Thoughts on the Nifty Ninety list

Disclaimer: I haven’t totally completed this list. I’ve got one peak left, Hood Mountain, which is currently closed due to fire damage. But the bulk of my ascents on this list were in 2020, so I wanna get some thoughts down before I forget everything.

This list really hit me at the right time, during the COVID-19 lockdowns. It was a little easier to skip a ski trip or two when I had interesting hikes a short drive away to make progress on. My wife felt a trip to the Sierra was thumbing her nose at the law a bit too much, but I did convince her to drive to Lake Berryessa or Point Reyes to tick off some peaks during the crazy part of the 2020 lockdown.

Poor summit views when hiking peaks in a rain storm. I can do better.

I was originally quite motivated to blast through this list in short order. I hiked Sugarloaf & Sulfur Springs mountain on a raw & rainy day on the first of December. No waterfalls on the approach of either of those peaks, the rain obscured any view we may have had from the summits of these two. Afterwards I kinda wished I had picked a better day. The peak list provides motivation (silly as it might be) to go out of your way and see a new place. Doesn’t work quite as well when you’ve already been there, even if you didn’t really see anything because it was rainy as all hell.

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Waterfall Hunting: Bay Area

Waterfall hunting here in the Bay Area is hard. Water that isn’t absorbed quickly by the typically dry ground flows out of the small & steep drainages in a hurry. This is probably why I like it, catching a falls in optimal conditions is a fun challenge. Plus, I recently had a kid (yay?). So I’m trying to find local things to whet my whistle, since a day trip to the mountains is harder with the little tyrant at home.

Upper Aquarian Falls, on 6-Apr-20.
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4-Aug: Barrett Spur on Mt Hood

Friends of ours made some campground reservations at Mt Hood and Crater Lake on the first week of August, and asked us if we’d like to join them. My initial response was “eew, no.” This is largely because I am a curmudgeon, and I may not actually know how to have a good time. I had always thought of Oregon as a spring or winter destination. Their mountains get copious amounts of snow, and are generally made of horrible rock, thus lending themselves to great skiing and poor rock scrambling. And front country campgrounds always strike me as not a great value. Paying $40 a night to sleep in the dirt and hear your neighbor’s bad music isn’t my idea of a good time, especially when there’s a free & secluded forest road a short drive away. But we hadn’t had a proper vacation in a while due to the COVID, and we do like these friends, so I relented. In what is becoming a trend, I’m glad I ignored my reluctant initial impressions.

I’m happy to report that mountain heather and lupine are not endangered. Photo credit: Olivia Allen-Price
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21-June: Lyell-Maclure trail run

I have an obvious philosophy about mountain climbing: you should choose a way of climbing and a season that fits with the mountain itself. Some mountains have great rock, and should be enjoyed as rock climbs. Some are better with snow, pretty much any volcano for example. And others are small round bumps with a short approach that make for a great picnic. Climb the mountain in the style that allows you to enjoy it the most. I realize this should go without saying, but the peak bagging crowd can kinda get blinders on, rushing through a list of peaks and forsaking the rest of the experience (myself included).

Mt Maclure is not just an add on. The views of the rad side of Mt Lyell are exceptional, and the rock scramble is enjoyable & easy class 3.
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6-June: Spanish Mountain

When I took the hunter’s safety course back when I was a kid, one of the lessons was about trophy hunting. Looking to tack more & bigger game to the walls of your home was described as a beginner’s philosophy to hunting. Enjoying the outdoors, the people you are with, and the process of hunting, despite the results, is ultimately what would lead to the most satisfying hunting experience.

I find myself thinking of mountain climbing in the same way, falling into the game of it: focusing on bigger & harder challenges to put more impressive feats on your list of climbing “accomplishments”. I fell into that trap again when my friend Chris proposed Spanish Mountain for a trip in early June. It did *not* scratch my conquest itch. Really, I thought it was a dumb idea for a lot of reasons.

Chris, Evan, and Mt Goddard peeking out through the clouds on the right skyline.
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Outdoors in the time of COVID19

I’ve been kinda bad about posting lately, for a variety of reasons. The main one is that I’ve been breaking the law to go outside. Often when something isn’t allowed you have two choices: complain loudly and make it less likely you’ll be able to do that thing, or silently go about your business and no one will care or notice despite its legal status. When it comes to the outdoors recently, I’ve generally chosen to do the latter. Given I live in San Mateo county, even driving 10 miles away to visit a park with good trails is technically illegal. It’s hard to reconcile how an isolated trail with little traffic 25 miles from my house is worse than a busy one within the legal range.


Berryessa Peak
My wife on top of Berryessa Peak, April 2020.

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15-Mar: Mt Olympia and “waterfalls”

I’m an avid skier, and it’s dumping snow in the Sierra right now. The Tahoe snow forecast’s headline reads “Snowpocalypse“. You’d think I’d have my skis on my car right now. But where am I? On call for work, confined to the Bay Area. However, not all is lost! In second place on my list of favorite outdoor activities is waterfall chasing, so I’m not completely out of luck.

Ha! Sam forgot to check the stream flow again!
Chris is pointing to the “waterfall” we found in Wild Oat Canyon. Compare it to this picture in the same spot. Also, all the plants you see in this photo are poison oak. Photo Credit: Olivia Allen-Price


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14-Jan-20: Garden notes

Greens are probably my favorite thing to grow in winter. Not because I like eating them, but because whenever we buy lettuce or arugula, we can never use it all. Half the bag goes bad, and it often looks wilted & sad even on the day you buy it. Greens usually yield well, there’s no pollination shenanigans to worry about. And the shelf life isn’t a concern because it’s alive on your porch. Anyways, it’s been a while since my last garden post. I gotta write all the tips down from last season so I don’t forget.

Seedlings on Nov 23rd

I planted a half a planter of seeds. Three rows on the left are mizuna, one row of swiss chard, one row of snapdragons, and the far right row is Johnny jump ups that didn’t do diddly squat. All the snapdragons germinated, but their seedlings didn’t go anywhere.

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30-Dec: Uvas Canyon Tour

Uvas Canyon is a very popular park in Santa Clara county, mainly because it requires no effort. It’s a great place to bring kids or old folks, as the best scenery only requires hiking about a mile round trip. This convenience creates crowds, and during the rainy season the park requires that you obtain a parking reservation on the weekend. And driving through Sveadal, you see a multitude of “No Parking” signs, so I wouldn’t count on going if you don’t have a reservation.

Uvas Falls
This is the quintessential scene in Uvas Park: riparian habitat and cascading water. Upper Falls on the park map.

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29-Nov: White Hill & Cascade Falls (sorta)

My November featured some pretty cool hikes: Half DomeNorth Peak, the Marin Headlands. All were great fun, but you can read about those in a million places. There’s zero surprises if you do your research well. The most interesting (to me anyways) hike I did in November was a 13 mile trail run in Marin that totally did not go as planned.

White Hill
White Hill is really more of a beige, but its grassy slopes provided nice views as we jogged along.

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