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|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Low Tide Beach Walk, December 20, 2014 - The weather had been wet the prior week, and while the skies were expected to slowly clear over the weekend, showers were expected in the Santa Cruz area the day of our low tide walk. We got sprinkled upon in the first fifteen minutes, but then we had no further precipitation for the rest of the afternoon.
Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher organize this annual low-tide beach walk with friends around the new year. We met as usual at the Rio del Mar Beach. Parking was easy to find in the lot before the beach, unlike most years, probably due to the gloomy weather. Most years we brave cold temperatures on this hike, but this year the air was balmy.
We walked north along Seacliff and New Brighton State Beaches, then below the sheer cliffs to Capitola Beach before returning along the same route.
Due to the recent heavy rains, a couple of streams flowed swiftly across the beach, requiring a bit of care to cross. I was glad I had brought my hiking sticks.
Logs had been conveniently laid across Borregas Creek, and the tippy stones in Tannery Creek offered adequate footing for the careful. We also enjoyed a seasonal waterfall at the end of Escalona Creek.
While the tide was low, the sea seemed more roiled than usual. Occasional sneaker waves almost caught our feet as we skirted along the bottom of the cliffs.
Abundant tide pool sea life could be seen, including mussels, sea anemones, a large redwood driftwood, and one not-very-well-hidden octopus. I thought of moving it back into the water so that it wouldn't be trodden upon, but then considered that the creature may mistake my good deed as the action of a predator or that my moving it may cause injury.
|Cumulative climbing:||2050 feet|
LKHC: Miwok and Marincello, November 22, 2014 - Due to the changing weather it was not until earlier that morning that Frank Paysen and I arranged to carpool from the south bay to Marin to participate in the penultimate Low-Key event of the year, the self-timed climbs of Miwok and Marincello Trails in the Marin Headlands.
While roads were mostly dry on the way up to Marin, we did get sprinkled on a few times. But it was not enough to keep us indoors.
We agreed to start at the Rodeo Beach parking area for several reasons, one of which was that it allowed both of us a reasonable warm-up before starting the climb up Miwok, and because it would encourage me to complete a figure-8 loop that had me finishing on the dramatic Coastal Trail, provided that Frank would not be kept waiting for too long after his ride.
After setting up our radios (so that we could keep in touch while separated) and our equipment, we were off, I on foot, and Frank on his cross bike. The walk from Rodeo Beach to the base of Miwok would be sufficient warm-up for me. Frank wanted more than that, so he climbed Bobcat Trail to its junction with Marincello as a warm-up. Near the top he encountered Dan Connelly riding the opposite direction who shouted, "You're going the wrong way!", apparently unaware that Frank was still warming up.
Meanwhile I had started up Miwok.
For several days prior (and several days hence) I had a seized muscle in my upper back that made carrying a pack and using walking sticks sharply painful at times. My muscles loosened up somewhat with the warm-up, but I would still get a twinge with each step. I wondered if the pain would worsen if I continued. It didn't.
I encountered a few Low-Key'ers descending Miwok and one who zipped past me uphill who bore a resemblance to David Collet.
One guy on a mountain bike was climbing only slightly faster than I was walking. I figured he wasn't riding for time.
I continued over the ridge and down Old Spring Trail, encountering only a couple of joggers and a couple of mountain bikers near the stables at the bottom who were not doing the Low-Key event.
After exiting the stables area I continued up Marincello with minimal delay, stopping only to tighten the laces on my shoes.
My idea was to hike these fast, lengthening my stride (preferably) and/or shortening my period (less-preferred) as necessary to saturate my aerobic ability. The grade up Marincello was just steep enough that I could get close to my anaerobic threshold without breaking into a running gait. The grade up Miwok varied more, and at times the grade was too shallow to make use of my aerobic capacity while walking.
Although I saw a couple of mountain bikers and hikers descending Marincello, no one passed me going uphill. In fact since being passed by someone who looked like David Collet I hadn't been passed by any Low-Key'ers on bikes or foot. I had expected to see Frank by now, but I had been unable to raise him by radio the last couple times I checked. We were probably on opposite sides of a ridge, so I didn't worry too much.
At the top of Marincello I waited for several minutes, and tried to call Frank again. No answer. I decided to continue up Bobcat Trail to the top of Peak 1041, the high point of the day. Unfortunately, this part of Bobcat Trail is closed to bikes, so Frank would not be able to follow me. On the other hand, climbing to or near the top of a Peak would give me good radio coverage to raise Frank, wherever he might be.
For the first quarter mile up from Marincello, Bobcat Trail climbs along a bluff just above the upper reach of Marincello. From here I could see some distance down Marincello, and while stopped I noticed figures moving quickly uphill on Marincello.
"Perhaps it was Frank or other Low-Key'ers,", I thought.
I waited until they drew closer, then snapped a few photos as they rode by below. Paul McKenzie, Bruce Gardner, Sarah Schroer, Amy Cameron, Dan Connelly, Jennie Phillips and Gary Gellin each rode past, but no Frank. A large group was gathering at the top of Marincello.
