvable in my binoculars.

By around 9:00pm it finally became dark enough to view the comet through my binoculars, although at this time the view was reminiscent of that from my apartment. I passed the time by looking at the Milky Way through Sagittarius and Scorpius, including likely observations of M6 and M7 (although I am hesitant to declare this for sure since I failed to note them in advance).

Within half an hour it finally became dark enough to view Comet NEOWISE properly. The comet’s coma was a bit above the rough midpoint of a line between ι and κ Ursae Majoris, forming a visually pleasing triangle. The tail visibly stretched nearly to 15 Ursae Majoris. Comet NEOWISE was clearly and beautifully visible via binoculars; it was faintly but distinctly visible unaided, making it my first naked-eye comet since Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997. I suspect it would have been easier to observe from a site that did not feature frequent headlights.

A swiftly advancing oceanic fog cut off observation at about 9:50pm. I drove north and took one last look about ten minutes later, at the junction of Highways 1 and 85. This site is poorly situated for observing due to both a streetlight and a hill obstructing the western view, but I was able to walk just far enough south along Highway 1 to get one last view of the comet.

Grayback and Salmon Mountains

Independence Day Weekend marked my second three-day weekend of the year. Originally I had planned to be spending this weekend at Westercon in Seattle. However the COVID-19 pandemic postponed that Westercon to next year, so absent any social plans, and given the complete impossibility of making healthy social plans, it was time to head up into the mountains.

The highest points of Del Norte and Humboldt Counties have been on my to-do list for a while. The plan was to spend the first day of the three-day weekend driving up to Bear Mountain (the Del Norte County high point), the second day ascending it, and then the third day hiking up Salmon Mountain (the Humboldt County high point) and driving home. Bear was likely to take all day and as such would not be a good candidate to combine with extensive driving. An extra bonus: routing this way, instead of trying to do Salmon first (likely on Day 1) would mean driving north on US-101 and south on I-5, thereby avoiding bridge tolls.

With this in mind, I packed the usual for a car-camping long weekend and headed up Highway 101 on Friday, July 3. It’s a long drive, reasonably pretty, especially when you get to the redwood sections, but nothing ultra special. The most notable change since the last time I came this way was the Willits Bypass, which opened in 2016. If COVID-19 wasn’t a factor it would have been nice to stop in Eureka or Crescent City, maybe see if there’s any fun bookstores or library sales to check out, but not a good year for that. Past Crescent City I turned onto Highway 199, signed for Grants Pass, and soon turned off that to head into the Smith River National Recreation Area. And that’s where the fun began.

See, the normal driving route to access the trailhead for Bear Mountain involves turning off the highway onto paved forest road 17N05 toward Pierson Cabin. But 17N05 is currently washed out, so the current recommended route involves taking South Fork Road from the highway to Big Flat, then taking 16N02 to Pierson Cabin and proceeding as normal from there. Unfortunately the map I had showed the Big Flat area as a maze of twisty forest roads, all alike, and the route I identified to connect to 16N02 didn’t have the clear connection that I thought existed. As a result, I ended up taking the dirt road 16N03 much much further than I anticipated. The good news is that theoretically this would have actually worked—16N03 eventually terminates at 16N02. The bad news is that 12.5 miles in I was blocked by a large boulder in the middle of the road.

Carefully reversing down the hill until I was able to turn around, I retreated back to (gravel) Big Flat Road and, not seeing any better options, decided to take it north and see if anything else presented itself. Big Flat Road climbs nearly to the top of Gordon Mountain (4160+’) before reaching a junction with the dirt 17N04. I turned right here and eventually connected to 17N05, proceeding further on 17N05 in the hope that maybe I was past the washed-out section, or the washout had been fixed and the Forest Service’s website just hadn’t been updated yet.

Alas, no such luck. The road was closed and blocked a few miles from the trailhead. With night falling, it was time to figure out an alternate plan for the morrow as clearly Bear Mountain wasn’t in the cards for this weekend. (I didn’t have the right road maps on me to try to find yet another route to the trailhead, and adding the extra mileage to what I already expected to be an already grueling ascent just seemed like a recipe for failure.) Opening up the Peakbagger app, I noted that the highest point of Josephine County, Oregon, was a mere thirty air miles away; my vague memories of looking up Grayback Mountain a couple years ago suggested it wouldn’t be excessively difficult. But I was too deep in the forest to have any reception, so actually researching the peak would have to wait.

Saturday, July 4. I woke up at dawn, drove back to Highway 199—this time all on pavement, using 17N05—and proceeded to Grants Pass, passing on my way signs for Oregon Caves National Monument, which I’ll have to check out next time I’m in the area. I stopped for gas, noting with mild dismay that the gas station attendant wasn’t wearing a mask, and downloaded route information about Grayback Mountain. After reviewing it and verifying that it would indeed not be excessively difficult, I turned onto Highway 238 and was on my way.

The drive through rural southwestern Oregon was uneventful, although I did note a depressing number of “Trump/Pence 2020: Keep America Great!” signs. There were a good amount of deer, and after entering the Rogue River National Forest I briefly saw a bear off the side of the road who quickly vanished into the woods. I soon made it to the Lower O’Brien Creek Trailhead (3947′), where I parked—my information suggested that the road to the Upper Trailhead was passable, but unpleasantly rough—and headed up.

