Posts Tagged ‘Rose peak’

Pain is weakness leaving the body

October 13, 2013

Saturday, 12 October 2013

After a week of conferring, with zero exercise, I needed to move the stress points from the mind to the body.

Jacky and I had volunteered for an open space project, which turned out to be way the hell and gone down the side roads on the far side of the ridge, Star Hill road and Native Son road, places I never explored even during the heyday of my cycling career.


Very pretty redwood country. There were four or five volunteers, along with two or three from the open space district. We went to an area that’s closed to public access, where a couple of forests of acacia are taking over. They may have been planted intentionally by someone who had a house there, but they have spread.

Small ones can be pulled up with gloved hands. Those whose trunks are up to maybe an inch in diameter can be pulled up with weed pullers. I had never seen these before; they comprise a clamp and a fulcrum at ground level, and a long handle up to hip, waist or shoulder level (three sizes). The long lever arm allows the trunk to be jacked out of the ground. They work very well, except that lateral roots sometimes refuse to come out and require extra effort.

Acacias larger than an inch in diameter — some of them were 20 feet tall — come down with saws, and the open space people then girdle the stump to be sure they die. The saw is obviously the way to build a big pile of debris in a hurry, but all sizes need to come out. To be sure all upper body muscles were equally sore, we used all of the tools ad hoc.

Sunday, 13 October

I had been thinking of doing the Rose Peak hike for a few weeks, but it has been pretty hot. This weekend was cooler, so it was a good opportunity. Rose Peak is the trek that prompted me to originate the term killer hike a few years ago, 19 miles, 5000 vertical feet.


I like to climb up inside my own head for hours on end, and hiking alone on deserted trails is a good way to do it.


Cooler weather is one thing, but today was almost too much! Stiff wind in the exposed areas, and chilly! I love it.


It’s the middle of tarantula season, and I have seen none so far this year. There are tarantulas on the peninsula, but the probability of finding one is lower because the ratio of grassland to forest is so much lower. The Ohlone wilderness is the best venue I know of: here is where I saw six in one day a few years ago.


Their population waxes and wanes. I think this year is a sparse year. One, only one, and very glad to see him. He started off into the tall grass, where the camera can’t track, but I put a boot in front of him, and rather than climb over my toe, he turned back out onto the trail.


Beautiful big guy!


Only a few minutes later, I found a small gopher snake, only about a foot long. It’s not a big year for snakes either.

There are several areas with large new burrows in the ground. When I came past the first, a raptor flew away, and landed some distance away on the ground. My imagination immediately suggests burrowing owls, which I have never seen outside the artificial mounds built up in the city park to attract them (mostly unsuccessfully).

I was hoping to see some owls at the burrows, but didn’t. It would be great if they took over the wilderness and reduced the overpopulation of ground squirrels!


The wind sweeps an arc with this plant, which is probably not broom. Cool!

I spotted a small lizard darting across the trail, on an absolute rendezvous course for dead center of my descending boot. I held the downstroke for a quarter second with a bit of a stumble, and the lizard darted through. That’s my good deed for the day.

Rose Peak, the granddaddy of killer hikes

April 6, 2013

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Rose peak is the loop that first prompted me to use the term killer hike. 19 miles, 4900 feet of climb. My most recent visit was last fall, when I discovered the Sunol gate was locked until the official opening hour of 8 AM. In winter, that creates a problem with daylight hours; although it ought to be okay, there’s not as much margin for error as I like.

So today I planned my arrival for 8. Had time to say good morning to the wild turkey crossing the road in front of me. Had time to enjoy the plenitude of woodpeckers poking through last year’s acorn fall for overlooked goodies. Rolled through the gate right at 8; it was already open, the parking lot was well-nigh full, and great clusters of people were getting ready to go hiking.

I hope they’re not all going to Rose peak.

A chilly, cloudy day with the forecast possibility of rain showers, clearing up later on. There is no such thing as bad weather, merely inadequate clothing, but I am not disadvantaged with inadequate clothing today. Rain showers are okay if they happen, and okay if they don’t.

This open, dry grassland does not host lots of newts, nothing like the damp forests of the peninsula, but I did see one. That’s unusual. And I found a banana slug, also adapted to the requirements of local coloration. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in this particular shade.



Lots of people out on this trail. I like having the world to myself, but I have to admit that it’s good to see people willing and able to take on this level of challenge. On the downside, I saw food wrappers, tissue, water bottle caps and such along the trail, people who just can’t seem to get the idea.

Before I reached the top, the clouds turned into mist and fog. I put on my rain shell, knowing that I would sweat even more on the uphill, but it would be welcome when I started down. And so it was.