I thought of walking back down the hill to meet them, but then I considered that doing so would reduce the likelihood of my having time to complete my planned figure-8 loop along the Coastal Trail without making Frank wait too long at the car. After several more came by below and after seeing that there were no more about to arrive, I continued up Bobcat Trail to the summit, catching a glimpse of a well-fed coyote along the way.
When I reached the top my radio crackled to life. Frank had just finished descending the Old Springs Trail and was about to start up Marincello. He wanted to meet me at the top of Marincello so I could photograph him, but I told him I was already beyond that point. I suggested that we might get a better photo of him on the Coastal Trail, and that I might have time to meet him there without his having to wait too long if I continued without delay. He agreed.
I descended from Peak 1041 and was just starting on Wolf Ridge Trail when my radio crackled to life again. Frank had reached the top of Marincello. No Low-Key'ers were there—they must have descended already. Frank would descend to the car and meet me at the bottom of the Coastal Trail.
When I reached the top of Hill 88 I radioed Frank again. He had already arrived at the car and hoped I would descend before the sun set. I suggested he ride part way up the Coastal Trail that is mostly an old paved road to old military installations and bunkers on the hills.
I started down the Coastal Trail, walking as quickly as my legs allowed.
Along the way I saw children taking turns shadow-boxing atop one of the peaks in silhouette. At first I wasn't sure if I was seeing a human figure, a sign post, or another monument. But, then the figure moved and jumped.
I met Frank about 1/3 of the way up from Rodeo Beach. It was a fitting scene for the end of our day at the Headlands. Afterward we descended and then joined the heavy motor traffic back to the south bay.
|Cumulative climbing:||1800 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, November 16, 2014 - David and I hiked the Los Trancos Trail loop at Foothills Park counter-clockwise. Since I was training to get back into hiking shape to hike next week's Low-Key Hill Climb in the Marin Headlands, I planned to walk quickly, as fast as I could while maintaining a walking gait. So, I sent David on ahead on the slightly shorter climb up Steep Hollow Trail while I took the longer Los Trancos Trail across from the park HQ building and practiced my fast walk on the climb. We kept in touch by radio.
David called me when he reached the top of the ridge as I was crossing the fire road about a mile up from the bottom. On my way down the hill toward Los Trancos Creek I could see him ahead on the other side of the meadow. Rather than catch up to him, I held back a bit and let him stay ahead. I've found that he walks faster if he knows I'm behind him.
I stopped for a while to photograph the brilliant color of the big leaf maples that grow along the creek. We met up at the Torin Bench where the trail leaves the creek.
Again since he had been resting for a couple of minutes and the air temperature was not warm, he decided to continue on while I waited for several more minutes at the bench. When I started I again walked fast up the hill. I caught up to David at the top of the climb, and we walked together to Kay's bench atop Trapper's Ridge where we enjoyed the view in unusually clear air for about ten minutes before heading down to the trailhead.
|Cumulative climbing:||3710 feet|
Mount Diablo: Three Summits, September 7, 2014 - Normally I would have chosen to hike this route in the springtime as I did in 2012 when everything was green and the wildflowers were blooming. But, I am seldom in good enough hiking shape that time of year to complete the loop without paying dearly afterward. So instead we chose a weekend when temperatures were expected to be cooler than average for the time of year.
Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to one of the minor entrances to Mount Diablo State Park at Regency Drive in Clayton, CA. The Regency gate stood at the head of Donner and Back Creek Canyons. Our route today was the reverse of the route our group took in 2012. We'd first climb to Eagle Peak, then traverse the rough Bald Ridge Trail to Prospectors Gap between the main peak and North Peak, climb to North Peak, then descend by way of Mount Olympia.
By the time we started on the trail it was 1100, yet we would still have time to finish the hike in daylight.
We started by warming up zig-zagging through the meadows at the base of the hills, making our way eventually to the start of Eagle Peak Trail.
Eagle Peak Trail wasted no time climbing up the steep northeast flank of Eagle Peak. After a short but steep and relentless climb we achieved the ridge line near Twin Peaks. The trail continued to the left up the spine of the ridge, surmounting or circumnavigating rock pinnacles jutting from the ridge. Then the trail plunged into the scratchy chamise while it ascended two switchbacks before finally topping out just below the north summit of Eagle Peak (2369ft).
Frank and I took each others' photos on the north summit, (1, 2) while we waited for Stella. When she arrived we took photos at the actual summit, but we didn't rest for long before starting the descent off the southeast side of the peak.
The trail descends steeply in sections down the rocky ridge, a little less than 400 feet of descending to a saddle before ascending 300 feet atop a broad, chamise-covered ridge to Murchio Gap and the first of our bail-out options.
We were all game to continue to Prospectors Gap on Bald Ridge Trail. At first Bald Ridge Trail climbs across a ridge covered intermittently with meadows, but as it passes onto the flank of Mount Diablo itself, the trail becomes diabolically inconsistent, climbing steeply for a while, then descending for a shorter distance but just as steeply, and repeating the pattern the rest of the way to Prospectors Gap. The map shows the trail climbing gradually across the contours.
