Mission Peak

It's Wednesday afternoon, July four, ninety seventy-nine. It's a very reasonable sixty four degrees with plenty of sunshine. You're making the five point six mile hike up one of The Bay Area's highest peaks. You're carrying your steel, Official Trail Canteen in its green canvas sling, playing the hell out of Super Tramp's Breakfast In America on your Walkman, fresh from its packaging. You and three of your closest friends have a large horse blanket and a cooler full of Rainier and Lucky Lager. It's the fourth of July and what better place to celebrate the birth of America.

Suddenly, one of your friends pushes you off the trail as an orange T1 Volkswagen Splittie flies by. Your headphones fall from your ears and Rick Davies gives way to flying gravel and a revved boxer engine quickly disappearing over crest. The driver is eighty eight year old Margaret Moore McClure. She's headed home. Home to what is now the oldest, free-standing, wooden structure in The Bay Area and it's nestled into the the foot hills of Mission Peak, Fremont, California.


In the last forty years, Mission Peak has been a destination for hikers and tourists from all over. If you live here, you had to have summited the two thousand, five hundred thirty five foot peak before garnering any type of local outdoor cred. Now, tens of thousands of ambitious hikers attack its ascent every year. I pride myself in finding odd spots around the bay, so this hardly qualifies, but what does qualify is the history and the odd stories that surround the peak like afternoon fog.

Margaret Moore McClure was born in Oakland, California on October twenty four, eighteen ninety-one. She and her family owned Mission Peak until it was sold to the East Bay Regional Park District in nineteen seventy-eight, but Margaret was permitted to maintain residence until her death in nineteen eighty-two.

And so I stood there, with my camera in the foot fills of this glorious, local wonder. Smelling the smells, listening to the sounds, taking in the history (and another breath). Every time I had been to the top of Mission Peak, it had been sunny with plenty of visibility. I didn't want that. I wanted drama. I wanted darkness. I wanted clouds. Looking ahead, I could see them forming. As the moisture formed, so did my excitement.

As I drew closer to the summit, that's exactly what I got. I couldn't help but think of the falls of Scotland as the wind pushed the fog rapidly past my face. It really was incredible. Everyone knows about the fog on the peninsula and it's documented often, but being at the top of this yellow grass monument contrasted by decreasing visibility brought forth a whole new appreciation for atmospheric pressure systems. I was in another world. A world of wonder I needed to explore further.

In a perfect balance of sunset and fog, I captured this stranger posing atop the monument for her cellphone, fixed to a portable tripod. What she doesn't know, is this monument used to be just a bit higher... and a little brighter. According to a park ranger named Marie I met along the way, the monument once stood eighteen feet taller and had a flashing light attached prior to WWII. The light was taken town as fears grew that the beacon would draw attention from Japanese bombing runs, devastating the surrounding area. The pole this self-photographer has attached herself to was actually erected much later, in nineteen ninety by sculptor and park ranger, Leonard Page as a way to promote environmental awareness. At six feet high, the "Summit Pole" has molded within, cylinders pointing to different parts of the area kind of like lensless spyglasses. There is however, as in many cases, more than meets the eye.

Sealed inside the Summit Pole, is a traditional crystal, Ohlone charm stone, a bottle of 1990 zinfandel, and five time capsules with articles, photographs, and images of Bart Simpson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Far Side cartoons. There's a lot of culture buried inside something people from all over the world stand on for selfies. It's supposed to be opened in the year two thousand-ninety.

Climbing down from this monument in the afternoon also provides for some of the most beautiful sunsets. Many like the ocean sunset, but I prefer the more tectonic landscape. I feel blessed to have access to such beautiful scenery. In the distances above, you can see the skyline of Oakland where I work. This place is quite the departure from the people and the traffic and the hurry. Some local organizations have talked about removing it to dissuade sightseers. Many are upset by the mass of visitors and the parking issues this creates. As a local who grew up here, without offering too much opinion in an editorial piece, I hope it remains up and accessible. It's much needed peace in the heart of Silicon Valley. It's a way to break free from stress and commune with the world as the world was intended. But that's just one person's perspective.