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. (, 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. (, 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

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.




Short Story


Related Work

Graphic Story

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Professional Editor, Short Form

Professional Editor, Long Form

Professional Artist




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:


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′)


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′)


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)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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)


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)


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′)


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′)


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)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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′)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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′)


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′)


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)


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′)


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′)


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!


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


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.


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.


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


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


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”.