Somewhere along Bald Ridge Trail Stella realized she hadn't been eating enough for the effort and time that had passed. She was starting to bonk. Frank hung back for Stella, while I pressed ahead for a while. But, I stopped 0.1 mile short of Prospectors Gap at a nice view spot on the trail and enjoyed a rest and a snack from a rock where I could see a ways back and watch their progress as they emerged briefly into a clearing among the trees. When Frank and Stella arrived at the view spot they stopped to enjoy a rest break, too. The three of us then proceeded to Prospectors Gap.
At Prospectors Gap we encountered another party who were looking for Bald Ridge Trail. I directed them to the trail from which we had just emerged. As they spoke English with an accent I thought to ask them what their native language was, but I thought that might be a tad forward. In recent years I find a significant number of the hikers I encounter on the trails are non-native English speakers, especially in parks more frequented by tourists. I often try to guess their native language based on their accent. I thought they might be Israeli, but Frank thought they might be French. Neither of us was confident given the short exposure.
From Prospectors Gap we resumed climbing on North Peak Road toward North Peak. In spite of having eaten a snack at the recent view spot on Bald Ridge Trail, Stella was still flagging. Frank and I waited for her next to the grumpy old man on the tank which happened to be at the junction with the North Peak Trail, our descent route off North Peak. She found a nice shady spot behind the shed below the watchful gaze of the grumpy old man to eat lunch and to regain her strength while Frank and I proceeded up to the summit of North Peak.
The last of the climbing up North Peak Road is so steep I am always amazed that crews could haul equipment and material to the summit to build and service all the transmitter buildings and antennas around the summit. Since my last visit in 2012 someone had distributed ballast rock on the lower half of the steep part. The upper half was so steep that ballast rock would have made traction worse.
Once we got to the summit we took the obligatory summit photos. We also tried to see if Stella was still seated next to the old man, but our naked eyes were not sharp enough, and Frank's monocular could not focus properly at infinity. But, the camera answered our question. I thought Stella might have started after us if she had recovered and rested a while, and if so we would have remained at the summit a while longer to await her arrival. Since we couldn't tell if she was there or not, we assumed she was and proceeded to descend.
Although North Peak (3557ft) was the high point of the hike, it is probably the summit that is most worth skipping on account of the development atop its summit. Guy wires, poles, masts, and antennas spoil the view. The summit rock feels crowded by antennas mounted close enough to be head-bumping hazards.
When we got back down to Stella, Frank and I sat down and ate lunch. We remained in this spot of relative comfort for about a half-hour, our longest single break of the day. By the time we stood and prepared to descend, our spirits were revived by food and rest.
North Peak Trail descends from North Peak Road near the summit of North Peak. The trail descends steeply as it traverses the rugged northwest face of North Peak in the direction of Mount Olympia, a lesser summit of less than 200 feet of prominence on the north ridge of North Peak.
North Peak Trail ends at Mount Olympia Road about 50 paces from the summit of Mount Olympia (2946ft). There was no point in skipping this summit. The summit of Mount Olympia offers a dramatic view of Clayton, the Black Diamond Hills, and Marsh Creek Road and is worthy of its name as long as one faces away from the higher North Peak.
After Mount Olympia our route descended in earnest, first on the East Olympia Trail (a.k.a. Zippe Trail), then on Mount Olympia Road. Just before Mount Olympia Road reached the park boundary we turned left onto an unmarked trail that connects to Cardinet Oaks Road, the trail itself appearing to have been constructed to provide a route connecting these two roads within the state park boundary.
When we emerged onto Cardinet Oaks Road we took our last sit-down break in some shade and enjoyed a snack. At this point the sun was noticeably lower in the sky, casting longer shadows and a more orange glow as it settled toward the west.
Cardinet Oaks Road descended steeply to a crossing of Donner Creek before rising briefly to a junction with Median Ridge Road and Donner Canyon Road. Our return route to the trailhead was at this point entirely on Donner Canyon Road.
I made a short detour to examine the foundations of the old Donner Cabin poking up through the grass. There was neither much to see nor to photograph.
The walk back to the trailhead went quickly, and soon we were taking our end of hike photo, then cleaning up back at the van where we saw a family of wild turkey strut out of the meadow and onto the sidewalk not far from where we had parked.
On our way home we stopped to reinvigorate ourselves with a hearty dinner at Plearn Thai Palace in Walnut Creek, where we had dined after our hike in 2012.
|Cumulative climbing:||2870 feet|
Butano Ridge, August 30, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Portola State Park, from where we staged our loop hike of Butano Ridge. Portola State Park was quiet on this Saturday, the first day of Labor Day weekend. Normally, the place would be buzzing with day visitors and campers, but water was turned off in the park due to the drought. Only the campground host remained at the closed campground. We saw a few other visitors and a couple of very young park rangers who looked not a day over 18 years old standing in front of the shuttered park headquarters building. We deposited our parking stub into the iron ranger and continued a short distance to the parking area closest to the trailhead.