The road hike up to the Upper O’Brien Creek Trailhead was boringly monotonous, and the road would in fact have been clearly doable in my Forester. (It was probably nicer than 16N03.) Oh well. Fortunately things improved once I got on trail, and I hiked through (mostly) woods up to 6200′. Here I left the trail and proceeded cross-country up the slopes of the mountain through woods that had been subject to a controlled burn, keeping the bushwacking negligible. The final stretch featured some easy talus-hopping. I topped out on Grayback Mountain (7048′) shortly after noon, three and a half hours after parking; per the summit register, I was the fifteenth party to summit this year. [1]

Views from the summit were not quite 360° due to trees, but I could make out the Pacific to the west and Mounts Shasta and McLoughlin crowning the distance. In the nearer ground, ridges (that I mostly didn’t recognize, having really never been to this area before) stretched away in all directions.

After enjoying the views, I headed back down the mountain, passing one party of two on the trail, returned to my car, and drove back into California via Ashland, passing over Siskiyou Summit, at 4,310 feet the highest point on I-5. Soon, however, it was time to leave I-5 for the scenic beauty of Highway 96, which parallels the Klamath River. The challenge of this drive is not to get too distracted by the river and not stop too often for pictures. Just before Orleans, I turned off the highway to head back into the national forest, where I camped overnight, free from fireworks or noisy neighbors, at the trailhead for Salmon Mountain.

Salmon Mountain is a straightforward trail hike up to 6400′ feet, with maybe a bit more up-and-down than I’d strictly prefer once it reaches the ridgeline. Unfortunately the trail refuses to commit to staying on (or near) the ridge, forcing one to leave it and trek upwards cross-country. While not difficult, the forest floor is absolutely full of fallen branches that one has to crunch though. Fortunately the crunchiest section is brief. At 6520′ I got near the ridgeline and found a faint use trail that I was able to more or less (honestly, mostly less, but at this point the navigation was super easy) follow up to the 6956′ summit. I was the fourteenth party of the year to reach the top and sign the summit register.

There are views in all directions except for some tree-obstruction to the north, but the most striking views are to the east, with an immediate sharp drop, followed by ridges upon ridges crowned by a distant Shasta. Meanwhile, to the southeast lie the striking Trinity Alps, topped by Thompson Peak and its snowfield. [2]

On the way back I stopped to check out an interesting rock formation known as “Indian Rocks“. I thought about trying to climb it but after seeing the thick brush that surrounded it, quickly abandoned that idea in lieu of getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour. It didn’t help that while jumping over a trail-crossing log, a branch managed to tear a small rip in my pants.

After attaining my car, I drove back down the (mostly paved, but so potholed that it must be taken slowly) road to Orleans, where I filled my tank with gas from an old-school pump, that one has to manually reset between customers and everything, and headed back south on Highway 96. After an additional quick stop at Hoopa for refreshments (that’s where to fill your tank if you want a modern gas station), it was time to really just get on with driving home. Highway 96 ends at Willow Creek, and then it’s nearly a hundred miles along Highway 299—much of which parallels the Trinity River, but time constraints prevented me from doing much more than viewing it from my window—to Redding and I-5. And from there it’s just a matter of driving home.

 

[1] I think. Not sure how to count the page-sized dragon picture.

[2] Technically Salmon is just within the Trinity Alps Wilderness boundaries.

CoNZealand, Day -30: Nobody Expects the Fannish Inquisition

Normally, most people vote for Worldcon site selection on site. Normally, people have the opportunity to hear from the site selection bids in person. But we do not live in normal times, and with all site selection moving to remote this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic CoNZealand arranged a special early question-and-answer panel for the 2022 Worldcon bids about a month before the convention. What follows is a summary of the bid presentations, questions, and answers—while I have tried to stay true to what was said, I do not promise transcription-level accuracy.

Information about both 2022 bids, including both bid questionnaires, and how to vote in Site Selection can be found on the CoNZealand site.

Chicago in 2022

(Helen Montgomery, Dave McCarty; questionnaire)

Bidding for September 1–5, 2022 (Labor Day Weekend). Membership rates are to be determined, and they are planning to have installment plans be available right away, as well as a family membership plan of some sort.

The convention would be hosted by the Hyatt Regency Chicago:

  • Home to 4 prior Worldcons, more than any other venue
  • The entire convention would be held under one roof
  • It’s located in downtown Chicago
  • Changes to dining/drink options: the lobby has been redesigned since Chicon 7 (2012)
    • BIG Bar is still there
    • There’s a new bar called the Living Room
  • There are 2,032 sleeping rooms, including 123 suites and 98 ADA-accessible rooms. There are also numerous hotels nearby that can be used for overflow. Rooms are $160/night + tax. There are no additional fees; breakfast is not included but Internet is.
  • There is 240,000 square feet of conference space
  • The Riverside Exhibit Hall is 70,000 square feet.
  • The Grand Ballroom, which would be used to host large events, is 25,282 square feet.
  • Evening socializing will be in suites, not function space, with a corkage/forkage waiver.
  • Getting there is convenient via public transit.

Why Chicago?

  • There have been lots kudos for the city from various sources.
  • There are 77 unique, diverse neighborhoods with 2.6 million residents.
  • “Urbs in horto” (city in a garden): lots of parks and beaches. Highlights:
    • 1.25 mile Riverwalk (including a highly recommended tour)
    • 606/Bloomingdale Trail (2.7 miles elevated park)
  • Lots and lots of food options.
  • Parades, festivals (JazzFest would be during the Worldcon), theaters, sports (it’s baseball/soccer season)
  • 67 museums. Especially recommended: the Museum of Science and Industry and the Adler Planetarium.

Want to make sure that all aspects of Chicago’s fannish community are included, with reference to Capricon, Windycon, anime, furries, Doctor Who, gaming, comics, and WakandaCon.

This would be the eighth Chicago Worldcon. Would be chaired by Helen Montgomery, everything else is in progress. (Here there was a large list of prospective committee members in various divisions that was too long for me to write down.)

