Mt. Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the San Francisco Bay Area, at almost 3,486'. The summit affords 360º views, including the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, spanning more than 2,000 miles. Part of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, its once off-limits summit was recently opened to the public after decades of planning, fund-raising and toxic cleanup at the former Almaden Air Force Station. On Monday D. and I took the long drive up to the top to check it out. Here are some of the pics I took.
The 8-story concrete tower (also known locally as the Cube) was once a base holding a large radar dish operated by the US Air Force between 1957 and 1980, protecting the West Coast from any possible threat of Soviet planes. Satellite technology has made such radar bases obsolete. (People who lived in the area at the time said they could always tell when the radar was in operation because it caused interference in their television reception.)
Views from the deck of the summit shelter.
A view of the radar tower from the observation deck.
This view to the south shows a flank of the mountain which hosts a weather station, including a Doppler radar dome.
The Cube has long been a South Bay landmark, due to its sheer size, prominent placement and unmistakable shape.
Looking toward downtown San José, with hazy Mt. Diablo on the horizon to the left.
Looking toward the southeast.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail passes through here.
View of The Cube from the East Summit. In spite of the summit being off-limits to the public for decades it still managed to acquire a lot of graffiti, all of which has been removed. It is now covered in a graffiti-resistant coating.
The high elevation and exposure of the mountain top means it can get baking hot or bitterly cold. Winds can reach 100 miles per hour, and it's not unusual to see snow in the winter, or for up to 10" of rain to fall in a single day. In spite of such conditions, the mountain top is surprisingly rich with plant and animal life. While barren and rocky now, the summit habitat is in the process of being restored.
The first people to visit Mt. Umunhum thousands of years ago were the native people of California for whom this mountain was sacred. Their descendants requested a place where they could return to Mt. Um for the first time in nearly 200 years to pray and dance where they feel closer to their creator, just as their ancestors did. Here is a ceremonial circle, in which someone has drawn a large peace symbol in the dirt.
Stairs on the Mt. Umunhum Trail below the East Summit (too steep for me).