Weather felt just right for an all-day hike if slightly warm and still at times. But it was never stifling to the point of having flies buzzing about our faces and it was never so hot that we dripped sweat into our eyes. A light breeze was blowing high on Butano Ridge, but in the valley the air was still.
We started by walking south on the paved service road toward Old Haul Road. As we passed the trail junction to Tip Toe Falls I suggested we take it across Pescadero Creek instead of the road upon which we would be returning later in the day.
The water level had been reduced to a few standing pools in Pescadero Creek, making the crossing easy. We skipped the spur visiting a dry Tip Toe Falls and zig-zagged a bit uphill before emerging onto Old Haul Road a few tenths of a mile west of the main access road from Portola State Park.
After discussing the options we agreed to hike the loop counter-clockwise. This would have us warming up with a somewhat long walk on Old Haul Road followed by the western climb to Butano Ridge at Dark Gulch rather than finishing with the long slog on Old Haul Road at the end of the hike.
A few minutes after we started down Old Haul Road we saw the only other party of entire day, three ladies hiking in the opposite direction so engrossed in their conversation they barely noticed us as we passed. We had the place to ourselves otherwise. I was surprised to see no bikers on Old Haul Road this holiday weekend.
When we got to the bottom of Dark Gulch we posed for a group photo, then started upward toward the light. Frank took the lead on the climb as is his wont, Stella followed next, and I took up the rear, stopping to take an occasional photo.
After what seemed like more climbing and switchbacks than reasonable for 1200 feet of climbing, the trail arrived at the Butano Ridge Trail. Frank had already found a comfy place to sit and eat a snack, and Stella had just joined him. I took another group photo, then joined them for a snack.
The last time we had visited Butano Ridge we ate lunch at a comfortable log that was lying across the road. I could not remember the exact location along the ridge, but it seemed like a reasonable spot to aim for as a lunch site. After passing a couple spots that looked like our old lunch spot, I concluded that the logs must have been moved off the road. I suggested a spot on the road where stones in the left bank might make comfortable benches.
Butano is the brooding ridge that runs from the top of China Grade Road in a northwesterly arc immediately south of Pescadero Creek, gradually descending to Cloverdale Road. The ridge is most visible to the south from Russian Ridge, Alpine Road (west), or high on Haskins Hill along Pescadero Road. The Butano Ridge Trail starts at the top of China Grade at Gate 12, runs through Redtree Redwoods property to Pescadero Creek County Park, then passes west out of the park and eventually through two houses built atop the old fire road having been renamed Ranch Road West that continues to Cloverdale Road just south of Butano Cutoff Road.
Today's hike was long but without any noteworthy summit or sweeping vista. The forest itself and its remote location in the Santa Cruz Mountains are its main features. I have always liked the fact that between occasional overflights of small planes, one hears no motors or other signs of human activity on most of this hike. The forest of redwood, fir, tanoak and madrone is mostly second and third growth, although a few old redwoods remain. Most of these contain some flaw such as a burned out core, multiple trunks ("arms"), or burls that would have made cutting, hauling, and/or milling difficult or uneconomic when the area was clear cut in the first half of the 20th Century.
Near the highest point on the hike our route took us off the top of Butano Ridge and onto a single track trail that traversed the north side of the ridge not far below its summit. The single track trail took us past some interesting sandstone formations: an ear, a cave, and a moss-covered wall.
Not far from these we arrived at the Basin Trail Junction and the start of our descent from Butano Ridge, our route back to the start.
This time I took the lead. I never thought of myself as a fast descender on foot, but Frank and Stella must have thought they'd be slower. David who has recently retired from hiking in the hills (unless cajoled or dragooned) was always the fastest down the hill as even within the last few years he would occasionally jog on some of the downhills. Although I stopped a few times to snap photos of filtered sunlight through the trees or of an enormous redwood burl, I managed to stay ahead.
We informally regrouped at a spot where a dome web spider had constructed a dome web near the trail, and the sunlight was shining on it just right. Frank tried to take a closeup photo, but the wind was gusting a bit too strongly. Also, the spider herself was too shy to pose within her creation and had scurried off to some unseen anchor under a leaf.
|Cumulative climbing:||2100 feet|
Irish Ridge, August 24, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Gate PC04, our trailhead for today's hike. Our plan was to explore Bald Knob, Irish Ridge, and the Lobitos Creek forest, while traversing all mapped trails in this seldom-visited corner of Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.
We started by heading down Grabtown Gulch and Borden Hatch Mill Trails before veering off onto the Bald Knob Trail. The Bald Knob Trail climbs gradually through a tanoak, douglas fir, and madrone forest.
