Posts Tagged ‘Ohlone wilderness’

Rose Peak killer hike

May 18, 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Washing my car is one of my least favorite ways to spend time, but I’m willing to do it, once every year or thereabouts. This time, I was urged onward because of a big ugly splotch that I thought indicated a visit from a very large and very ill-mannered bird. But it was sticky. Even the car-wash goop on a wet sponge did nothing more than smear the stickiness. Spray stain remover from the laundry room worked, also on specks of tar on the rocker panels. I suppose the paint will now come off, but it sure looks nice for a few days.

I have been increasingly unhappy with my GPS receiver, which is a few years old. So I blew a large pile of money on a Garmin 650t. Big hunking thing, but the screen is at least large enough to see. It even has a camera, geotagging of course, which leads me to the thought that Garmin should get together with either Google or Samsung, or maybe both, and make a ruggedized GPS receiver smart phone. (If it happens, you saw it here first.)

Sunday, 18 May

I wanted to try out the new GPS receiver, of course, and haven’t been to Rose Peak yet this year. A cool, overcast morning, breezy and actually chilly.


This is just about as late in the season as I’d want to do this hike. Much of the trail is overgrown with grass, some of it chest-high, and the seed is fading to brown and starting to fall off. Another week or two and you’ll need gaiters to keep this stuff out of your boots.

And it turns out that today is also the running of the Ohlone Wilderness run, 50k and almost 8000 feet of gain. They started at 8 from Mission Peak in Fremont, and are going to Del Valle near Livermore. I started at 8:10 or 8:15 from Sunol. There is no chance I will make it to Rose Peak before they catch me, but it would be good if I could get past the single-track trail onto the fire roads that form the more distant part of the route.

And so it was. The first of the runners passed me only a few hundred feet from the widening of the trail. Near Goat Rock, I passed an aid station. They offered me calories and electrolyte, but I wasn’t really in the market. I told them I’d take them up on their offer if they were still there when I returned. They estimated that they would be packing it in by 1:30; it was 10:30 and easily an hour and a half to the top. Marginal. Well, it would be nice, but I hardly need an assist.

They tell me that registration is limited to 250, and they got 170 or so today. Some of them are training for the Western States 100, a hundred-mile race in the Sierra Nevada. One woman of not inconsiderable age told me this was her 112th ultra-marathon. These people are just amazing.

Not a whole lot further along, the two runners ahead of me veered to go around a rattlesnake. I had my camera out and ready by the time I came up. I warned a runner coming up behind me to keep to the other side of the trail.


The snake was completely unconcerned, which is just fine with me. I don’t want to be around an excited rattlesnake. It made a slow slither across the road and into a hole, the beginning of which is visible at the right side of the picture below.


The first rattler of the season. I’m not even sure I saw any last season. They’re not all that common.



The higher country is still mostly green, and very pretty.


And there is a micro-climate right at Rose Peak itself with these double-headed prickly flowers and their pink neighbors. Didn’t see either of them anywhere else.


Got to the top right at noon. Runners crossing over, picking up a wrist band from a volunteer stationed there, as a token of achievement. From now on, I’m facing into the traffic, and I imagine that, by the time I reach the single-track trail, the lanterns rouges will have passed, and I’ll have it to myself.


And so it was, again. I got to the aid station about 1:15, just as they were packing up, but they gave me water and calories. Thank you, friends!


Really pretty country, especially when there’s still some green to be seen.



These little wildflowers were also localized to a small area. No idea what factors create a habitat that they like, but something clearly does.


I didn’t see it until I got this photo (above) onto the big screen, but notice that spider lurking hopefully for some innocent insect to come along!


And here’s the high view of the dam construction. The old dam was seismically deficient, and was drained completely — the pond is just the low area below the foot of the old dam. I’m told that the new dam is now estimated for 2019 completion, and opening hours will remain at 8 until then.

19.16 miles, 5002 vertical feet. Even on a cool day, it counts as a killer hike.

The grand vistas of the Rose Peak hike

May 28, 2012

The out-and-back hike from Sunol to Rose Peak was the original inspiration for my term Killer hikes. I have recently expanded the category by stitching together trails from adjoining open space areas, but even though it’s less than 20 miles (19.00 according to the GPS), Rose Peak is still the classic (5004 feet of climb).

I haven’t been there for a couple months; time to do it again. The wildflower season is fading fast: quite a bit of green, but already fading to the white of new grass seeds and the golden hills of summer.

This little wildflower is about the size of a smallish pea. Flowers like California poppies grow pretty much everywhere, but this species showed up only in a stretch of maybe 100 meters of trail. Dark enough that you might not even realize they were flowers, if you weren’t keeping an eye out.

Cloudy and chilly. I left my jacket in the car, expecting to warm up as soon as I started uphill (true) and to break out into the sunlight fairly soon (not true). Lots of backpackers on the way down from last night’s camping, probably thirty or more by the time they had all straggled past. I kept thinking each new one or two represented the lanterns rouges, and then I would meet yet another one or two.

Because the day remained cloudy, there was a lot of dew on the vegetation.

I programmed the image processors in my brain to match against mantis. No hits among the millions of images that flowed past, all day, but the filter did pick up one of these pretty little orange spiders.