Thanks to the bid committee, CoNZealand, Choose Chicago, Hyatt Regency Chicago, OffWorld Designs, and Eek! Designs.

JeddiCon

(Yasser Bahjatt, Mohammed Albakri; questionnaire)

Except for 2007, Worldcon has always been held in the West: why not introduce it to a new culture?

Why Arabia? Lots of fantastic history: 1001 Nights, scholars and scientists side-by-side with wizards and alchemists, melting pot of cultures between east and west.

Why Saudi? You probably haven’t visited, except maybe for for business or religious reasons, but it’s opening up and becoming more welcoming to outsiders and changing lots of regulations. It’s the heart of Arabia; it has a lot of history and is moving forward rapidly.

Why Jeddah? The gateway to Mecca, Jeddah is a melting pot. The name refers to the biblical Eve, who is buried here. It’s surprisingly diverse and was the launching point of a big SF movement a few years ago. Other things to enjoy: art museum, world’s highest fountain, shopping in the souqs, brand new cinemas.

Venue: King Faisla Conference Center in the King Abdulaziz University Campus. The large auditorium can seat more than 2,000 people. The art show and dealer’s room would be in the SF-looking sports tent across the street.

Vision: Put the emphasis on the “World” in Worldcon by balancing cultural representation, having talks in both Arabic and English with live interpretation, and multiple guests of honor in every category to honor cultures from around the world.

Setup: Planning on having live feeds for all programming sessions and hopefully record all of them, with multilingual audio tracks.

The bid is working with the Ministries of Culture and Tourism to develop special tours for attendees to historical/cultural sites in Saudi Arabia before and after the con.

Jeddi High Council has experience in managing events of all sizes, but hasn’t been involved in any Worldcons apart from attending.

Dates: May 4–8, 2022.

Questions and Answers

Q: Will female members of the convention be treated differently than male members? Will particular members have to be clothed differently?

Chicago: There really shouldn’t be anything except that it’s a hotel in the middle of summer.

Jeddah: There isn’t really any difference but the Saudi Public Decency Law has a dress code requirement.

Q: Why May 4?

Jeddah: The Star Wars reference is the cherry on top, but (1) September will be too hot and (2) it’s during Eid al-Fitr, so it’s an official regional vacation: more people can come, and we will have better use of facilities that would otherwise be occupied

[I was a bit disappointed that my question regarding how a May convention date would impact the Hugo nominating and voting period was not asked.]

Q: How will JeddiCon impact SF/F in the area?

Jeddah: SF/F in the region kind of died off in the mid-80s, but the new generation has new movement to export culture through SF/F. Having a Worldcon in the region would bring more attention to the genre. There have been some movies shot in the region, but the first Arabic SF TV show was just released this year.

Q: How have issues with the Chicago Hyatt staff at Chicon 7 been resolved?

Chicago: We’ve had talks with the hotel about what worked and what didn’t work, and the hotel took ownership of what went wrong and explained it to our satisfaction (had poor relationship with our convention service manager). The new CSM (Matthew) is great and we’re excited to be working with him.

Q: Chicon 7 had numerous access issues. How have you fixed them?

Chicago: The hotel took the non-ADA accessible areas out of circulation and put new, accessible function rooms in. The big accessibility chokepoint is getting into the exhibit hall, and we’ll have to work this out. But everything else should be ADA-compliant. Also at least with the Hyatt we know what the likely problem points are and can plan for them. If you had specific pain points at Chicon 7, let us know.

Q: What is the availability of assistance for mobility access, including renting mobies?

Jeddah: A lot of the rooms have workarounds but they’re not officially recognized are fully accessible (about 10% are officially recognized as such). Already working with a few companies for chairs on-site but not sure if they’ll be available to be taken offsite.

Chicago: Will have rental options for mobies, wheelchairs, etc. Guessing that there will be a pre-rental period and then we’ll have extras on site.

Q: What online virtual content do you intend to include?

Chicago: Haven’t totally decided yet, but we expect to have a pretty strong virtual component. In 2012 we had coprogramming with Dragon*Con, so we’re used to doing that kind of virtual thing. So it’s on our radar but we don’t have specifics yet.

Jeddah: Want to broadcast everything live for all the members, with at least audio streaming and hopefully video streaming. Our platform for live interpretation incorporates a live feed for sessions in both languages. Everything will be recorded for all members and stay up for as long as the server does. We also plan on having live feeds for all public spaces (e.g. the art show and dealer’s room) so online attendees can interact with in-person attendees.

Q: Does either convention believe there will be any difficulty for any member to attend based on nationality, race, sexual preference, sexuality, or current relationship status?

Chicago: There shouldn’t be, but the results of the November election will have a big impact, as well as the pandemic.

Jeddah: The Public Decency Law requires a minimum dress code, but we don’t anticipate issues if compliant. Said law also limits public displays of affection. Saudi Arabia has opened up but certain modesty levels are still expected.

Q: I have a friend who’s a trans man and is dating a woman. Are they going to have a problem attending your Worldcon?

Jeddah: Nothing happens unless you “go out of your way to make a scene”. Hotels don’t ask about relationships between people staying in the same room.

Chicago: We’ve got everybody in Chicago, not an issue.

Q: If someone’s doing cosplay and wants to head into the city to get dinner, is that likely to be a problem?

Jeddah: As long as you’re adhering to the Public Decency Law, nobody will bother you if you’re dressed up funny.

Q: What happens if your own country bans you from entering Saudi Arabia?

Jeddah: We’re going to be broadcasting everything online so if you can’t go or can’t get a visa (see, e.g., people that couldn’t get a visa to Dublin last year) you can still participate virtually at a different membership level.

