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Mount St. Helena, California, USA


(c) 2005 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)

Mount St. Helena is the noblest mountain in the San Francisco Bay area, a double-peaked rise with trees most of the way up its flanks. It overlooks the whole Napa Valley and is preserved within the bounds of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Mount St. Helena is a volcanic structure, but any resemblance to an actual volcano is a coincidence, as eruptions here ended about 3 million years ago. (The Sonoma Petrified Forest dates from the same episode.) Today the eruptive center is farther north, around Clear Lake.

Mount St. Helena was first climbed by the Russian traders who settled the west coast from Alaska as far south as Fort Ross, a short distance north of San Francisco. They left a brass plate on the mountaintop, and a replica sits there today.

When my wife and I climbed this peak in 1981, we were saluted by a passing sailplane just a few tens of meters away, silent except for the whistling of air past its wings.

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