Published Cycle California, October 2018, vol. 24, #10
Rancho Cañada del Oro
Well off the beaten path is Rancho Cañada del Oro, or the Valley of Gold Ranch, another open space preserve. It’s a very romantic name but a recent one, not that of the original Mexican land grant. The cañada is tucked away in Morgan Hill and drained by Llagas Creek. Llagas is Spanish for “sores” and is this case refers to “wounds,” specifically the crucifixion wounds of Jesus that were received by St. Francis for the last two years of his life. The arroyo, or creek, was named by a Franciscan priest from the order that founded the California missions.
Clockwise from the parking lot to the south, Cañada del Oro offers several routes, including two that are mile-and-a-half 8 % climbs over a combination of three trails, with Catamount Trail at the top. A catamount is short for “cat o’ the mountains” and could refer to a mountain lion down to a bobcat. The only catamount I spotted was Culcasi, who descended like a catamount on our steep drops while I held a death-grip on my brakes. Biking just under eight miles, we explored only a portion of the park on a spring day of golden sunshine.
Visible to the southern Bay Area is Mission Peak, located on the eastern border of the City of Fremont. The mission was founded by Padre Fermin, another Franciscan priest, in honor of St. Joseph, or San José, which is a little confusing as Mission Santa Clara served the pueblo of San José, founded in 1777. The East Bay mission was established 20 yeas later.
Mission Peak looms about the town of Fremont as a perfect pyramid but from across the bay, it appears as an elongated bump with an eroded west face.
Seven of us set out to hike he green-sloped regional park surrounding the peak. Rather than tackle the excruciatingly steep access road going immediately up, we parked near Ohlone College and biked Mission Blvd. to Mill Creek Rd., just past the old mission. The paved road climbs and winds about four miles before joining he park’s path system on the other side of the fence.
Slowly ascending, soon we reached a pass where we intersected walkers 2,000 feet above the trailhead at the limited Stanford Ave. parking lot, The peak’s summit was nearby but biking to the top is now allowed—the slanted eroded singletracks would not allow it anyway. We left the crowds behind by biking the ranch road southward past open fields and beyond Mt. Allison, with off-limit buildings and antennae, to Monument Peak, also with structures fenced off. The road then appeared to drop steeply down, actually to Ed R. Levin County Park. We admired the view from our roadway crest and turned around.
Monument Peak is so named as it establishes the county line between Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, a line that continues due eastward to San Joaquin County. Mission Peak is of coursed named for the now rebuilt mission that originated over 200 yeas ago.
But what about Mt. Allison? A map of indigenous Ohlone shows the Alson in the area. However, a local historian informed me that particular tribal group stayed around Milpitas. But then, why isn’t it “Allison Peak” to match adjoining Mission Peak and Monument Peak? “Mt. Allison” couldn’t have been named before these two, could it? Sure enough, the peak doesn’t appear on a 1962 USGS map but does on a 1966 map—so my search had to be in the 1960s.
Ned Allison got his PhD. in paleontology from nearby Berkeley in 1960 and was said to love exploring hills, but he became a professor at San Diego State and his explorations were mostly in Baja.
Then I happened upon the Allison Development Company. The company was formed in 1961 to lease a site on the ridge and manage a communications facility, which is still thee under a different company name. Who was the Allison of ADC? That I have yet to discover.
The other remaining mystery is the long rows of fallow, stacked rock walls that stretch across the Mission Peak hillsides. The Ohlone are not known to have built permanent structures nor were they herders. Were the walls made by Bering Strait peoples en route to Mexico, by pre-Columbian Chinese explorers, or by American settlers seizing parcels during the Mexican War period and subsequent land grant confirmations? Those who made them are long gone.
Mt. Allison, by the way, is slightly higher than either Monument or Mission Peak, and you can’t bike to the top of any one of these three. That’s disappointing, yes, but once you’re past the throng of hikers, there’s just the open rolling plain with hills that stretch to the desolate horizon. We didn’t want to turn around. When you bicycle into Old California, you don’t want to let it go.