By next spring, construction is scheduled to begin on a trail up El Toro, Morgan Hill's iconic west side mountain.
El Toro and Morgan Hill are inextricably linked. How many times have we South County residents had to explain to folks from San Jose that Morgan Hill is not the name of that mountain? But it is an easy mistake. El Toro stands so solitary and distinct, certainly that must be where the town got its name.
After all, even the city's logo is a stylized image of the mountain.
It is a lovely sight, but for many of us, admiring El Toro from beneath is not enough. When we look up, the prospect of an exhilarating climb and the far-reaching view initiates a spasm of twitches and bodily ticks until we head up or look the other way.
Up to now, climbing El Toro has been problematic for two reasons: Each path to the top trespasses on private property, and the two “trails” up the hill are so steep that detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention camp prefer waterboarding to climbing those inhumane paths.
Now, the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority and the City of Morgan Hill have joined forces to get us to the top of El Toro legally and comfortably.
In 2010, the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority purchased 33 acres on the south side of El Toro that connects the city-owned portion of the mountain with the land above West Hills Community Church. Land on the upper portion of El Toro is still privately owned and the SCCOSA is working with the property owners to hopefully acquire either title or access rights.
Recently, I met with Karl Bjarke, Morgan Hill's City Engineer and Associate Engineer, David Gittleson, who showed me plans for the trail. Next spring, construction should begin on a trail that will climb half way up El Toro where it will connect with a SCCOSA trail and traverse the slope south to West Hills Community Church – a two-mile walk in all. The current plan is for hikers to park at the Morgan Hill Library then walk a short distance up Via Grande Street to the trailhead. When land at the top of the mountain is acquired, the trial will then be extended to the top.
The current paths up the mountain will be planted with native vegetation, removing the scars that mar the face of the mountain. The new trail's gentle grade will invite casual walkers who long to see the summit view but do not want to tackle the current silly-steep paths that almost assure a butt-cheek raspberry on the slippery descent.
Soon, thanks to the City of Morgan Hill and SCCOSA, if you can make it from the sofa to the refrigerator, you will be fit enough to enjoy amazing views on the edge of Morgan Hill.
Bjarke hopes that once the trail is completed, a group of local citizens will adopt it and watch over it. Perhaps a Boy Scout troop or a group of local walkers will volunteer to patrol the trail for trash, downed trail obstructions, and the like. If you are interested, contact Bjarke at either firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 778-6480.
People are surprised when I tell them that after a winter storm, from the top of El Toro I can clearly see the San Francisco skyline, the Bay Bridge and Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County. El Toro is a landmark that beckons. And from the top, the view is breathtaking. The day is coming when it will be available to all.