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Mt. Umunhum Umpdate

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

There is a post today at Two-Heel Drive about the possibility of cleaning up the summit of Santa Clara Valley’s (or Santa Cruz County’s, if you live on the other side of the hill) Mt. Umunhum so that the stunning views from this ridgetop location can become available to hikers and others. (And, no, Tom, I’ve never heard anyone call this place “Mt. Um.”)

When I was a kid growing up in Santa Clara Valley, Mt. Umunhum housed a military base of some sort – we all understood it to be some sort of radar station guarding the west coast. On “Armed Forces Day” the base opened to the public, and on at least one occasion my father took me and one or more of my siblings up there for the open house. I recall going inside the concrete block building on the summit and watching – with the awe that children can have about such things – the technicians sitting in front of screens watching radar. I also remember being very impressed by a low-level fly-over by some military jets as part of the festivities.

I did get back up there once some years later. For a few years early in college I played in a band – who didn’t right? – and we were once hired to play in some sort of club on the base. As a result we were authorized to drive up there, play for the very small number of folks looking for something to do on the base on a weekend night, and then drive down after dark.

There are other stories about that area. Apparently the road to the top of the peak was not actually owned by the military. If I understand correctly, they got an easement of some sort from a landowner up there who supposedly owned a very large tract. After the base closed, there were many who felt that the road should be public – quite a few of them treated it that way, especially certain bicyclists. Some of them told stories of being met by this landowner and/or his hired hands with guns and being arrested for trespassing.

In more recent years areas around the peak became accessible. You can now drive the road to a very high point though not all the way to the summit, and there are trails in the area. Finally opening the whole ridge and peak for public use would be a wonderful thing, and the sort of development that future residents of the valley will regard as evidence that we made at least a few good decisions “back in the day.”


March 29, 2009 Posted by | Commentary, Places | 1 Comment


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