Montebello-Saratoga gap killer hike

by

Sunday, 16 March 2014

With the recent knee trouble, and two solid weeks of conferences, I am a little out of shape. But I got in two runs last week, and spent Saturday on an open space volunteer day effort. (That last may or may not have improved my conditioning.)

I first thought to hike Mission peak to Sunol, but the return trip down the front side of Mission peak is not for questionable knees. So I went to Montebello instead. Last time I drove up a mountain road in the dark, I almost hit a deer. So I took it pretty easy — unlike the guy who roared up behind me, passed like a bat as soon as I pulled over, and disappeared into the distance. His lucky day; I never saw him again.

Got to the top just as the sun rose. Left the car along the road, because the gates weren’t open yet.

There were three coyotes wandering through the parking lot. They left when I headed their direction. Half a mile further along, three deer. But the most prolific of the local wildlife was the newts. I lost count somewhere north of 30.

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I pop dead bark off the fallen trees, hoping against hope to find a scorpion. No luck, but I found one of those tiny almost legless salamanders, and a beetle who’s perfectly happy standing on his buddy’s head.

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A pretty day, warm in the sun, cool and pleasant in the breeze and the shade. Fog over the ocean, so there was no crisp blue horizon off in that direction.

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At my second calorie stop, I met Logan and Sean. Logan would be somewhere around 4 years old, I suppose. His father Sean had relocated back here from the LA area, had worked search and rescue in some previous life, but wasn’t 100% familiar with this area. Not sure whether his S&R experience was a long time ago, or just somewhere else.

I told him my itinerary, estimated it as about 18 miles (wrong: 20 miles, 3700 vertical feet). He said, if he ever tried to do a hike that long, he’d end up crying like a baby. “I’m considering it,” said I.

There was as much pain as I needed, certainly. And I always run short of water, even on a comparatively cool day. Still, it feels great to be outdoors and feels even better to have a shower and a brew back home.

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