Jeddah (in response to a follow-up about cosplay): People in Saudi Arabia are getting used to the concept — we had Comic-Con in Jeddah about three years ago. But again, it’s an Islamic country and we have the Public Decency Law.

Q: How safe is it for single female-presenting people to enter restaurants and public places solo?

Chicago: I [Helen] go to restaurants routinely by myself.

Jeddah: Jeddah is a very safe place. Saudi Arabia crime rates are very low.

Q: What about mixed groups of people?

Jeddah: There used to be restrictions where there’d be one section that was the “family section” (women, or men accompanied by women) and then the “singles section” (only men), but those laws have been lifted. However some restaurants are still structured that way.

Q: Public transit?

Chicago: It’s super easy to get around. There’s lots of info on our FAQ.

Jeddah: There is little public transit. The main public transport is the Mecca-Medina train, which can be used to get from the airport to our venue. We would also have shuttles from hotels to the convention center, and are looking at special rates via apps (Uber, etc.).

Q: What issues around freedom of expression for LGBTQ+ attendees could people run into, and how can you assure people they won’t have to worry?

Chicago: There are no legal issues. Part of our Code of Conduct is about anti-harassment, including deliberate misgendering, and there will be a reporting process for anything that happens at the convention. We have a thriving LGBT community in Chicago. If you have a specific question, ping me.

Jeddah: Nobody is going to ask about whether people staying in the same room are in a relationship. Unless there is some kind of “actual fuss that happens” this should not be an issue. Regarding freedom of expression, LGBTQ are not recognized in Saudi Arabia, so we’d say “don’t show, don’t tell.” If you’re abiding by the Public Decency Law there should not be any issue.

Q: Will you be posting the public decency laws on your website?

Jeddah: We can send the link, it’s on the official website.

Q: What about public displays of affection?

Jeddah: That’s part of the Public Decency Law. Public shows of affection are not acceptable. Regardless of same-sex, opposite-sex.

Q: Going back to the national origin question from earlier: if I have an Israeli stamp in my passport, will that cause any difficulty on entrance?

Jeddah: I really don’t know, but I don’t expect it should.

Q: Are there any known national origins that could cause—

At this point the Zoom presentation was cut off due to somebody else using the same Zoom Webinar token.

Best Series Hugo: Reading Burden

There has been a lot of discussion about the amount of reading added for the scrupulous Hugo voter by the Best Series Hugo. So I decided to try to quantify it.

The problem, of course, is that “reading added” is subjective based on the voter. (If you’re up-to-date on a series and it shows up on the Best Series shortlist, then there’s obviously nothing new for you to read.) But I think we can use two primary classifications to get some idea of how many extra works are showing up on the Hugo ballot because of the Series category. First, there’s how long the series is in total at the time of nomination, less any parts of it that appear elsewhere on the ballot. Second, there’s the totality of the series minus any parts of it that have ever appeared on a Hugo ballot. (Including Campbell/Astounding nominations as well.) Obviously not all voters in a given year will have been members of previous Worldcons (especially relevant for the longest series—I was two years old when Falling Free showed up on the ballot), but again, we’re looking for a general sense of “how much of this series is new to Hugo voters.”

The best measurement would be word count, but I don’t have access to word counts for much of these series (having done my reading in hardcopy). Still, I think the counts I can provide are indicative.

2017

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone 5 novels 3 novels
The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey 6 novels 5 novels
The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire 10 novels, 1 novella, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories 9 novels, 1 novella, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories
The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch 6 novels 6 novels
The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik 9 novels 6 novels
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold 16 novels, 4 novellas, 1 short story 5 novels, 2 novellas, 1 short story
TOTALS 52 novels, 5 novellas, 5 novelettes, 5 short stories 34 novels, 3 novellas, 5 novelettes, 5 short stories

Notes:

  • My copy of the 2017 Hugo packet is currently inaccessible so please let me know if there is anything I missed with these!
  • The Craft Sequence nomination also included two interactive games.
  • The Vorkosigan “short story” is the interstitial matter in Borders of Infinity. I excluded “Weatherman” because it’s more-or-less the first part of The Vor Game.
  • The “new to the ballot” column is particularly silly for the Vorkosigan Saga because the only new work since Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was a Best Novel finalist was Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. Feel free to discount accordingly.

2018

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells 5 novels, 4 novellas, 5 short stories 5 novels, 4 novellas, 5 short stories
The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett 3 novels 3 novels
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire 6 novels, 2 novellas, 18 novelettes, 11 short stories 6 novels, 2 novellas, 18 novelettes, 11 short stories
The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan 5 novels, 1 short story 5 novels, 1 short story
The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson 3 novels 3 novels
World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold 3 novels, 6 novellas 1 novel, 4 novellas
TOTALS 25 novels, 12 novellas, 18 novelettes, 17 short stories 23 novels, 10 novellas, 18 novelettes, 17 short stories

Notes:

  • This was a great year for the category in promoting works that mostly had been overlooked by the other Hugo categories. However this increased the total reading required by the typical Worldcon voter by a lot.
  • The Stormlight Archive‘s novels are all very long, so it’s probably more accurate to count them twice or thrice.
  • I excluded “Edgedancer” from the Stormlight count since it was not referenced in the series’s Hugo packet submission.

2019

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older 3 novels 2 novels
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross 9 novels, 2 novellas, 2 novelettes 9 novels, 1 novelette
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee 2 novels n/a
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire 10 novels, 3 novellas, 5 novelettes, 4 short stories 2 novels, 2 novellas
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard 2 novellas, 10 novelettes, 15 short stories 1 novella, 6 novelettes, 14 short stories
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers 2 novels 1 novel
TOTALS 26 novels, 8 novellas, 17 novelettes, 19 short stories 14 novels, 3 novellas, 7 novelettes, 14 short stories

Notes:

  • Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and The Tea Master and the Detective are excluded from this listing because they were already on the ballot in Novel and Novella.
  • The “new to the ballot” column is likely overstated to the extent that most readers will have read A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet before A Closed and Common Orbit, and also that it is unlikely that readers will have only read short-fiction Laundry works.

