Flight 802 Memorial Site (Bishop, CA)

I recently enjoyed a 6 day journey around the eastern Sierra, including 2 nights in the higher (cooler) elevations of Death Valley, plus a hike to a 1974 plane crash site. The hike was unexpectedly difficult, due to a navigational error, not having a 4WD, and it being 102F degrees when I got back to the car…more on that later!

The story: On March 13, 1974, on a dark moonless night, with calm and clear weather, a chartered Sierra Pacific Airlines Convair 440 took off from Bishop airport, headed back to Burbank. On board was an experienced crew of 5, plus 31 people from Wolper Productions, who were in town filming the “Primal Man” miniseries. Minutes after takeoff, with no radio calls or signs of mechanical issues, the aircraft impacted a steep mountainside. 36 people died instantly in a fireball that was seen from the town.

Full text of the crash report: http://libraryonline.erau.edu/online-full-text/ntsb/aircraft-accident-reports/AAR75-01.pdf

…and a shorter summary here: http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/PrimalMan-N4819C.htm (The actual “Primal Man” film footage was recovered from the crash site, having miraculously survived in the tail section. After some consideration of the friends and families involved, was aired on television. I could not locate the show anywhere, but USC has a collection of all Wolper Productions work, which can be viewed by appointment.)

I found out about this site many years ago, via Geocaching.com https://coord.info/GC382A and have had it on my “to do” list for awhile. I’ve also visited and blogged a few other crash sites. (F-2H Banshee above Saratoga, CA, (https://alpharoaming.com/2015/01/10/banshee/) and an F-4 on the San Mateo County coast (https://alpharoaming.com/2014/02/11/plane-crash-site/)

After reading the experience of other Geocachers, I drove my 2WD car as close as I could to the memorial summit, and just started walking, bushwhacking, scrambling, and dead reckoning…there is no defined route.


Unpaved turnoff to Redding Canyon Road

Using old USGS Topo maps, downloaded to the GaiaGPS App on my iPhone, I drove my regular 2WD car as far as I safely could. (A capable 4WD vehicle would have a been a big help, and cut at least 1/3 off my hiking time)


That’s my 2WD car!

I headed up the gravel road for awhile, then at some unknown point, I headed off cross-country to the right.


Bishop Airport

Most of the advice I read was to leave the gravel road when you’re at the same elevation as the crash site, which I did. It took me 3 hours from the car…a bit more than I expected, but I can’t give much advice on what I did right or wrong…at times it seemed I did it all wrong, but there was no obvious “better way”!


The plane crashed 180 feet below this summit. Large reflective aluminum pieces are visible as far down as my finger is pointing


Descending down to the memorial peak


A cross on the peak, made of aircraft bits

At the summit there was very little wreckage. If you read the (above linked) crash report, you’ll note that the impact point was 180 vertical feet lower. Interestingly, several pieces, including a door, went up and over the summit, according to the diagram in the report. Most pieces impacted the side of the mountain and tumbled down.


The Bishop Airport is just above the cross, on the right. About 6 miles away.


Very few pieces were at the summit. The plane crashed 180 vertical feet below the summit.

That’s it! Time to head back. I attempted a route back along the higher ridge to the north, instead of scrambling along the sides of the ridges, in an attempt to save time. It did not! It took me just as long, and at one point I had to slide down a chute of small rocks, on all fours! My Cabela’s canvas shorts suffered minor damage. My pride and navigation skills suffered more.


A lone sentinel tree I stopped at during my meandering return to the car

That’s about it! Get some good maps, lotsa water, and a 4WD if you can, and make an interesting day out of it!

At some point, I may try a more direct route from below, to the actual impact site. It “might” be easier and I’d definitely see the wreckage. There are some great photos here: https://joeidoni.smugmug.com/Aircraft-Crash-Sites/The-Bishop-Convair-340440/

Please remember, this is a tough, and potentially dangerous hike. Be respectful of the site. Don’t remove anything.

Note: If I knew an optimal route to get there, I probably wouldn’t publish it anyway! “The Code of Ethics” for Wreckchasers, and people who search out archaeological sites, is to not make it any easier to locate than it already is. The bigger the effort to research and visit a site, the more likely there won’t be any disrespectful visitors and souvenir collectors.

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Steve Jobs is somewhere at Alta Mesa Cemetery (Shirley Temple Black, David and Lucile Packard, and William Shockley)


On my local bicycle rides and hikes I usually try to see something new.  I use topo maps, Geocaching.com, others’ trip reports, and just a bit of exploring trails or roads I’ve not been on before.

I recall when Steve Jobs passed away that he was buried in Alta Mesa Cemetery. I had not heard of Alta Mesa before then, but I took a mental note of it. Some recent surfing, plus my recent “mysterious headstones” adventure and blog post, put me back on the track to look into this a bit more.

A little bit of time on Google is all it took to read that Steve is indeed there, but the location is a closely guarded secret. One Italian blogger and visitor even thought a freshly dug grave, not too far from David and Lucile Packard, must be the spot. That was later proven to be false. (How’s your Italiano? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6eEXrguymY )

Anyway…I did find that there are also other famous “residents”, including David and Lucile Salter Packard, Shirley Temple Black, and (the temperamental genius that brought the silicon to Silicon Valley) William Shockley.

It’s 72 acres, right near the corner of Arastradero and Foothill Expressway, but fairly well disguised with landscaping, except at the main entrance.

First stop was the main building, where there was a friendly receptionist on the right, and the Steve Jobs memorial book to the left.


The receptionist confirmed that Steve’s spot was confidential, but was very helpful in giving me directions to the others.

Shirley Temple Black was my first stop. (Insert obligatory “On the Good Ship Lollipop” link here 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLSqpYyPD8 ) Looking at the map below, the orange line is my route from the office (top) to the Adobe Creek Mausoleum (yellow highlighter).


Detail of the Adobe Creek Mausoleum below:


In the door:


Out the back door, into the “Redwood Grove”:


Look along the wall on your immediate right:


Shirley Temple Black was a resident of nearby Woodside and was also the Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia later in life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Temple (Why is a Seven-Up or ginger ale, with a shot of cherry syrup called a “Shirley Temple”?)

There she is!


Next stop: William Shockley. Refer to the first map (above), with the blue building. Below is the detail of that blue building. (The receptionist smartly used different colored markers for each destination!)


Zig-zag through the courtyards to Section 8, in the back-left corner.


Towards the lower-left part of that wall, where my finger is pointing..


…lies the remains of William Shockley and his wife. I looked around on Google for the meaning of “W=SHOCKLEY” and could not find it.


William Shockley was a controversial character, who made major breakthroughs in transistor technology at Bell Labs, on the east coast, then later at his own company in Palo Alto.

Hewlett and Packard may have helped spawn “Silicon Valley” a decade or two earlier, but they built instruments, not silicon! William Shockley brought the silicon to Silicon Valley and his company spawned many other young companies and pioneers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley

Speaking of Hewlett and Packard, David and Lucile Salter Packard are buried near the main office. In the image below: there are 2 redwood trees at the center and at the left side of this photo. Between the trees is the Alta Mesa office, and at my feet are “David and Lucile”!


Lucile Salter Packard was known for her philanthropy, including the “Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital” at Stanford. http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/

And below is a touching sculpture in a section which I believe is for children.


That’s it! Come have a look around, if you want. 72 acres, non-denominational, founded in 1904. http://www.altamesacemetery.com/


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Return of the Mysterious Headstones!


The Local “San Jose Mercury News” ran an article today with the happy ending of my “Mysterious Headstones” discovery of 2013.


The original blog post: https://alpharoaming.com/2014/09/29/headstones/

Even in busy Silicon Valley, you never know what you might find if you venture on the road less traveled!






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Berry Creek Falls Roaring in the Rain (Big Basin State Park)

Last week, on Martin Luther King Day, I met a friend at Big Basin State Park for a hike to Berry Creek Falls. We’d both been there several times, but never when the ground was soaked and about 2 inches of rain had fallen recently. We expected quite a bit more than the usual trickle and we got it!

It’s about an hour from most places in Silicon Valley, including the last few miles of twisty winding road down through the redwoods.


Roadside sign, coming from the upper entrance


Park HQ, with the big log slice on the right. (Notice the pay phones! No AT&T signal here)


Yes, this bridge near HQ, really was as wavy as it looks. Note muddy water underneath. It was muddy and high throughout the park. The aeration of the falls masked most of the brown color.


Headed to the falls, passing by a fallen giant (or a fallen “medium size”)


Ducking under. I suspect this tree has been here 100 years and will be here for many more


Lotsa sporadic “rivulets” coming off the hillsides


First sight, zoomed-in, of the falls as we head upstream


Silhouettes on the observation deck, as we head up


The main fall, from the observation deck.


Looking from the top of the main falls. Notice the red jacket at right, on the observation deck


The “famous” cable steps at the second fall, as we head upstream


Close-up of water tumbling on the edge of the steps


Sometimes the trees provide a size reference, and sometimes the trees are huge too!


The third fall, as we head from bottom-to-top


The uppermost fall, I think…


Not to far for a day trip from major cities. Though the last few miles are SLOW!