Here’s how it looked near the top.


The weather deteriorated as I started down. The light mist turned into heavy mist, then into occasional light rain. Not a problem, but it created wonderful opportunities to photograph the wildflowers.











By the time I had descended a thousand or fifteen hundred feet, the rain had pretty much stopped, and I took off the jacket. I could see nice weather blowing in from the west, but it took a while to arrive.



I believe this one is called goat rock, and Rose peak is somewhere on or behind the ridge to the left. On the way up, I saw a hiker heading over to explore it. Something I have always been tempted to do myself, but the rules say that we’re supposed to stay on the trails. One of these days…


Although it’s still early spring, this butterfly has been around long enough to get its wings tattered.


This view was pretty unusual. There are lots of wildflowers out, but the yellow ones dominate the visual scene. Only when you get close up do you see the intertwingled little pink and purple flowers. In this particular scene, there isn’t much of a mix at all. Very pretty.



Jacky says this would make a great jigsaw puzzle, but very difficult.


It was just after 4 when I got back to the car, on what had turned out to be a pretty nice day after all.

As I drove back to the main road, I passed three wild turkeys off to the side; the male’s fantail was fully splayed out in the glory of optimism. The females were of course studiously ignoring him, while of course staying right nearby so they wouldn’t miss any of the show.

Rose peak

October 7, 2012

We start with two pictures of the garden spider outside the kitchen window. Very colorful, but as we see in the second picture, he (definitely a he!) is a shameless exhibitionist!

We’re shocked! shocked! or well, I suppose we ought to be.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I spent most of today buying a Kia Soul+. How long does it take to buy a car? Longer than you would think… I did get a loaner from the dealer and disappeared for a few hours to get a new battery for my watch, and get a computer for my new bicycle. But if I had intended to do anything else today, well, it didn’t happen.

Nice car. The first automatic transmission I have ever owned. Six speeds, better gas mileage than the manual, which is not available on this particular model.

Sunday, 7 October

No exercise yesterday, so I’ll do the Rose Peak killer hike that I deferred last weekend because of hundred-degree temperatures in the east bay. I haven’t been here since May, and I had remembered that the gates didn’t open at a reasonable hour. So I got there a few minutes after 7, and the gates only open at 8.


Drove up Welch Creek road, which I also remember as suboptimal. Yes, well, it’s one lane (if you like narrow lanes) and mostly blind. Not a good choice. But I parked at the lower Eagle View trailhead, and was on the trail by about 7:40.

The commercials always feature their car in some exotic adventure locale. Well, why not? Here’s the clean and shiny new Kia, looking better than it ever will again, high above Sunol.

An hour later, along Cerro Este road:

She was out of her den, sunning herself. “Please god, send me a horny male,” she thought. And the next thing she knew, there was Dave, taking pictures and being a general nuisance.

She retreated into her burrow. “Clarification: please god, send me a horny male tarantula.”

A sexy rear-view shot. Tarantulas rub hairs off their abdomens in defence. The little clouds of hairs cause distress in the nasal passages or eyes of predators. She has a fairly bare rump. I wonder if this is how she fights off horny males of the wrong species.

Today’s only other interesting small animal was a beautiful gopher snake.

Dry grass, not a whole lot of animal life. When I was last in the east bay, in early or mid September, there were only one or two early calves among the free-range cattle. Today, almost every cow has a calf, and the calves are old enough that the cows are beginning to lose their agressive protectiveness.

When I came over a little rise, three turkey vultures flew up and started circling. Circling me! Ha! Optimists.

But after a while, I saw a dead cow, and it was upwind. Fortunately the trail turned off a hundred meters away, so it was only mildly unpleasant, instead of revolting.

The scream!

There is a section of trail that runs along the clifftop, and it slopes outward. Nothing below the trail but low bush, probably enough to catch a hiker who slipped, but I can certainly imagine a horse sliding on over the edge, and maybe a bike, too. Part of this trail is loose, steep and narrow, and is bordered with poison oak. Not really the best place to hike.

This is the first time I have done Rose Peak from the top of Welch Creek road. I had originally thought it would be substantially less work than the usual route from Sunol park headquarters. When I got back to the car, I was dragging my butt, and thought I was more out of shape than usual. But the GPS tells me it was 19.7 miles, while the normal route is only a shade more than 19 miles, and both routes include 5 000 feet of vertical gain.

A good day. Home for a shower, after which Jacky and I drove the new car to Menlo Park and wandered around looking for a restaurant. Found a Polish place on a side street, pretty good.

Some of us are seriously spoiled!

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