2020

Series Total Length New to the Ballot
The Expanse, by James S. A. Corey 8 novels 2 novels
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire 8 novels, 4 novellas, 21 novelettes, 11 short stories 2 novels, 2 novellas, 3 novelettes
Luna, by Ian McDonald 3 novels 3 novels
Planetfall series, by Emma Newman 4 novels 4 novels
Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden 3 novels 1 novel
The Wormwood Trilogy, by Tade Thompson 3 novels 3 novels
TOTALS 29 novels, 4 novellas, 21 novelettes, 1 short stories 15 novels, 2 novellas, 3 novelettes

Notes:

  • You could argue for including additional short fiction for both The Expanse and Luna. I omitted them due to lack of reference thereto in the voter packet.

Strahan’s The Year’s Best SF, Volume 1 (2019)

Saga Press has revealed the cover and table of contents of their upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction, Vol. 1, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Of the twenty-eight stories, eleven were originally published in original book anthologies, nine in online magazines, three in print magazines, two in an original online anthology, one in a collection, one in a newspaper, and one as a digital stand-alone.

  • “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders. (A People’s Future of the United States, One World.)
  • “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex” by Tobias S. Buckell. (New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, Solaris.)
  • “Kali_Na” by Indrapramit Das. (The Mythic Dream, Saga Press.)
  • “Song of the Birds” by Saleem Haddad. (Palestine + 100: Stories from a Century After the Nakhba, Comma Press.)
  • The Painter of Trees” by Suzanne Palmer. (Clarkesworld, June 2019.)
  • The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir” by Karin Tidbeck. (Tor.com, 14 January 2019.)
  • Sturdy Ladders and Lanterns” by Malka Older. (Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology, XPRIZE.)
  • It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning” by Ted Chiang. (The New York Times, 27 May 2019.)
  • “Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous” by Rich Larson. (F&SF, March/April 2019.)
  • “Submarines” by Han Song. (Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Tor.)
  • As the Last I May Know” by S.L. Huang. (Tor.com, 6 November 2019.)
  • A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde. (Uncanny, January-February 2019.)
  • “The Robots of Eden” by Anil Menon. (New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, Solaris.)
  • Now Wait for This Week” by Alice Sola Kim. (A People’s Future of the United States, One World.)
  • “Cyclopterus” by Peter Watts. (Mission Critical, Solaris.)
  • Dune Song” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. (Apex, 7 May 2019.)
  • The Work of Wolves” by Tegan Moore. (Asimov’s, July/August 2019.)
  • The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim. (Lightspeed, April 2019.)
  • Soft Edges” by Elizabeth Bear. (Current Futures: A Sci-fi Ocean Anthology, XPRIZE.)
  • “Emergency Skin” by N. K. Jemisin. (Amazon Original Stories.)
  • Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu. (Slate, 26 January 2019.)
  • At the Fall” by Alec Nevala-Lee. (Analog, May/June 2019.)
  • “Reunion” by Vandana Singh. (The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Hachette India.)
  • “Green Glass: A Love Story” by E. Lily Yu. (If This Goes On, Parvus Press.)
  • “Secret Stories of Doors” by Sofia Rhei. (Everything is Made of Letters, Aqueduct Press.)
  • “This Is Not the Way Home” by Greg Egan. (Mission Critical, Solaris.)
  • What the Dead Man Said” by Chinelo Onwualu. (Slate, 24 August 2019.)
  • I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We’re Getting Married” by Fonda Lee. (MIT Technology Review, 27 December 2019.)

(via File 770)

 

2019 Highpointing, and What Comes Next

MartinPyne_CountyHighPoints
My current county high point completion map.

The limiting factor continues to be distance and vacation time. I was able to ascend White Mountain Peak without taking time off primarily due to Open Gate Day reducing the requisite hiking distance and still didn’t get home until pretty late Sunday night. Eagle Peak and Hat Mountain required pretty much the entirety of Labor Day Weekend just from the sheer amount of driving necessary to reach the Modoc National Forest.

Closer to home, Laveaga Peak and Long Ridge were made possible by the efforts of Coby King to obtain legal access to these private-property peaks.

Frustratingly I was unable to get anything done over Thanksgiving break due to bad weather up and down the state. While it’s possible that my plans for Hot Springs Mountain and Blue Angels Peak would have gone successfully despite the snow, that’s an awfully long drive that can be put off until there’s better weather.

My actual biggest peakbagging achievement of the year is finishing off the Nifty Ninety list of Bay Area peaks. I am not planning on going nearly as hard in the spring as this year’s effort to finish off the list on my birthday, especially as in hindsight that led to a bit of fatigue (and a desire to not burn even more gas) in trying to get much done in the Sierras in September/October this year. But I’m sure I can find something to do closer to home before the snow melts.

The other lesson learned was to not try to crowbar a non-trivial highpoint into a weekend where I’m already busy and tired—hiking is best done before the convention starts. I’m not currently planning on trying to work any highpointing into Westercon weekend. (Note also that July 4th weekend is still pretty early in the season for the Seattle area.)

So what’s next? It’s mostly a question of trying to work out vacation plans. I’m almost certainly not going to Worldcon this year (turns out flights to New Zealand are really expensive) so I am hoping to spend a week in the Sierra sometime in August. It would also be really nice to bump off both the Salmon/Bear duo (likely a Labor Day Weekend target) and the three I have left in SoCal next year, although this may be a tad ambitious given that the latter would likely have to be crowbarred into Memorial Day Weekend and I’m not sure that’s actually enough time considering the drive.

