Hike 23 – Las Trampas Rocky Ridge, January 9, 2010
My morning began at 6:00 AM when I silenced the first of two alarms I had set for the wake-up call. What ensued next was a 10-minute tussle between the two sides of my brain. One urging me to stay in bed and skip the hike. The other encouraging me to go out, stretch my legs and enjoy the outdoors. I looked out of the window and it was not raining. Better yet, the roads were dry which meant no overnight rain either. Thankfully, I was out of excuses.
This was the third time in two months I was hiking in Las Trampas Regional Preserve. I had enjoyed my previous two hikes here (Bollinger Canyon Gem and The Ridges of Las Trampas) and was looking forward to going back for more. The goal was to hike the Rocky Ridge Trail to the entrance to the Upper San Leandro Reservoir. Then I would take the Ridge Loop Trail and head back out again. This would make a nice 6.5 mile hike with about 2,000 ft elevation change. If everything went well, I would be done in roughly 3 hours. I would climb about 1,000 ft, then head down about 1,000 ft, climb back up 1,000 ft and down again.
I pulled into Las Trampas Staging Area parking lot at just after 8:15 AM. The drive over had been foggy, especially along the freeway. But as I got closer to the trailhead, the fog got thinner and it had totally cleared out by the time I parked the car. Still, there was heavy cloud cover overhead. I noted that there were more cars here this time than the previous two times. I figured this was the new years’ resolution crowd out today.
The hike began on the Rocky Ridge View Trail which is a paved road. It is not the prettiest but it was steep so all I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other, instead of fretting about walking over a paved road. The trailhead at 43 degrees was cold and there was a light breeze blowing too, so my body needed to warm up as soon as possible. Which is why, I was not complaining about the climb yet. Besides, having hiked here before, I knew that this was a steady climb, not too challenging and that it lasted only about a mile.
A group of older folks were out on their hike ahead of me. Not the new years’ resolution crowd, I mused. I wondered if I would be able to catch up to them or not. It was disheartening to note that we were hiking at roughly the same pace. What was worse was that they had walking sticks, not because they needed it for the steep section; they needed these sticks to walk, period. Feeling slightly embarrassed by my pace, or lack thereof, I egged myself on. About half-way up the first climb I passed the first group of geriatrics; two old ladies, who thankfully had stopped, apparently lost in their deep conversation. Near the top I passed the three old guys and now I felt better, and warmer as well.
At the top of the hill I entered the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s (EBMUD) Upper San Leandro Reservoir. A hiking permit is required for hiking within EBMUD land and I had purchased an annual pass about six months ago, so I was covered.
In the distance, I could see the fog creeping in the valleys and dark peaks floating on a sea of white. The trail now headed down and I could see the coastal range and the fog in between. I noted Mt. Tamalpais in the distance rearing out of what had to be Marin County. The Bay was covered in fog and The City (by that I mean San Francisco) had yet to emerge. The fog kept rolling in slowly like a dancer in motion, and I watched slack-jawed and mesmerized.
My love for the fog has everything to do with my youth in India. Like the English before us, during the summer school break, we would leave the hot plains and head up to the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, where it was cooler. Often these “hill stations” had foggy mornings and evenings and sometimes we would even go past the snow line and go sledding in summer. So the fog always reminds me of summer vacations. I think that it is fantastic that we live in a place that always reminds me of our fun-filled childhood summers.
With these happy thoughts, I noted that the trail entered a forest with dense trees that formed a canopy overhead. It got cold but it was comforting in a mother-and-child kind of way. A shiver ran through me. I noted how pretty and quiet the settings were. I heard a flock of birds chirping away, and their sounds were eventually replaced by overhead metal birds screaming with their jet-engine lungs.
Once the airplanes had passed, the west side of the trail got very quiet and peaceful again. As the name suggests, the Rocky Ridge Trail is indeed rocky. Large trees covered the rocks below like tents beckoning the weary traveler. I could very well imagine royalty or a hunting party from the past resting underneath this canopy of trees. The rocks were scattered randomly, and this was the only hill that had rocks on it. It had a Japanese zen garden feel to it.
Once again I marveled that I live this close to some awesome and amazing hikes. I thought about the conversation Lt. Cracker and I had a few weeks back on our last hike of 2009 in Mt. Diablo State Park, and how fortunate we both felt to live within minutes of some very pretty hikes. We have the option of driving a few minutes or just a few hours to get totally lost in nature. We never seem to be too far from an amazing hiking trail. I can’t believe the life I live.
Soon I was climbing up again. The trail here was muddy and slippery and my shoes were wet from the morning dew. The water had managed to get to my socks too. It was a little uncomfortable but I survived. I was fully warmed up again and a gentle breeze accompanied me. I felt good. The hot oatmeal breakfast I had eaten this morning had kept me going this long. It had fueled and supported me.
After struggling all morning, the sun was finally able to make a little headway against the clouds. It was strong enough to cast a weak shadow. Meanwhile, sections of the last climb up were so steep that I was bent over like an old woman with osteoporosis. I remembered my grandmother who had suffered from osteoporosis and was severely bent in the latter part of her life.
The small steep sections on this second 1,000 ft climb were testing my resolve. Thanks to the elevation profile I had created with the TOPO! software, I knew that this would soon end. Having this extra bit of information helped me in placing one foot in front of the next.
Near the top of the hike, the landscape once again began to look familiar. I could see the Sycamore Trail, the one I had taken about two months back. Yes! My climb was coming to and end and things would be relatively flat and downhill soon.
At 11:15 AM I sauntered up to the car. The temperature was a milder 54 degrees. I noted that the parking lot was nearly full now. Oh yeah, the new years’ resolution crowd was definitely out. I had met more people on the popular sections of the trail this time around. Most were going up as I was heading down the last mile of the Rocky Ridge View Trail. These are not unhealthy people wanting to get in shape; they looked like people who were in good shape, who wanted to be outdoors more.
On the drive over I was listening to Dave Alvin’s song “Rio Grande” and in it he sings “caught on the border between the future and the past, one fading slowly, the other approaching fast…” Those lines pretty much described the weather today. Here’s the song for your enjoyment.
This was a very enjoyable hike and I was glad I had headed out on the walk. These are the four things I liked most about the day: solitude in sections of the hike, views, the moderate challenge and the fog. Also, I enjoyed having got an early start on the day. I had avoided crowds and had finished early enough so that I had the rest of the day open for other things.
Here’s a slideshow of pictures from the hike: