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This shuttle hike across the length of the Sierra Azul mountain range south of San Jose would be unremarkable if it wasn't such a good workout. The Sierra Azul are covered in primarily dense chaparral, but there are a few pockets of bay laurel, Douglas fir, and birch in drainages. There is also a giant white box on top of Mount Umunhum that looms over the eastern half of this hike. This Cold War relic cannot be visited because the summit is off-limits due to contamination by asbestos and other nasty stuff. Some people do want to visit the summit, and have gone to great lengths to chronicle their criminal behavior on the internet.
This shuttle hike starts out at the trailhead off of Hicks Road in Almaden Quicksilver County Park and goes to the east side of Lexington Reservoir, and it is pleasant enough for the first mile. The Woods Trail travels high above Guadalupe Creek before crossing it 1.5 miles in. A mellow mile-long climb is followed by 1,200' over 3 miles. It isn't bad, but it is unrelenting. The views open up here, and Mount Umunhum is prominent to your left.
You reach the high point of the hike a shade under 6 miles from Hicks Road via a short, primitive service road under the power lines to the right. There is no real summit and only more views of Umunhum, but there are a few nice spots for a break.
The high point of this hike is conveniently at the halfway point, but the way down is no picnic. You don't lose much elevation over the next 2 miles, but you do go up and down quite a bit. The Woods Trail ends at the eastern ends of the Kennedy and Limekiln trails. Go right onto the Kennedy Trail then left on the Priest Rock Trail 1.5 miles later as the rest of the hike loses 2,000' by going down steep inclines with a bunch of small uphills before ending up at Alma Bridge Road.
The fact that this hike has over 2,500' AEG may be surprising, but the numerous small uphills, most of which are about 50', make this a good challenge. Walking down the steep, ramp-like Priest Rock Trail has to be better than walking up it. In fact, reversing this hike by going from Lexington Reservoir to Hicks Road adds 730' of AEG for a grand total of over 3,200'.
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