For summer weekend trips, there’s also a number of county prominences that I’m interested in—Granite Chief, Mt. Conness, South Yolla Bolly, Hull Mountain, and Babbitt Peak come to mind.

Longer term, I’m planning on combining my 2021 trip for the Tonopah Westercon with some county high points in southern / central Nevada, as well as a few easy pings in D.C. and environs in conjunction with the 2021 Worldcon.

2019 year-end statistics:

  • New county high points: 5 (59 total)
  • Home glob: 51 counties (+5), 138,183 square miles (+14,580)
  • New 2000′ prominence peaks: 3
  • New SF Bay Nifty Ninety peaks: 25
  • Highest and most prominent peak climbed: White Mountain Peak (14,246)
  • New peaks (min. 300′ prominence) climbed: 22
  • P-Index: 103

Eagle Peak and Hat Mountain

Eagle Peak (9892′) and Hat Mountain (8745′), the highest points of Modoc and Lassen Counties, respectively, are in the far northeastern part of California, an area that most people haven’t seen. I took I-80 and US-395 to get to the Modoc National Forest and it’s quite striking how the last hour or so of the drive (north of Susanville) is almost completely empty of people. It’s 7-8 hours from Sunnyvale depending on traffic. Some notes:

  • I didn’t see anybody on either Eagle Peak or Hat Mountain. There was one entry in the Eagle register from earlier on Saturday (noting the visible smoke from Burning Man), but I have to assume that he took a different route up.
  • There were a good number of others present at the Mill Creek campground on Saturday night. It’s accessible via paved roads and has bathrooms and running water. Luxurious (from a car-camping perspective) if a bit less quiet than I might have liked. (Special shout-out to the campers that kept managing to direct a bright light into my driver’s-side windows.)
  • The short stretch of trail past Clear Lake is absolutely infested with spiders. Seriously I don’t know how you can get through that section without taking at least one strand of silk to the face.
  • Eagle really puts the day in dayhike. It took me a bit over ten hours round-trip from Mill Creek Falls (about 5700′), not counting about half an hour on the summit. There are other routes that start higher but have a bit more mileage.
  • After getting back and taking a bit of a breather I drove further into the forest towards Hat Mountain, this time on gravel roads. The biggest surprise of the drive was the calf on the road.
  • The stars are absolutely amazing in the Modoc National Forest. Seriously, if you haven’t ever seen the stars from a really rural location like the Modoc, you owe it to yourself to find a moonless night and fix that. There are just so many stars! (And I really need to remember to actually bring my binoculars on one of my overnight peakbagging trips.)
  • Just as I was getting ready to sleep on Sunday night, I was surprised to find somebody driving up Forest Road 38N18. We chatted briefly and he confirmed that the road was in good shape.
  • The standard route up Hat Mountain involves a 600-foot descent through brush to Lost Lake. I got partway through this two years ago and turned around in disgust. (The rainstorm the previous night didn’t help.) This year, Kimberly St. Clair tipped me off about an improved route that involves driving a few miles down 38N18 and taking mostly roads/trails from there. This route is a huge improvement. There’s minimal bushwacking and only a 200-foot elevation gain on the way back, much of which could have been further reduced if I had driven a bit further. The first three miles of 38N18 past its junction with 38N18A are a somewhat rocky road but nothing a Subaru Forester can’t handle.
  • Amusingly there are actually two registers atop Hat Mountain because it’s not entirely clear where the exact highest point it. I of course tagged them both. (The better view is probably slightly lower.)
  • I didn’t get much (okay, any) reading done this weekend because I didn’t get to either trailhead until after sunset. Part of this was because I extended my trip to the area a bit by stopping at a couple Half Price Books locations to take advantage of their 20% weekend sale. I picked up five books, the highlight being a first edition copy of Iain M. Banks’s Inversions.

So that’s California county highpoints 42 and 43 done. Next up, in all likelihood: Thanksgiving weekend for the San Diego and Imperial high points. Plus Orange if I can figure a legal route up Santiago Peak post-Holy Fire.

Where To Find the 2019 Hugo Longlist For Free Online

 This is intended as a supplement to JJ’s File 770 post, Where To Find The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online. If you want to read the actual Hugo finalists, that’s where to look.

If you are interested in reading works that were on this year’s Hugo longlist but did not make the final ballot, here’s a guide to find material which is available for free online. Where available in their entirety, works are linked. If not available for free, an Amazon link is provided and a free excerpt has been linked if I could find one online. I highly encourage you to purchase books via your local independent bookseller instead of Amazon if possible.

Works are provided in the order of longlist finish. No attempt has been made to verify eligibility or lack thereof.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Series

Related Work

Graphic Story

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Professional Editor, Short Form

Professional Editor, Long Form

Professional Artist

Semiprozine

Fanzine

Fancast

Fan Writer

Fan Artist

Art Book

Young Adult Book (Lodestar)

New Writer (Campbell)

2019 Hugo Ramblings

The 2019 Hugo Awards were handed out on Sunday night in Dublin, Ireland, at the 77th World Science Fiction Convention. I was there, and now that I am home and have had a chance to review the detailed voting and nomination statistics, I have some thoughts.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

This was the first award, and was given to a rather strange mood in the room; Ada Palmer’s serious speech about the role of fantasy in challenging systems of government was constantly interrupted by audience chuckles induced by the automatic speech-to-text captioning, which provided such gems as “Bored of the Rings and Cream of Thrown”. Jeannette Ng was announced as the winner (beating Rivers Solomon by 43 votes) and began her speech by proclaiming that “John W. Campbell was a fucking fascist.” Her full speech can be read here, and if you click one link in this post it should be that one.