As it traverses across the south face of Bald Knob, the trail passed through as wet a micro-climate in the Santa Cruz Mountains as I've ever seen. Even late in the summer of a multi-year drought, the trail was damp as if from a fresh rain, reminding me a bit of Koke'e State Park high on Kaua'i, minus the slick Kaua'i mud. In this temperate rain forest ferns, moss, lichen, and an occasional banana slug or salamander clung to any semi-permanent surface, even to the verges of the trail. Sitting some distance west of Skyline Blvd. and Kings Mountain at 2100 feet elevation with about 450 feet of prominence, Bald Knob collects abundant fog-driven moisture every evening.
It may have been foggy the night before, but today the fog had burned off, giving us a bright blue sky, the high contrast making for difficult photography conditions. I had more work than usual post-processing the photos from this collection, but I think the results made the effort worthwhile.
When we got to a four-way junction on the western shoulder of Bald Knob, we started our first out-and-back to the summit on an old unmaintained road that had become a use trail, approaching the knob's twin summits from the west. Some minor bushwhacking was necessary to reach the top, but the trail was obvious as far as the lower eastern summit "knob". East of that an old overgrown road appeared to descend, but it was too overgrown for us to consider hiking further that way. Besides that, it would be taking us back toward the trailhead, not the direction we wanted to go at this time.
It's clear that Bald Knob must have been named during in the first half of the 20th century, a time of rampant clear-cutting in the area. Today the summit is forested with fir, tanoak, and madrone, many covered with moss. Only a fleeting view of Kings Mountain to the northeast was visible through the trees, the views in other directions being completely obscured.
We returned to the four-way junction and decided to postpone exploring the short out-and-back to the west and head south and down Irish Ridge, deeper into the Lobitos Creek watershed.
Irish Ridge Trail descended steeply past the best viewspot of the day, where we stopped to take a short snack and photography break. The San Mateo County coastline from Pescadero Point in the south to Lobitos in the north could be seen.
We continued down Irish Ridge past a giant "one-armed" redwood that had been left to stand, no doubt due to the difficulty of cutting, transporting, and milling such an awkwardly-shaped tree. We would see another such tree lower in the forest.
At the junction with Lobitos Creek Trail we continued a short distance further to the preserve boundary, where I took a photo of myself, using the gate as a tripod. Frank, who was beginning to get cross with me for stopping too often for photos, waited for me some distance up the trail. Stella waited with him.
After I rejoined them we started down Lobitos Creek Trail, passing the second "one-armed" giant redwood a short distance beyond the junction. Lobitos Creek Trail descended steeply into the redwood forest. We took the short out-and-back to the left about 0.5 mile from the junction. The out-and-back was on an old road bed that had only a faint use trail now. We turned around in less than 0.2 miles when the use trail became more bushwhack and less trail.
We continued down Lobitos Creek Trail, passing a final sign mounted to a temporary barricade advising, "Trail not maintained beyond this point." Beyond that was a deep pit in the old road bed, and the trail quickly became overgrown as we descended and then climbed again where it became difficult to differentiate a trail from less-dense brush.
Frank, who had wanted to get more of a workout on today's hike, had pressed ahead further than I might have been inclined on my own, through low trees, branches, brambles, and an occasional branch of poison oak. He stopped in a small clearing that was so thick all around that I didn't notice him through the surrounding brush until he called out. At this point we all agreed we had explored to the nethermost end of Lobitos Creek Trail.
I stopped to reset my GPS device while Frank and Stella returned up the trail. Fortunately, we each carried radios that worked well in the area, so we kept track of each other. When I returned to the junction of Irish Ridge and Lobitos Creek Trails, I found Stella and Frank enjoying their lunch. I sat down and joined the meal.
Following lunch we climbed back up Irish Ridge to the four-way junction below Bald Knob. We then agreed to explore this short out-and-back that went down the west ridge from Bald Knob. There wasn't much to see other than a curiously-shaped branch of a madrone tree near the end of the easily-navigated use trail that disappeared into a thicket of poison oak.
Once back on the Bald Knob Trail we hiked quickly and with fewer delays back to Borden Hatch Mill and Grabtown Gulch Trails, arriving at the trailhead at a reasonable hour. I did stop to photograph a wall of cracked and layered sandstone that looked as if it had been constructed.
Due to the late hour and our having gotten enough exercise for the day, we skipped the loop down to Purissima Creek and back that would have lengthened our hike to 12 miles. I found myself more tired than I expected given the distance, the bushwhacking having taken more time and energy than I expected.
|Cumulative climbing:||2850 feet|
Mount Tamalpais Circuit, August 17, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Marin County from my house, arriving at our trailhead near Mountain Home Inn shortly before 1100. I had planned a loop up and around Mt. Tamalpais, including a dip into Muir Woods, that I thought was about 10 miles. But, I discovered that the trails drawn on the maps didn't show all the zig-zags, and so my distance estimate was quite a bit off in the end, even for the truncated loop that bypassed Muir Woods.
