Winter bouquets

by

Friday, 29 November

I haven’t blogged for a while, and need to catch up. We thought we’d do a day trip somewhere not too far away during the thanksgiving break. Danville has been an attractive destination in previous years, but not now. As best we can tell, the entirety of the interesting part is in a state of collapse, possibly slated for repair, or possibly not.

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We went instead to Pleasanton. Much better!

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The decrepitude here is off out of the way, and in the distinct minority.

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The view from the sidewalk where we enjoyed Mex food and admired the next-door Mediterranean restaurant.

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I have had knee trouble since the beginning of November. I can ride, I can walk flatlands, but downhills are not fun, and running is obviously not on the menu. Rehabilitation exercises and taking it easy. By December, I was doing short hikes, such as Windy Hill (7 miles, 1600 vertical feet). I went running a couple of times, and was okay.

Then I spent a week in Naperville, with no exercise beyond the hotel exercycle (bending an elbow doesn’t count). Home on Friday, and I really need to get out. Can I do a real hike?

Saturday, 14 December

Mission peak to Sunol is a good choice. The standard hike qualifies as industrial-grade, and there are options to extend it to killer-grade or to truncate it if the knee complains.

The fact that Fremont’s Stanford avenue is completely built up with houses didn’t deter the coyote that ran across the road ahead of me as I pulled up. Parked far down the street from the parking lot, bemused as always at the amazing number of people who ostensibly come here to walk, and spend many minutes driving around searching for the nearest possible parking. Presumably these are people who consider lottery tickets to be a sound investment strategy.

As for myself, I take the first parking spot I see and get on with it. I wore several layers to start off, but after a mile, I stopped to give back some of the breakfast coffee and stow a couple layers in my backpack.

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I was almost at the crest by the time the sun was high enough to illuminate the trail. Cold and windy at the top, but as soon as I started down the backside, I was out of the worst of the wind, and it was okay.

Saw a cow giving her calf a tongue bath. That’s a first! Junior seemed to be enjoying it.

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The bare trees, exposed rock, dry grass, have their own beauty. Winter bouquets.

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From high above, Flag Hill, which in turn stands high above the Sunol visitor center, my destination. The part facing us looks higher, but only because it is closer. From a different perspective, it’s clear that the high point is really off there to the right.

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Here is where I go when I add the killer extension onto this hike. I feel good, but prudence suggests that perhaps I shouldn’t go there today. Stopped at the visitor center to check out the tarantula.

A pleasant young woman told me the breeding males tend not to live all that long in captivity (in the wild, they go out looking for beautiful babes, and never return). She said they once had a tarantula that had lived almost a year in captivity. Today’s specimen has begun to eat again (crickets), so there’s hope he will survive for a while, too. Nice.

The other interesting thing I noticed from the high trail is the evidence of slow but continuing landslides. There is a really good reason these hills are not festooned with houses, and many of the houses that do exist in hilly parts of the Bay area may find themselves in trouble some wet winter. If we ever have a wet winter again…

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I still felt good when I got back up to Mission peak, so instead of just hiking over the shoulder, I went to the top. Below, the easy part of the peak trail.

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Lots of people at the top, as always. Cold and windy. Put my layers back on while I perched on a rock and soaked up some calories. As soon as I got down off the peak, of course, it was warm enough that I had to take off a layer. No sweat, as they say.

16.4 miles, not all that far, but 4400 vertical feet makes it at least a marginally killer hike. And my knee feels good. Nice.

Jacky brewed up a random collection of ingredients, enlivened with habañero, and I put on Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, with the audio level set maybe just a little higher than necessary. Wonderful to be home!

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