It took me a full two days to get one good hike in at Uvas Canyon County Park, which is odd considering the park has only seven miles of trails to begin with.
It might’ve gone smoother if it hadn’t been for the allegations of fighting pitbulls running loose. Here’s what happened:
On Sunday I decided it’d be cool to check out a little-used Uvas trail head on Summit Road, a raggedy, rutted excuse for a dirt road that no self-respecting chicken would ever cross (and besides, the pitbulls eat the chickens). This trail head is 16 miles from Highway 17, getting steadily more like one of those Colombian roads from “Romancing the Stone,” minus Kathleen Turner in her glory days, as the miles twist along. On sunny days like yesterday you can see miles out into the Pacific … breathtaking to those unaccustomed to such splendor. Another day in the country for the rest of us.
I know I must be getting close when I pass an old motorhome that’s been shredded, spray-painted and otherwise deconstructed by enterprising delinquents. Honking the horn would make it all collapse into a pile of rubble, I suspect. Another half-mile and I’m at the trail head, so I park the car, pull out my pack and poles, and get ready to rumble.
Meanwhile a guy in an old Army overcoat wanders down to his gate from his house up in the woods. Doesn’t say anything, but he seems to be there on my behalf so I holler over to him, “is it OK to park here?”
“I wouldn’t leave it there too long if I were you.”
“You saw the motorhome, right?”
“Well, some Unwanted Elements down the road there…” He points toward his next-door neighbor’s gravel driveaway, which disappears downhill to what I presume is a well-appointed shack where the third cousins of the cast of “Deliverance” winter in California. They come for the wine, you see.
Apparently, whoever these Unwanted Elements are, they can’t be trusted not to trash unattended automobiles.
“So, would it be OK for a couple hours?”
“Oh, by the way, the Unwanted Elements breed fighting pitbulls and let them run loose.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah. Enjoy your hike.”
At that point I tossed all my junk back in the Hiker Hauler and headed back down the hill. This morning I remembered the universal hand signal (bending down to pick up a rock) that allegedly sends all dogs fleeing, the world over, but at the time I wasn’t keen on the idea of fighting off members of a species known to loosen their grip only after decapitation. (In other dog-fighting news: Michael Vick got 23 months).
Took a couple wrong turns in south San Jose trying to find the right road over to Uvas and finally got to the park by half past noon, by which point I wasn’t in the mood for hiking anymore so I wandered around the waterfall loop for an hour or so, took a few out-of-focus pictures and headed home in a foul temper.
A good night’s sleep took the edge off my disgust, so I headed back first thing Monday (got only a little bit lost). Had the park to myself on a perfect day for being in the woods all alone.
The one part of the park I knew I’d never seen before was a couple miles up the Knibbs Knob Trail, which isn’t quite straight up but is steep enough to engender comparisons to lesser Henry Coe horrors. If you follow the trail all the way to the end it comes out at, you guessed it, Summit Road, home of the marauding fighting pitbulls. Fortunately, there’s a right turn that goes to the top of the Knob about four-tenths of a mile before the end of the trail.
I headed up that way. Did I mention it was a beautiful day? Didn’t see any dogs, either.
So I headed on back down the trail, got to the campground, crossed an old bridge and went down some steps to take pictures of the creek. I noticed a trail I hadn’t noticed before and decided to explore. The trail follows the creek downhill for about a quarter mile until the creek intersects with the Uvas Creek. I get there and notice a previously undiscovered waterfall.
It’s quite a pretty fall, coming down at least 30 feet or so. I scanned page after page of Uvas Canyon pictures at flickr.com and never found another picture of this one. Sounds like hardly anybody else knows about it, either.
It didn’t seem possible for Uvas to have any cool surprises like this one. Finding the fall made my whole day.
For future reference: to find this waterfall, take the Swanson Creek Trail west for a quarter-mile from the bridge heading over to the campgrounds. Main caveat: if it’s been raining lately and the creek is up, you might not be able to get over to it.
Since the water was low, I was able to make my way over to the Uvas Creek Trail and wander back up to the campground, and head over toward the Waterfall Loop.
This is Granuja Falls, which is more impressive when there’s more water in the creek.
At this point I figured I’d better not press my luck — I’d gone several hours without being run off by rumors of rampant killer dogs, that was enough for one weekend.
Addendum: Uvas Falls is the name of the previously undiscovered waterfall.
I would have left too after hearing about pit bulls..I’m scared of them. Glad you got some good pics at Uvas. I’m surprised there’s that much water!
Actually there’s not all that much flow, it just happens that it’s pouring over a particularly steep cliff at that new waterfall I found.
The water roars in the spring after two or three days of rain; it’s not all that loud right now.
That’s a good reason to use hiking poles. At least you have a little protection vs the doggies and bigger cats.
You ever been up to Mt Umanmum? I think there is a road up there that is kinda closed. I’d like to see that place … the giant concrete block that used to hold the Pacific Watch antenna is HUGE. When it was active and rotating, homes near it would hear a WWWONK on their electronic gear as it pulsed. Lemme know if you want to try it.
I have little experience with this park. Oddly, one spot I do recall is the area you describe on Summit Road at the top of the Knibbs Knob trail. It does have a “Deliverance” sort of feeling – a bit spooky.
I came in from the main park however – rather than starting at the top, I began down in the picnic area and hiked up the (impressively steep) trail to the top. It was a fine trail and I had it pretty much entirely to myself. I say pretty much because I did see relatively recent mountain lion prints on the ground at one point…
Nice write-up, Tom. Did you make it all the way to the top of Knibbs Knob? That’s a trail I’ve been saving for the likes of you and me sometime. Let’s do it for the wine!
Russ: I did make it to the top of the Knob. It’s a pretty good slog…
You sure you’d want to descend that trail under the influence of the vino?
Hiilarious – good write up!
I would be careful in that part of the SC Mtns. There are quite a few pockets of people who do not want you around — remember the couple last year that strung a cable across the road and took out a motorcyclist?
Mount Umunhum Road is a bit scary too, although it has been improving as MROSD buys more land to add to Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. I never liked parking at the gate on Umunhum Road — so glad there’s a lower trailhead now at the junction with Hicks Road.
I’ve been up to the top of Umunhum and it is incredible. It’s very similar to parts of Diablo, with lots of pines and gorgeous views. Can’t wait until it is open to the public, but it may be a while. There’s one particular land owner who won’t sell his land to allow through access to the top. The old “sugar cube” building at the summit is massive up close.
As one who grew up along Zayante Road out of Felton I can attest to the nervous feel of parts of these mountains. Used to be the mushroom farmers who were adamant about keeping the riff raff out, now who knows what motivates them?
But you did give me an excellent idea for trying my chair out when it gets back in a couple weeks from the manufacturer. Maybe I can wear some cast – iron leggings for an early April Fool’s joke on the renegade pit bulls. Your photos, as usual, are gorgeous.
There are plenty of people you should always watch out for in these mountains. I grew up on Twin Falls Creek Rd. (offshoots from Casa Loma) and I remember a whole lot of people being literally chased out just for trying to go for a hike. Don’t get me wrong, not all of us mountain folk are completely nuts.
I have to say even with the nuts about, I’m a little burned out on people calling those of us who choose to live in the mountains hillbillys and meth heads. I know they are out there, but there are good people here as well.