Our first goal of the day was East Peak, the highest summit on Mt. Tamalpais, and the summit with the Gardner Lookout tower. We climbed a direct route from the car on Hogback Fire Road, Hoo-Koo-E-Koo, Vic Haun, and Temalpa Trails, finished with a partial circuit of the Verna Dunshee trail and the steep, rocky trail to the Gardner Lookout tower at the top. Hoo-Koo-E-Koo and Verna Dunshee were relatively flat and easy; the rest were steep and hot, especially the Temalpa Trail, where the sun beat down on us mercilessly as we climbed. We could see occasionally that the old trail, now closed off, took a steeper, more direct climb up the southeastern flank of the peak.
After examining a refurbished Gravity Car and the new waterfall relief map of Mt. Tamalpais on display at the base of the East Peak, we spent a good deal of time at the summit enjoying the views and scrambling around the tower. I was surprised to see that the tower is staffed, probably one of the few in the state that remain staffed or left standing.
We descended from the East Peak on the old summit trail that was closed off at the bottom but not at the top. The old trail is steep and rocky but no more difficult than the new trail that is not as steep but longer and just as rocky.
After our descent we hiked down to the saddle between East Peak and Middle Peak and took Lakeview Trail around the north side of Middle Peak, detouring to the summit of Middle Peak to examine the "flying saucer" transmitter building atop Middle Peak's northern summit. Perched atop this green dome is what I fancied from East Peak to be a statue of a balding Father Junipero Serra in his Franciscan robe, arms bent and unseen hands clasped in prayer, facing the sea. Upon closer inspection I discovered a beacon and/or antenna of some sort--still not sure what it is. Of course it would make little sense to perch a statue on a transmitter building, but the brain plays tricks.
After our brief inspection of Middle Peak--not much to see that can't be seen at the East Peak other than antenna towers, transmitter shacks, and fenced-off areas, the exception being the near alignment of East Peak and distant Mount Diablo--we continued down Lakeview Trail to the saddle between Middle and West Peaks. We walked a short distance along the road before veering off to the north side of West Peak on International Trail.
International Trail descended to Upper Northside Trail that we hiked to Rifle Camp. By the time we got to Rifle Camp we were all ready for another sit-down break and a snack. The day was warm, the air was still, and flies buzzed around our faces. We did not rest long.
Our route took us up Arturo Trail to Mountaintop Trail that passes through an abandoned air force base atop the ridge that lies to the west of West Peak that is completely fenced off. The view from the old air force base is magnificent, but only the foundations of the buildings remain, except for one large concrete box at the west end of the compound. I speculated that this box may have housed a radar system of the kind that existed on Mt. Umunhum.
After our short rest we continued down the zig-zagging Bootjack Trail and crossed Panoramic Highway at Bootjack Campground. At this point Stella decided she had hiked enough, so she returned to the Bootjack campground to rest and wait for us to collect her in the van.
Meanwhile Frank and I continued downhill toward Muir Woods, but due to the late hour, the distance we had already hiked (10+ miles at that point), and that Stella was waiting for us at Bootjack Campground, we decided to cut the loop short and take Troop 80 trail that headed more directly back to the van at a turnout near Mountain Home Inn.
As we descended into redwoods the air cooled, and we crossed a few streams with running water. Troop 80 trail makes a rolling descent as it heads east, never far from Panoramic Highway, but always below it. The trail makes one final plunge to Camp Eastwood Road. Once we were on the road we climbed back up to Panoramic Highway. While we were walking back along the highway to the van, we saw two crows sunning themselves.
|Cumulative climbing:||1870 feet|
Buzzard's Roost, August 10, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, Ron Bobb, Christine Holmes, and I met in front of the Big Basin State Park HQ, where we began our hike.
The park was busy on a beautiful Sunday in summer. Tourists, families, motorcyclists, a few bicyclists, and hikers such as ourselves were out enjoying the day. It felt good to get away from the crowds, the noise, the tailpipe exhaust, and the long queues for the toilets, and to start out on the trail.
We backtracked a few hundred yards to the edge of the Big Basin Grove west of the highway before starting our trek to the Pine Mountain Trail. At first we walked parallel to the highway, CA236, but shortly we turned right on Hihn Hammond Road, then not long after, left onto Pine Mountain Trail.
Pine Mountain Trail winds its way relentlessly up the northern flank of Pine Mountain. A couple of spots required use of hands and feet to surmount a rock feature directly upon the trail. The name of the trail is curious as the trail does not go to the actual summit of Pine Mountain, but stops short at Buzzard's Roost, a hundred feet lower than the high point on Pine Mountain that is covered with trees and offers no view. An old use trail to the true summit had been blocked off by the park service, and a sign was erected to indicate that the area was under restoration.
Only a compulsive peak-bagger would feel deprived. Buzzard's Roost and its slightly lower but equally interesting castle-like eastern summit a couple tenths of a mile to the east offer sharp sandstone pinnacles that one can explore. Views from either summit are unusually broad and dramatic as summits go in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
We spent 15-20 minutes at Buzzard's Roost and after taking a short use trail that required much ducking to connect to Buzzard's Roost Spur road, we took another half-hour to attempt a climb to the top of the east summit. We got within 10 feet of the east summit, but the crux of that climb felt a little too exposed given the tiny hand/foot holds. Frank made a good effort and managed to get half-way up the steep rock before backing down.
