Hello Almaden Valley:

The hills are greening up, buds are bursting out on trees overnight, it feels like Spring is almost here!

As I walk and drive around Almaden Valley with friends, colleagues and customers, I still frequently get the question, ‘What is that tower-shaped building or device on top of the mountain to the southwest of Almaden?’

First, for non-Almaden residents, that mountain is the 3,500 ft high Mt. Umunhum (Mt Um as often referred to by Almaden locals), one of the highest summits of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range, which stretches as far as Half Moon Bay to the North and Salinas at the Southern end.

So, for those who may not know the answer to that question, it is an old Air Force radar look out post that was built in the 1950s and closed down in 1980.  As you can imagine, modern satellites made this site obsolete. The military perimeter around the tower used to be known as the Almaden Air Force Station (AFS).

The question that inevitably follows is: ‘Where did this mountain get that name?’

In a nutshell, Umunhum is derived from the Ohlone Indian language which means ‘nesting place of the Hummingbird’.  For the record, the Hummingbird spirit (along with the Coyote and the Eagle spirits) were central figures in Ohlone folklore and legends. And guess what? All 3 spirits often competed with each other in Ohlone folk tales.  However, according to A. L Kroeber, an archaeologist from the University of California: ‘The Coyote thought he knew more than anyone. But the Hummingbird knew more.’

So even though the mechanical hummingbirds sing no more in Almaden Valley, echoes of the original Hummingbird Spirit chased forever by the Coyote may still be heard by those who listen carefully…

@Almaden_Valley (on Twitter)

2 Responses to The Story of Mt Umunhum in Almaden Valley

  1. Gloria says:

    This is cool!

  2. Almaden AFS says:

    Come learn about the history of Almaden Air Force Station and see many fascinating photos at the historic photo slide show on June 3rd at History San Jose.

    For more info:


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