He figures that, if he can’t see me, I can’t see him.

The filter spotted a wolf spider. I like the 747 upper deck, complete with rear window, as well as the four parking lights just below the headlights.

I noticed a second wolf spider, so small it could have gotten lost on the nail of my little finger. The one above would have sprawled well beyond the nail of my thumb, but if it does well this season, it will be twice as big (8x as massy) by fall.

This little guy was almost invisible on a stalk of milkweed. I am delighted with the fine detail visible in the photo (and this is the low-res version!).

Near the top, a bobcat, something we don’t see very often. No photo, sorry; it didn’t want to stay around and pose for me.

On the way back, I stopped for calories at the little pools where McCorkle trail crosses the W-tree rock scramble. Water striders, and the opportunity for almost abstract photos.

And under water, a larva of some kind, very likely preying on an even smaller larva under its left foreleg, while just under its tail section, another larve would be breathing a sigh of relief, if only it could breathe.

As I drove out, late afternoon, I saw a car stopped off the road ahead, people out in the traffic lanes. I slowed and passed in the left lane, and saw that they were protecting a large gopher snake as it crossed the road. Good for them!

Rose peak killer hike

October 17, 2011

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Today is for my first killer hike with the new pair of shoes. Nineteen miles, five thousand vertical feet.

Up early, on the trail before 7, in time to see alpenglow, both east and west, as the sun rose on a partly cloudy, cool, perfect day. Horizontal sunlight is one of the secrets of the photographer, and today was a good opportunity to take full advantage of it.

The first tarantula of the day was dead. That doesn’t count, not at all. Shortly after, I saw one that was hunkered up, possibly semi-dormant from cold or darkness. A little surprising, because I thought they were primarily nocturnal, and it really isn’t very cold this morning. Whatever…

Over the course of the day, I found four more, including a final tarantula crossing the road as I was leaving in the late afternoon. Here we have a good look at his fangs, which you will notice are retracted, even though he is admittedly under extreme provocation.

And here we get a reasonably good look at a minimum of six and possibly eight eyes. In this picture, it is also obvious that the eyes are lensed, not compound.

It’s the season for the full glory of poison oak, here shown in an Italian flag motif.

Open country that goes on forever. I wouldn’t want this to be the only choice, but it’s quite attractive as one alternative.

As well as a personal record of five tarantulas, I saw four gopher snakes, out sunning themselves. And I don’t know what kind of snake this one is; what we need here is a serious taxonomist! I took about a dozen shots, got the tongue in only this one.

It has only been two weeks since we had several days of rain, but the grass has started growing green again with great enthusiasm, some of it perhaps as high as ten cm. Where there is no tall dead grass from last spring, even the ground shows green. It will be about March before the new growth completely overwhelms the dead grass and turns the entire world beautifully green.

Even here, we see that the areas that collect the most rain first are the first and most vigorous in the process of greening up.

I suppose it’s beyond hope to imagine getting back without sore feet, but I think these shoes will turn out to be okay.

Rose peak

January 24, 2010

25 April 2009

A killer hike seemed like the right thing for today, since next weekend I’ll be at the tender mercies of Air France. The forecast was for cool but sunny, a good opportunity to go to Rose peak. I was already on my way when I realized that I had forgotten to take along a heavy pair of hiking socks. Moomph! Well, I’m not going back for anything less than risk of a house fire.

Hiking boots are the right thing for a long hike in the hills, but I wasn’t sure about only one pair of socks, so I stowed trail shoes in my backpack, just in case. As it turned out, the boots were fine except on the downhills, which bruised my heels. At about 17 miles, I changed to the trail shoes. Good idea; they had better padding in the heel, and just the change was a relief. I will still have pretty sore feet for a day or two.

Pretty country. The grass is already beginning to fade toward gold, even as the wildflowers are at the peak of their season and some of the late trees (oak, sycamore) are only just starting to leaf out. Doris tells me my little friend  is a horned lark, an early bird.

Wildlife: a gaggle of wild turkeys near the park entrance. One bunny. Lots of crane flies, a swallowtail. One frog in a pond, no sign of tadpoles as yet.

I frequently see no one all day on this route, but the trail was quite busy today, and not just the half mile from the parking lot crowd. Many of them were out near Rose peak itself. I like having the world to myself, but it’s good that people know about some of these great places and use them.

19.5 miles total, 4920 vertical feet

Ohlone wilderness, Rose peak

January 3, 2010

2010 January 2, Saturday

What better way to start out the new year than a hike to Rose peak, one of the more difficult of the bay area hikes – 20 miles, 5000 vertical feet, out and back from Sunol park headquarters?

I started just before sunrise, and climbed fast enough to stay in the clear, ahead of the fog that was filling in the valleys behind me. Met a couple guys at the backpack camp, but no one else until I reached Rose peak itself. A group there, had come up from Del Valle, also a 20 mile hike; guy told me there were 23 people.

There was an eagle at Rose peak; got a few shots that turned out not too badly, if I do say so myself. Doris says it’s a golden eagle, even though it seems darker than I would have expected.

Also a view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in the distance.

The hike down was above and within the fog that had continued to advance over the course of the day. Pea soup sometimes, but beautiful all the time. An exceptionally beautiful day.

The slide show (6 MB): Rose peak