Last weekend gave the best of the West

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One of the beauties of spring in the West is the variety of things one can do in the outdoors other than such civilized activities as golf or tennis. Last weekend was just such a sampler.

On Friday three of us from the Appeal headed to Heavenly for the last weekend of snowsporting there. Only the new gondola was in operation; even the California lodge was closed. From the gondola it was a few steps to the Tamarack six-seater and from there over to the Dipper quad. And once on the hill it was one of those magnificent days when the snow is good and hard, the lines short and the sun bright.

One nice thing about spring skiing is that most who take part are of the advanced persuasion so people move. So one can thus cut loose and let the skis or boards move. So was it at Heavenly.

While it was boilerplate for the first run or so, the snow quickly softened so that carving was easy. But happily, the snow held up well into the early afternoon when it was time to quit. It was some of the best skiing of the season, leaving one to wonder why the crowds packed the slopes at the holidays.

From Tahoe we drove to the Bay area, had dinner with friends in San Rafael and the next morning drove on to Mountain View in Silicon Valley. There we met with an old newspapering friend and took off for Mt. Umunhum in Santa Clara County. An abandoned Air Force radar station looks out from the peak with antenna farms on all sides.

We started up the road and were passed by a pickup going downhill. The driver got out and called back a warning about a big mountain car that was prowling the ridge. I brandished my hiking pole and thanked him. We never saw the car. As the brush was too thick for bushwhacking, we followed the asphalt road up the mountainside. Sneakers were fine, no boots needed.

And up and up, perhaps three miles. Along the road were a couple of gated trails, mostly overgrown with brush. On one side of the trail was a steep drop off into a spectacular valley, lushly green. On the other side, a ridge ran along the road, cutting of travel on that side.

At the Barlow Road gate we stopped and checked the trail but it didn't seem to be used. So we hoofed on. At about mile one there was a sign for Stott's Road, leading apparently to a series of buildings. A wrecked mine tram guarded the entrance.

Another mile and we faced a series of signs, each more dire than the one before it. "Stop! Private property. No trespassing. Right to pass by permission only! Call (408) 377-2900 for permission."

We called using our PCS phone and were told we had the right number but that they weren't giving permission to proceed. We cautiously continued a few hundred feet and faced a sign painted across the road, white paint with red letters.

"No hikers. No bikers. No trespassing. Private. Keep out."

Somebody didn't like us.

We turned around and started back. At one of the gates we noticed that a lot of mandrone trees had been cut. We spotted a half-buried, thick wire and followed it into the trees, where it disappeared. Easiest way back to the road was over a 10-foot cliff, just a slide down.

Back at the car we discovered another trail leading off to Baldy Mountain, about a half-mile long. We took it and at the loop end sat down and had peanut-butter sandwiches laced with Tabasco. The view was splendid, looking out on the remains of the Alemeda mercury mine where we had hiked last year.

So there we had it, a fine day of skiing and a slightly frustrating day of hiking. Later we found out that the trail at the Barlow Road apparently circled back and under the radar station, but by then it was too late. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, Alpine Meadows and Squaw are still open.

Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.


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