Instead of returning down the same trail, we descended Buzzard's Roost Spur road, a steep road with asphalt surface covered mostly with mulch, toward Little Basin. Frank got ahead of us on the steep descent and ended up turning right on the Tanbark Loop Trail, descending into Little Basin itself. The rest of us continued straight onto the Tanbark Loop Trail, climbing steeply and briefly to the east ridge before turning right and east. We would meet Frank again near the outermost restroom building at Little Basin.
Our plan was to descend to the north off the ridge and down to Blooms Creek, but we could not find the road/trail that went that way. Fearing that we may have passed the junction as we descended the Tanbark Loop Trail, I hiked a quarter mile back along the trail and discovered an old fire road heading in the right direction. I radioed to the others to join me, then I took a sit-down break and ate my lunch while I waited.
The fire road that descended to Blooms Creek must not have been graded in many years, and at first I was not certain this was a road I saw on my map. Trees had fallen across it, and the surface was deep in tanoak leaves and branches, some of which had the annoying habit of rolling under foot. Fortunately, the descent was not long, and we were soon standing at a junction with another trail leading left toward the west that I suspected was the trail that would join with the East Ridge Trail. Just to be sure, Frank went on ahead to explore and reported back that he found an amphitheater. Christine remarked that that must be where sacrifices are made of those who ignore the warning sign of sticks stacked neatly in a hexagon on the trail.
We turned left and walked along what appeared to be a trail that followed a line of telephone poles. Shortly we found ourselves on East Ridge Trail and some distance later we stopped to take a sit-down break at an empty camp site in the Blooms Creek Campground.
After our short break we continued out of the campground, crossed CA236, and returned to the park HQ on Sempervirens Trail, passing under an arched tree and near two redwood trees locked in perpetual argument.
|Cumulative climbing:||1680 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, August 2, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, David Bushnell, and I met at the Park 'n' Ride at Arastradero and Page Mill Roads. We carpooled to Foothills Park.
David started up the trail before us, gaining a 1/4-mile advantage on the climb up to the high point at the Anniversary Bench. Stella and I were both amused as Frank reported his position, "I am at Bridge #4.", whereupon David would immediately report, "I am at Bridge #5." Several minutes would pass and Frank and David would again report their locations still one bridge apart.
We rested together for 18 minutes at the Anniversary Bench before continuing. Frank, Stella, and I continued on the loop while David decided he had worked hard enough to climb up to the bench and remained at the bench a while longer before heading directly down to the trailhead. We would be out of radio contact for the next hour and a half.
We saw a few other hikers/runners on the trail and one group of two couples and a child who appeared to have set up camp at the Torin bench by the creek. We pressed on down the trail alongside the creek.
The trail along Los Trancos Creek has always been somewhat treacherous. Steeply-graded and slippery with sharp dropoffs, often at the same spots. The steps that had been carved into the slide last year to aid traction had all but worn away. We took care on the tricky bits and managed to stay on our feet.
We stopped again and for a longer 35-minute rest at a low point on the hike where the trail leaves Los Trancos Creek to begin the long, meandering climb back to Trapper's Ridge. The air was hot and still in the shade, and flies buzzed about our faces.
The tedious mile and a half of trail that wound through one ravine after another was the hottest part of the hike. Some of the spots had no shade and must have been in the mid-90's F.
The climb up to Trapper's Ridge is neither long nor high, but the sun beat down upon us as we climbed. I tried to raise David on the radio when we achieved the summit, but I got no reply. A minute later I tried again at the junction with the Steep Hollow Trail, and I was able to raise him. He had been resting at one of the picnic tables near the trailhead. I advised that we would be at the bottom in about 20 minutes.
The day after the hike my legs were quite sore, this being the first hilly hike I had done since last fall.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Mallard Slough, July 26, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, David Bushnell, and I met at the parking lot of the Environmental Education Center at the end of Grand Ave. in Alviso for a hike on the levee around Mallard Slough and to an observation area of the ghost-town Drawbridge on the north side of Coyote Creek.
We started off under a bright sun accompanied by a stiff wind blowing off the bay, the absence of which would have made the hike unbearably hot and stifling. We began our hike by walking the boardwalk across the New Chicago Slough and then west toward the railroad tracks.
As we hiked north alongside the tracks a Capitol Corridor train roared south into San Jose. After the train passed I explored a couple of non-sanctioned crossings of the tracks to the levee road on the opposite side. These were easily made in July, during the dry season.
We pressed northward to the Drawbridge observation bench and beyond a short distance to the cut through the old levee that Frank and I had explored from the other side last May.
We then hiked back to the Environmental Education Center where we spent a short time looking at the exhibits and climbing up into the observation tower for a last look at the tidal flats before departing.