Since then there have been a lot of discussions in various places (see, e.g., this File 770 post) about whether the Campbell should be renamed. A few factors to consider:

  • The World Science Fiction Society doesn’t own the Campbell. While we administer it, it’s owned by Dell Magazines, publishers of Analog (the magazine that Campbell used to edit). Dell Magazines controls the name of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
  • It is mechanically possible for WSFS to stop administering the Campbell and start administering their own award. This could be done either as either a new Not-a-Hugo or a Hugo for Best New Writer. My personal preference would be for the former as I don’t really like the idea of a Hugo with rolling two-year eligibility and I think there are some two-Hugo-for-the-same-work concerns. On the other hand the latter would avoid having to figure out a new award name. Also Analog could take the Campbell somewhere else and keep awarding it.
  • The other thing that I haven’t seen discussed is that we’re still actively honoring John W. Campbell. He won the 1944 Retro Hugo for Best Short Form Editor administered by this very convention. Now that’s a very silly award, and I’ll admit I didn’t bother to vote in it; only 425 people did. But this was the most overwhelming win of any category, with 56.8% of first preferences. If we are serious about no longer honoring Campbell, we shouldn’t overlook the Retro Hugos.

Best Related Work

Archive of Our Own beat Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by 174 votes. Last year 55.3% of Hugo voters voted in this category; this year that increased to 64.4%, easily the largest increase in any category. (And if I’m doing the math right there were 261 voters who just voted for AO3 in this category.)

I’m still not entirely sure I agree that AO3 was eligible here but I’m happy for its win as the existence of AO3 really is important for the fannish community and deserves recognition. (And it’s not like the more serious scholarly books I vote for do well anyway: Astounding came in sixth!) I was particularly moved by the donation of the Hugo trophy to the traveling exhibition, thereby quite literally giving the Hugo back to the fans that make AO3 possible.

Naomi Novik’s acceptance speech can be read here.

Best Art Book

A trial category for this year. I’m extremely “eh” on how the trial turned out, and I say this as somebody who is generally supportive of things that make Related Work a bit less of a grab bag. It got a rather low number of nominations (42 ballots and 13 nominees fewer than the next lowest categories) and two of the top eight were ruled ineligible. On the other hand, it got a very respectable number of final votes (1392, or 44.9% of ballots). The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition won by 282 votes over Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The Art of the Movie.

It bears noting that this win both overlapped with the Professional Artist (Charles Vess) winner and appears to have been at least in part a “We Like Earthsea” vote. (Note that Earthsea was the first runner-up in Series nominations, as discussed below.) There were 128 fewer votes for second place in this category. However I’m not sure that it’s possible to have categories that contain professional art without overlapping a Professional Artist category; consider, for instance, Sana Takeda’s and Monstress‘s wins last year. And obviously an art book can contain art that would not be eligible for a given year’s Professional Artist award due to, say, being a retrospective.

Fan Categories

Best Fanzine

Lady Business beat Journey Planet by 132 votes. Their acceptance speech can be read here.

The Big Thing that people are talking about in this category is that Fanzine only got votes on 26.9% of Hugo ballots, leaving it dangerously close to an automatic No Award. (At least 25% of all of the valid final Hugo ballots must have a non-No Award first place vote in a category for it to be awarded.) Frustratingly, this category isn’t obviously broken from a definitional perspective. There might need to be a bit more voter education in terms of what’s eligible (as in, a lot of online stuff⁠—I think Acrophilia might be technically eligible even though I will laugh at anybody who nominates me) but Pro/Fan Artist this is not.

Even more interestingly, there’s a huge drop-off from last year. Here’s a look at the fan categories over the last decade:

Untitled

If you ignore the 2015-16 Puppy spike Fanzine has been chugging along fairly steadily until this year when it drops from 38.0% to 26.9%. In actual voter numbers, that’s 1075 voters last year to 833 this year. (Note that we picked up 269 additional Hugo voters this year.) The biggest change in the ballot this year is File 770 (permanently) declining nomination; File 770 was second in nominations anyway, with 52, and as best I can tell 252 people voted for File 770 last year on the final ballot and then left the rest of the category blank.

Again, I’m not really sure what the solution is here other than getting the word out about good fanzines that you should be reading. (Although my probably-unpopular opinion is that community sites such as AO3 or r/fantasy are a better fit here than in Related Work.) Aidan Moher suggested merging Fanzine and Fancast but I tend to agree with Claire Rousseau‘s and Renay‘s dissents that the two are actually quite different and should be considered separately.

Best Fancast

Our Opinions Are Correct was the only winner to break 50% in less than six rounds of voting, beating The Skiffy and Fanty Show by 220 votes.

I don’t vote in this category because I can’t focus on audio-only for any period of time without getting distracted. However I was pleased to note the appearance of BookTube on the longlist, represented by Kalanadi and Books and Pieces. Remember, folks, YouTube channels are eligible in this category!

Best Fan Writer

Foz Meadows beat Bogi Takács by 81 votes. Her acceptance speech can be read here.

Fan Writer is a good example of a category that used to be kind of stale and has more recently done a very good job of honoring a bunch of different, worthy people.

Best Fan Artist

Likhain (Mia Serrano) beat Grace P. Fong by 90 votes. Her acceptance speech can be read here.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse beat Black Panther by 247 votes. Notably the top three places on the final ballot all went to Marvel Comics-related movies, which suggests that we’re not going to see an end to the superhero domination of this category any time soon. (I had Spider-Verse second on my ballot, voting first for Sorry to Bother You which placed sixth. They’re really, really different things and honestly kind of hard to compare.)

