A tale of two Saturdays

by

Saturday 19 January 2013

I hiked Rancho San Antonio today, one I don’t do very often because it’s always busy and crowded, and I like to get out away from things. Off at the far corner of the park is a fire road (Black Mountain road) that goes to the top of the ridge.

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Here’s the view from the top, in various directions. My friend Shan was in town during the following week. We walked along the levee trail in Shoreline park, and she asked where I had been last weekend. I pointed to the ridgetop, here.

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The outcroppings provide a good place to sit, soak up photons and calories, and enjoy the day.

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It is not crispy crystal clear, but that variegated blue stuff below the sky is the Pacific ocean. Looking further down, we see the Christmas tree farm near the Long Ridge open space preserve, which was the destination of my killer hike last weekend.

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I like to add on Hidden Villa as a side trip, an anastomosis in the trail, if you will. It turns an industrial-grade hike into a semi-killer hike (less than 20 miles, but 4200 vertical feet of gain). The trail maps of Rancho San Antonio do not show the connector trails going into the Hidden Villa, but there are signs at the trail junctions.

Mid-November is about the latest time at which we ever find tarantulas. But I found one today, dead on the trail. It was in reasonably good condition, surely not two months dead. Interesting!

There is a Bunny trail here. I have noticed the signs before, and wondered whether this is the simple loop for small children. Later, I discovered that it is named after the nearby Bunny creek, and from the topo map, it does not appear to be a wimpy trail at all. Maybe next time, I’ll check it out.

Hidden Villa has a slightly wetter and perhaps warmer climate than Rancho, and spring is in evidence.

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On the fenceposts, low patches of moss, but sprouting ambitiously.

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In contrast to the springy environment above, many of the low areas back in Rancho San Antonio were still heavy white with frost, the puddles hard frozen, even in mid-afternoon. Where the sun never shines….

Saturday 26 January 2013

I thought I would hike from Mission peak over to Sunol today. It was a chilly, foggy day when I started, but warm enough on the uphill (3 miles, average grade 1 in 6) that I stowed the jackets in my backpack, and climbed in shirtsleeves.

The trail was wetter than I had expected, and that made it more work. Consider the extra effort of unsticking a boot from the mud on each step, sliding backward a little with each step and having to recover both the distance and the balance. It adds up. I’m still optimistic about the day clearing up, but maybe I won’t go all the way to Sunol.

The fog got thicker as I got higher up, and near the ridgetop, the wind picked up, the air filled with tiny icy pricklets of water. Stopped to put on a jacket.

The weather continued to deteriorate. Not really rain, in the sense of large drops, but so much water in the air that everything was instantly wet. Heavy condensation on my glasses. Strong, cold wind.

The fog was so thick that I missed the trail turnoff to go down the backside of the hill, and found myself at the top instead. Maybe discretion is the better part, and all that, so I went on across the top and down the heavily trafficked main trail. At least I have adequate clothing, although a pair of gloves would have been welcome. I couldn’t believe the day hikers wearing tee shirts up here!

The main trail is mostly rock and gravel, so not as treacherous as the muddy Horse Heaven uphill trail. But near the bottom, I skidded out and fell in the mud. Messy!

When I got to the car, I spread my jacket over the seat as protection for the upholstery, muddy side up. At home, I unloaded the backpack and the few things that hadn’t gotten muddy, then went into the little utility room off the garage, stripped down and washed mud off everything. Finally, into the shower to wash the mud off the David.

As it happened, I chose the worst direction to go this morning. In every direction I looked, except the southeast, the sky was blue and clear. The rest of the bay area was having a terrific day. So I went out and wandered around town, where spring is indeed peeking out all over.

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