Anvil trails: Windy Hill

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Maybe something less than a killer hike today? Maybe just a few local trails to contribute to the anvil total? Somewhere close and convenient, like Windy Hill?

For those who haven’t been following the details, the Anvil award goes to anyone who hikes all of the open space district’s 200+ miles of trails. Nothing says that any given open space preserve has to be conquered in one day, but it’s something of a challenge.

What they don’t point out is that, because of the topology involved, you end up having to hike most of the trails twice over, some of them three times, and on yesterday’s adventure, even one short stretch four times. And it will get to be another hot day.

So I started around 6:30, by hiking the outer perimeter trails, along with their stubs and loops.

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A nice dawn. We don’t get a lot of really pretty or interesting clouds here, so this is a little unusual.

With a jaded eye, especially from yesterday, I was watching for undesirable plants. Windy Hill is impressively clean, but I found two small colonies of yellow star thistle (YST), the stuff I have been battling at Los Trancos. I had neither gloves nor a bucket, so the best I could do was mark the spots with GPS for subsequent action.

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The view from the top of Windy Hill, looking off toward the ocean. Nice! Windy up here (funny about that!) and almost chilly. Too bad I can’t bottle it for the heat we’ll get later.

Along Lost trail, I heard a tree fall. A brief creak, then a sound like a shot. I couldn’t see anything, but it was well below me, somewhere down there where I’m going. Kept an eye open, and found a freshly broken bay laurel branch arching over the trail half an hour later. No way to know whether it was the one I heard, but the leaves were still fresh, so it had fallen very recently.

Did my trail patrol duty by GPS marking and reporting a spot where a clump of vines had come down across the trail. I am not equipped to deal with poison oak, and certainly have no inclination to do so. Still itchy, sore, greatly swollen.

Returned all the way back to the parking lot, where I picked up gloves, bucket, and the water I had left in the car. Figured out a route back up to Skyline that went through forest, even if not through cool, deep forest, and would result in giving me all the trails in the preserve by day’s end. When it’s time, I’ll go back down on the sunny route, but in the hot sun, down is better than up.

It was hot enough that my ass was dragging. Even carrying the (almost) empty bucket up the hill got to be a nuisance. But eventually, there I was at the YST colony on Anniversary trail. More growth there than I had thought; I ended up pretty much filling up the bucket. One pair of hikers made a point of thanking me for doing a thankless job; I talked with a runner, who may turn out to be a volunteer himself one of these days.

And I headed back down the hill. I’ll report the other colony of YST on my patrol log, but I have neither time, water, bucket space nor enthusiasm for attacking it today. Rationed the last of my water carefully, got to the parking lot dry.

An easy day? Windy Hill is advertised to contain 12.2 miles of trails, but hiking all of them cost me over 19 miles, and 3700 vertical feet. Yet a second killer day in a row; the car thermometer said it was 90 degrees when I left the parking lot.

Home in time to welcome Steve and Mary to see our new deck, soak up some munchies and drinks, swap stories about any number of topics. Good to see them!

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