Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Archive for the month “August, 2009”

Hike 5 – Loop Around Briones Reservoir, August 15, 2009

Another Saturday morning, another frantic drive.  Like I had bloodhounds on my back and murder on my mind.  It was almost quarter to eight and I was late.  Unhappily, I twisted and turned the car along Happy Valley Road.  Laziness, bad directions and an angry blind cat at home had added to my delay.  It all ended quickly once I reached Bear Creek Road and made a turn into the parking lot.

My goal today was to hike the loop around Briones Reservoir.  This was going to be about 13 miles long with about 1,700 ft elevation gain.  The TOPO! map said I’d climb 3,300 ft but the contour maps did not support such exaggerations.

The weather was still behaving like a mellow meditating monk, disengaged from all concerns about the lack of intensity this summer.  Summer hiking in the East Bay is generally for desert rats and people with a much higher tolerance for heat than I.  And possibly long-term residents of Hell.

H-5 P-15

The plan was simple.  Walk on the Bear Creek Trail westward along the south side of the reservoir and then pick up the Oursan Trail to complete the loop.  The success of this mission depended on the peace treaties I had negotiated with my left knee and the lately temperamental back.  I had twisted the knee at home last week and the back had been bothering me for over two weeks now.  I had compensated them with lavish massages and hot water soaks for days.  If nothing else, I figured a good walk would fix their attitude.

As I slammed the car door shut, the thermometer read 53 degrees.  Without a hint of resistance, the cloudless sky had surrendered all control to the sun.  This meant that I’d have to rely on sunscreen, dark glasses and a hat to defend against the blitzkrieg.  Hopefully they’d hold out longer than the Maginot Line.

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Hike 4 – Showdown with Cows at King’s Canyon, August 8, 2009

Lt. Cracker (not his real name but I’m saving the story about how he got this name as one of the leaders of the ill-fated Donut Revolution for a later episode), my occasional hiking partner joined me on the fourth hike of this project.  We decided on a relatively easy hike called the King’s Canyon Loop in the Upper San Leandro Reservoir in the East Bay.  Since Lt. Cracker is less extreme than me, we agreed to meet at the Valle Vista Staging Area trailhead at 8:30 AM.

To get to the trailhead, I drove through the bedroom communities of Orinda and Moraga.  I had not cruised through these towns in years and decided to arouse their residents by giving them a rise and shine call through the car stereo.  Driving at the painfully slow 35 mph speed limit, I left behind a convulsion of sound waves produced by Sleepy Horses.  You can listen to their song “Echoes” here and until recently, download their whole album for free at their website.  The download link is broken now.

The song gets going after almost two minutes, starts cooking after four and lasts about eight.  It sounds better the louder it’s played.

Just before I got to the trailhead I saw an old Hispanic man thumbing a ride.  I wanted to stop and pick him up but my drive was coming to an end so it was pointless to stop.  Seeing him got me thinking about a college student I’d picked up recently.  In the early awkward moments of the ride I told him where I lived and that relaxed him immediately.  He had grown up in Moraga and since I live in a neighboring community, he figured I was like any of his harmless neighbors and not Satan disguised as a smiling immigrant listening to Neil Young on the stereo.

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Hike 3 – Volcanoes, Berries and Redwoods, July 26, 2009

On a cool Saturday morning, I was speeding away towards the hills of Berkeley listening to Jim White sing, “10 Miles To Go On A 9 Mile Road.” Hmm, what are the odds that I would regret this hike and sing this tune in a few hours, I considered quietly. The scars from the previous two hikes were still fresh on my mind. Notably, when I ran out of water on a very hot hike just a week back. One more bad hike and this project could easily slide into a coma, on questionable life support. It was important for me to have a successful (read long, satisfying and enjoyable) hike today.

If you’re curious as to how the song goes, you can listen to it here.

H-3 P-1

I hike because I enjoy hiking. While the challenge is important sometimes, I tolerate danger or pain up to a point. Now, if the weather(wo)man could be trusted, this might turn out to be a pleasurable outing. The temperatures were running unseasonable cool and ideal for a hike anywhere, even though this is peak summer and high temperatures hover around the 90’s and 100’s. A thick layer of fog hung over and around the hills like frosting on a cake. I’m happy with frosting, cake or fog, among other things.

Trail maps indicated that there was plenty of water available along it. There was no danger of running out of water this time. And there were plenty of restrooms to respectfully dispose off the excess water. Still, I carried 62 oz. of Gatorade on me and left a 32 oz. bottle of water on duty as backup in the car. My terrorized brain admitted that this was beyond overkill but it needed assurances and positive experiences before it would release it’s grip on paranoia.

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