Jack Visits, June 2014 - Jack spent about a week with me while Laura was traveling. Since Jack has matured in the last year and has lost some of his bad puppy habits, I gave him run of the house (under supervision). At first he seemed to understand that I was granting him a new privilege as he wagged his tail while exploring every nook and cranny, sniffing all the while.
Although I let him into the rest of the house, he spent most of his time in my office where I spent most of my time during the days. The rest of the time I gave him run of the back yard, and he had fun chasing off squirrels and an occasional kittykat or two.
At night he slept in his crate, but I left his crate next to the rear patio door, and since the nights were not cold, he had only the screen door between him and the outdoors, sort of like camping out. Several times during the night he would awaken to bark and growl at some creature moving slowly and deliberately through the rear garden. I noticed that while he was in residence no raccoon poop could be found in the yard.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Mallard Slough, May 7, 2014 - Frank Paysen and I met at the parking lot of the Environmental Education Center at the end of Grand Ave. in Alviso for a hike on the levee around Mallard Slough and an unnamed pool to its north that bordered on Coyote Creek.
We started off under hazy but clear skies and no wind. Somewhere between 1 and 2 miles from the start we veered off the main levee onto an old levee that was gradually returning to the swamp. At intervals of less than a couple hundred yards we climbed over 8-10 foot high mounds, a couple dozen or so altogether, that had been piled atop the levee. Or perhaps these mounds were all that remained of the original levee, the valleys in between having been cleared to allow the pool within its circle to become more easily flooded. Some valleys were completely overgrown or flooded, but we always managed to find a dry way through or around. Fortunately, the tide was low.
When we got to the far northern end of this circuit across Coyote Creek from the ghost town of Drawbridge we understood why this levee had been allowed to fall into disrepair. When planning our route Frank had neglected to check the aerial view of the area, the street map showing the trail completing the loop and showing no breach in the levee.
Not wishing to swim the muddy channel we turned around and hiked back over the now tedious mounds and returned to the maintained trail around Mallard Slough, continuing our circuit of the slough. By now the wind had picked up as if someone had turned on a 30-mph fan. We walked first into the wind, then at the northern end of the circuit we turned south with the wind at our backs.
Before we started the second half of the circuit of Mallard Slough, we watched a Capitol Corridor train whiz past on the nearby tracks.
We finished up our walk with a short detour onto the boardwalk in front of the Environmental Education Center. By now the wind was gale-force over the water, and more than once I felt that the wind might have been strong enough to nudge me into the drink had I been a little tipsy.
|Cumulative climbing:||1920 feet|
De Anza Trail/Old Stage Road, March 14, 2014 - An hour south of home in San Juan Bautista I met Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher for a mid-day hike over a section of the De Anza Trail known as Old Stage Road. We carpooled the short distance from the Windmill Market to the trailhead.
Ron and I had ridden our bikes over Old Stage Road in 2006, but today we would be hiking from the trailhead to the gate on the Salinas side of the ridge, a low crossing at the northern end of the Gabilan Range that lies east of Salinas.
We saw a few other trail-users, mostly hikers and people walking their dogs. On our return trip we encountered two ladies on horseback.
The air was clean but somewhat hazy with high ice clouds in the sky. Temperature was just right: a little cool in the morning, sunny and warm in the still spots, and a little breezy on the return trip. Short-sleeve weather the whole way, but only just. Any cooler and I would have donned another layer.
The recent rains left the hills green, but the grass coverage was thin and short for this time of year. No wildflowers were seen.
After our hike we stopped in town at Vertigo Cafe for refreshment before returning home.
|Cumulative climbing:||950 feet|
Lake Chabot Circuit, January 11, 2014 - Ron and Alice were camping in their trailer for the weekend, and while Alice was busy elsewhere for the day, Ron and I hiked a circuit around Lake Chabot on what was one of the few rainy days we've seen this season.
After a short tour of Ron's Nash trailer, Ron and I started down the Quail Trail to the Columbine Trail. Neither quail nor columbine were seen. In spite of the damp day, the land was parched and brown everywhere.
When we reached Columbine Trail we turned right and hiked a counter-clockwise loop around the lake. The trail was not busy, but we never felt like we had the place to ourselves. This was no surprise as Chabot Park sits just behind Oakland, San Leandro, and Castro Valley and sees many visitors.
From the Dam to the upper end of Honker Bay the trail is paved and more crowded. We stopped near the marina for a brief lunch, but when mist turned to drizzle we decided to keep moving in case the rain was going to settle in for a good soak.
The bridge across the flood plain at Honker Bay is barely wide enough for one large person to cross. When we arrived at the south end, two ladies were on the bridge, so we waited for them to cross before starting onto the bridge ourselves.
Since the season has been dry this year, the flood plain was also dry and would have been an easier crossing, especially if we had been riding bikes.
From the north side of the bridge we turned left on Honker Bay Trail and then climbed Huck's Trail back to the campground on the ridge.
Although we were never more than about a mile from Ron and Alice's camp site, the loop around the lake was over nine miles long. The route is not entirely flat, but the climbs are short, the climb up Huck's Trail being the longest at about 500 feet.
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