Details: As you can see in the last picture, it’s not a bad day trip for most Bay Area folks. It is a VERY popular park, however, in summer tourist season. It gets busy and the campgrounds book well in advance. The park’s site is here: Big Basin State Park and our GPS track is here:

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Kickham Ranch (Henry Coe / Hunting Hollow)


My car on Jamieson Road. Kickham Ranch is in the distance.

The Kickham Ranch office at Henry Coe State Park, a few miles SE of Hunting Hollow, gets very few visitors. I was there twice before, without really knowing if I was supposed to be there or not. I decided to visit again on a muddy and short bicycle loop into the park.

The signs have changed a bit, but it appears to be OK to use, though not officially publicized or encouraged as an entrance. http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/planning-your-visit/visitor-centers-and-park-entrances  There are no discouraging signs, but there is one gate to hop over if you want to connect to the Hunting Hollow Trail.

I parked my car on Jamieson Road, a bit before Kickham Ranch, and unloaded the mountain bike. A State Park truck passed me and waved before I headed out. Kickham Ranch is actively used by park staff, and I think I’ve heard that one Ranger may live there.


Room for several cars, outside the white lines!

I stopped in to say hello to the bear, and headed back out.


Kickham Ranch. “Do not feed the bears!”


Sign board at Kickham Ranch

Shortly after passing the Canada de Los Osos pond, the road got a bit steeper and I encountered some VERY sticky mud. I was later told it had been recently graded, which ruined the normal hard pack surface.


Low water level. Active with water birds, including a white egret.


The wheels and derailleur totally locked-up with over 20 pounds of mud and grass

I struggled to push or carry the bike uphill for a few hundred feet, while my feet slid in the opposite direction. Finally I got to the top of the hill and everything got better…slowly…as I poked at the mud with a stick and used some water from the closest trough.


Peaceful trail just before the Hunting Hollow intersection

This is a standard ranch gate, without any way around it. You, and your bicycle, must go up and over the 5 foot height.


The gate just before the Hunting Hollow trail.

No more sticky mud was encountered. The creek crossings had a few stagnant puddles, but no flowing water. I did get splashed and muddy, however (in a fun way, knowing I had clean clothes in the car!)


Hunting Hollow Trail


The famous windmill, which is kept operational by park volunteers. (“Thank you” Paul L.)

Hunting Hollow was quiet. This car had been there for awhile, but not overnight, judging by the small amount of warmth coming from the engine. I did not see anybody in the park, and only two vehicles on Canada and Jamieson Roads.


One car mid-day on a wet weekday. (Hunting Hollow parking)


An unpopular sign!

Head down Gilroy Hot Springs Road, and turn left at the Fire Station.


The Fire Station where Canada Road starts


Canada Road, heading back to Kickham Ranch


Filet Mignon along Canada Road


Canada Road turns right and Jamieson Road to the left (towards Kickham Ranch)

That’s it! It was about 11 miles and ~600 vertical feet. An interesting outing, but also a good reminder as to why the single track trails are closed to bicycles after a rainfall. Yuck! (Map & GPS track on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/448395470 )

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Rancho Corral de Tierra (Half Moon Bay)

A quick blog post, with some photos, to call out attention to a place I knew little about until past week. “Rancho Corral de Tierra” is a part of the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) near Half Moon Bay. We were quite shocked at how steep it was at the higher elevations, including many “ups and downs” that we didn’t plan on.

It’s just south of Montara Mountain, but there’s no marked trail connection around the tightly protected San Francisco Water Company land in between. (See comment below from KenZ on a route for an “obscure” connection)

We did a big CCW loop that isn’t even shown on the official map http://www.nps.gov/goga/upload/map-rcdt-4color-2013-0703.pdf but is visible on Open Street Maps.  If you’re a Geocacher, there are also”navigation beacons”!

We parked at the end of “Coral Reef Avenue” and commenced our climb. The views rapidly got better as we saw some unfamiliar patches of (what I think is) Pampas Grass.


Up we go through the Pampas Grass (or something like that!)


Nice view of the radar dome and the HMB airport as we ascend

Eventually we got up to a trail junction and spotted the low green building off to the right. I believe this is the recently closed “Half Moon Bay Gun Club”, according to a geocaching acquaintance. It wasn’t totally vandalized inside yet, with cookware and some recently expired canned food inside.


Small detour to the (recently closed) HMB gun range


“Wrong place, wrong time” at the gun range

We passed the gun club, circled left, and summitted at the communications tower.


The summit!

After poking around and looking east to the SF Bay, we backtracked all the way back to the Gun Club.


Approximate halfway point. We’ll return on the ridge to the right of that “lake”, which is actually a vegetable field!


Yup, there is no easy & legal way to connect to Montara Mountain from up here. (See comment from KenZ below, however…)


Looking at the waves breaking down the coastline

From there we continued our CCW loop. This is where the unexpected terrain started. Up and down, up and down…


The tip of the pen shows the steepness from where we came


Nasty steep, right foot first!