Of interest to the potential Games Hugo category, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch made the longlist with 53 nominations.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Good Place: “Janet(s)” beat The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate” by 144 votes, the second year in a row for a Good Place win in this category.

Dirty Computer placed sixth, which is a bit disappointing but honestly unsurprising. The last few years have seen one kind of off-beat (i.e. “not a television episode”) finalist that is kind of exciting but ultimately does poorly in the voting. The rest of the longlist is also TV episodes.

The Good Place sent a video acceptance and I’d just like to say that it was really exciting to actually have real acceptances from both Dramatic Presentation winners this year instead of the typical “the convention accepts this on behalf of Hollywood people who don’t know we exist”.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Gardner Dozois beat Neil Clarke by 98 votes. This was the first time that a finalist placed on the ballot by E Pluribus Hugo effects won the Hugo; under the old nomination system, he would have been displaced by Jonathan Strahan.

That being said, Didi Chanoch had a good Twitter thread about how this is really more of a lifetime achievement award for an editor who (very deservedly) had already been well-recognized by the Hugos.

Thought experiment: if we changed this category into Best Anthology and Best Magazine, would The Book of Magic have won for Anthology? (The Locus results actually suggest yes, although the Locus and Hugo electorates aren’t the same.)

Written Fiction Categories

Best Novel

Not particularly close, with The Calculating Stars beating Spinning Silver by 302 votes. It was pretty cool to see the award for a Lady Astronaut novel being presented by an actual lady astronaut. Mary Robinette Kowal’s acceptance speech can be read here.

I was pleased to see Blackfish City and Foundryside, which I nominated, on the longlist. There’s a pretty wide gap in terms of nomination count between the finalist novels and everything else.

Best Novella

This was actually slightly closer than the last couple years, although still not very: Artificial Condition beat The Tea Master and the Detective by 323 votes. The other two Murderbot novellas also received enough nominations to qualify for the final ballot, but Martha Wells graciously declined nomination for them. (The limit on how many works by the same author can appear in a category is two.)

I’m glad The Freeze-Frame Revolution and “Umbernight” both made the longlist although I’d have liked to see them a bit higher. One of the two main flaws that tends to afflict Hugo ballots is voters’ tendencies to read in their comfort zone and nominate accordingly; much of the longlist is series work.

“Umbernight” was also the only entry on the longlist that was published as part of a periodical, not as a separate book.

Best Novelette

One of the closest results on the ballot and the closest in this category since 2010: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” beat “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by 9 votes.

The other big issue that we’ve seen on recent Hugo ballots is the tendency to avoid nominating stories from the print magazines. This year’s longlist isn’t entirely fiction that’s available for free online; “An Agent of Utopia” is there and that’s from an anthology. But that’s it; everything else on that list is free online. Now, novelette was a strong category this year so it’s not obviously weakening the category but I can’t help but wonder what great stories we might be missing.

Best Short Story

This is one I thought would be closer, with “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” beating “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by 342 votes. Alix E. Harrow’s acceptance speech can be read here.

The longlist follows the pattern I noted above of being predominantly from the free online magazines. “Mother Tongues” (which I nominated!) is the notable exception, being originally published in Asimov’s but then subsequently reprinted in Clarkesworld prior to the nomination deadline.

Best Series

Wayfarers beat The Laundry Files by 218 votes. I voted for Machineries of Empire, which is a completed trilogy (with some short-fiction add-ons) and likely won’t be eligible here again. However I will note that Wayfarers, as a “shared-setting” series, doesn’t really have any of the incompleteness problems I’ve complained about before. (On the other hand, to me that makes it a better fit in Best Novel than in Series, whereas the likes of Machineries of Empire is the reverse; you can jump into Record of a Spaceborn Few without having read anything else while you’d likely be totally lost if you just read Revenant Gun in isolation.)

The longlist shows that we’re still dealing with some eligibility issues in this category. The first non-finalist was Earthsea, which was very technically eligible due to a newly published short story; while Earthsea is of course great, to me it’s very hard to argue that we should be honoring it with an award for 2019 fiction. This award should be for current series, not classic series we all love that have technical hooks. The second non-finalist was The Murderbot Diaries, which was not eligible due to insufficient word count.

I was a bit disappointed in this year’s Series shortlist because I had read most of it already. Fortunately there are some series down in the longlist that I’m not particularly familiar with that I might have to check out.

Becky Chambers’s acceptance speech can be read here.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

Children of Blood and Bone beat Dread Nation by 64 votes.

The main issue with this award is participation; only 34.3% of Hugo voters voted for the Lodestar, which is more in line with a fan category than a written fiction category. Otherwise it seems to be working well.

Best Graphic Story

Monstress, Volume 3 beat Black Panther: Long Live the King by 8 votes, the closest result on the ballot. My taste in comics is irreparably lowbrow so I tend not to vote in this category but I’m still a bit annoyed how much of it is dominated by the latest volume in series that have a regular finalist spot. This is the third year in a row that Monstress won.

Best Semiprozine

Uncanny Magazine beat Strange Horizons by 122 votes. This is Uncanny‘s fourth win in a row, although this year’s win includes the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue edited by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien, who have not won Hugos before.

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

Navah Wolfe (Saga Press) beat Sheila E. Gilbert, last year’s winner, by 86 votes.

Best Professional Artist

Charles Vess beat Galen Dara by 50 votes. See above comments on the Art Book category.

 

This post has been updated on 23 August to include a link to Becky Chambers’s acceptance speech.

 

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′)

20171223_104435.jpg

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′)

20180923_154834-PANO

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)

20190601_170305

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′)

20190525_131843

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′)

20190602_105050

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.