The sun is getting lower and reflecting off the ocean.


Nicely composed photo of the radar dome and airport to the right.

Down, down, down, we went into the sunset. What we thought would be a quick shot straight to Highway 1 as we descended was not. It was “Posted” and we had to detour a few extra miles to get back to highway 1. We then walked on the shoulder of the highway for about 2 miles and back to the car! Study the route on the Strava link and allow plenty of time and water!

Strava link. 14 miles and 2600 feet, but it seemed much more! https://www.strava.com/activities/437703884

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Schulties Road and the Laurel Train Tunnel (Los Gatos Mountains)

A quick blog post to document for myself, and maybe others, a nice little route (bicycle ride) in Los Gatos, near Summit Road.

I parked my car between Highway 17 and the Lexington reservoir. It’s a bit to the SW after you exit Bear Creek Road

My starting point and parking spot next to Highway 17, near Bear Creek Road

Head uphill, past the Lexington Elementary School, until you get to the Aldercroft Heights turnoff.


Bear right and stay on Old Santa Cruz Highway and you’ll eventually see this odd building.

The main building in Holy City

The main building in Holy City

“Holy City” was a settlement founded by a guy who was (you guessed it!) “holy”! Founded in 1919 and formally disbanded in 1959. I often stop and rest in the shade of this large building. A few years back it had a glass blowing shop that tried to pull in tourists from Highway 17, but seems to have failed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_City,_California

If you bear right onto Holy City Road for a few hundred feet, and look to your right, you’ll see an interesting old garage from the original settlement.

Go a about 100 feet up Holy City Road and look right

Go a about 100 feet up Holy City Road and look right

Notice the roof eaves and other architectural details. (It’s on private property, but you can get a good view from the public roadway.)

An early 19th century garage from the original Holy City days

An early 19th century garage from the original Holy City days

Continue up Old Santa Cruz Highway and the next point of interest will be the old crossroads of “Patchen”.

Mountain Charlie Road begins across the street from his cabin! (Not likely a coincidence!)

Mountain Charlie Road begins across the street from his cabin! (Not likely a coincidence!)

This now consists of a Christmas Tree farm and the old cabin of Mountain Charlie. (Here are highlights of historical locations as an early settler in these mountains http://www.mountaincharlie1850.org/historytour.html )

Mountain Charlie's cabin in the background.

Mountain Charlie’s cabin in the background.

Continue uphill to the intersection of Summit Road.

Summit Road!

Summit Road!

Cross Summit Road, staying on Old Santa Cruz Highway.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy crosses Summit Road

Old Santa Cruz Hwy crosses Summit Road

After a short distance you’ll see a left onto Schulties Road. It’s bumpy for awhile, then the pavement actually ends. It’s slow going at times, but my skinny tire road bike had no problems.

Schulties Road goes from rough pavement to smooth pavement to no pavement!

Schulties Road goes from rough pavement to smooth pavement to no pavement!

At the bottom of Schulties Road you’ll enter the crossroads of “Laurel”.



The highlight of Laurel, sometimes overlooked among the handful of homes, is the old train tunnel.

The Laurel Train tunnel

The Laurel Train tunnel

The Laurel intersection. Train tunnel way back on the right

The Laurel intersection. Train tunnel way back on the right

There used to be a series of 4 tunnels on the old train route from San Jose to Santa Cruz. All 8 portals still exist, though most are either on private property or are hard to find. They were blown-up internally in 1940 after being unused for awhile. This one can be seen without leaving your car, as can one at the end of “Wright’s Station Road” (http://www.santacruztrains.com/2012/03/wrights-station-summit-tunnel-north.html). I’ve been to all 8 portals, after doing some detailed research on USGS Topo maps, as well as carefully planning my route to avoid trespassing. This is the best summary of the 8 tunnels and a start for my research http://coursetrained.blogspot.com/2008/08/lost-tunnels-los-gatos-to-santa-cruz.html

After gawking at the tunnel from a distance, turn left onto Redwood Lodge Road to start enjoying your climb back up towards Soquel San Jose Road.

Redwood Lodge Road meets Soquel San Jose Road

Redwood Lodge Road meets Soquel San Jose Road

Left on Soquel San Jose Road (a bit busy!) and a left on Summit Road. Stop for a snack st the Summit Store. http://www.summitgrocerystore.com/

A few miles further down Summit Road will take you to the high point of the Old Santa Cruz Highway, where I initially crossed Summit Road. Turn right and descend back to the reservoir!

Upper Lexington Reservoir

Upper Lexington Reservoir

That’s it! 22 miles and 2700 vertical feet. Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/431607493

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