Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Hike 26 – A Pleasant Ridge Marks the Halfway Point, February 7, 2010

With great anticipation, I had been looking forward to this hike.  There were three main reasons for it:

  1. This was Hike #26; the halfway point of my goal to hike 52 times within a year.  Even though I was five weeks behind schedule, this was still a significant landmark in my project.
  2. I could use this as an opportunity to reflect back on the last twenty-six hikes and hopefully come up with some insights; something profound, pearls of wisdom perhaps, or at a minimum, a list of favorite hikes.
  3. Finally and most importantly, I was hoping to have my wife join me on this one.  Having her along on a hike to mark the mid-point of this endeavor would be especially nice.  I would not be able do this without her encouragement and support.

Our plan was to go on a short city walk together; a ramble through North Beach with some interesting stairways of San Francisco tossed in for variety.  However, our plans fizzled out because she was sick and in no condition for any kind of physical activity.  Besides, I was not feeling too good myself, having contracted the same virus from her a few days before.

So the evening before, I searched for reasonable hikes close to home.  Nothing too challenging, but with enough options to expand or contract the length easily without having to backtrack too much.  Something with a series of loops would be perfect so that I could easily control the length based on how the day went.  A hike along the ridge in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Additionally, this was SuperBowl (or SuperBore, if like me, you too are not a football follower; for the record, I’m a hockey fan) weekend so I expected very few people on the trail.  I expected most people to be partying or getting ready to party with no inclination to hike this weekend.

My morning began with a wrestling match with two alarm clocks and they lost.  I was not feeling up to the task of starting my day having spent the night with very little sleep.  I had stayed up late that night, reading an interesting book about San Francisco by Herb Caen.  On top of that, the infection had turned my wife’s body into a coughing machine all night long, so neither of us got much sleep.

Hours later than planned, I left home somewhat reluctantly.  Outside the window I could see blue sky as well as clouds.  The forecast called for a slight chance of rain and then decreasing cloudiness throughout the day.  But I suspected that we would get no rain.  The day would only get better and I felt I had to do the best I could with this gift of a beautiful winter day.  Temperatures would be low but the sun would feel nice for sure.  Besides, cold weather is something one can deal with and protect against.

So, I popped a couple of Tylenols and headed out for the day.  My wife encouraged me to go out and hike instead of staying at home and using body ache and lack of sleep as excuses.  At 9:50 AM I pulled into the Foothills Staging Area parking lot of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. The thermometer registered a happy 54 degrees.

On the drive over, the sun was out most of the way but by the time I got to the trailhead, clouds had moved in.  The hike began along the Oak Tree Trail which is really a dirt road, not a trail.  It began as a gentle climb up.  The staging area is rather close to I-680, so there was considerable freeway noise on this section.  I hoped the sounds would eventually die away.  As the hike progressed and I got higher, the views got better too.

Soon I began running into people on the trail.  I figured they were building up an appetite for their SuperBore bingeing later in the day.  Everyone I met here was very friendly.  I heard a lot of big hellos, good mornings and saw many wide smiles.  They seemed genuinely happy to see me, like I was their long-term next door neighbor.  I suspected everyone was just happy to be out on the trail on such a beautiful day.

The only negative I encountered on this segment was cow poop and how nasty and pungent it smelled.  It was much worse than anything I can recall on past hikes.  I wondered if the recent rains had something to do with it.  The Oak Tree Trail was a mixture of wet and dry, but the wet parts were not too bad.  They were easy to cross and posed no serious problems.

About a mile into my hike, I got to Ridgeline Trail and headed north on it.  Soon thereafter I crossed an olive grove and noticed there were a number of black olives on the trees.  Apparently someone had planted neat rows of olive trees sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  No record about who planted these exists.  Later, the Thermal Fruit Company owned orchards in this area and planted apricots, prunes, cherries and almonds.

The views along the ridge were of cascading ranges on either side.  Pleasanton Ridge is flanked with other ridges running parallel to it.  While the sun was still not out, I was enjoying the hike so far.  The sun would have made for nicer pictures.  Meanwhile, I continued to meet very happy people on the trail.  By the time the hike ended, I had met well over 40 people, a record for me I think.

At the halfway point, I took the Thermalito Trail back (named for the Thermal Fruit Company).  The hike so far had been steady up.  Now it would be mostly steady down.  Interestingly, I was now seeing some patches of blue sky.  Unfortunately, the Thermalito Trail is below the Ridgeline Trail and I was on the shadow side of the hike.  Therefore, I did not have great views or photo opportunities.  Around 11:20 AM, the sun finally came out in full swing.  If I had hiked in the opposite direction, I would have been on in the sunny side of the hike and gotten great pictures.  I did what I could do; kept walking and enjoying what I could.

As the hike came to its conclusion, I tried to think about my favorite hikes so far and I came up with nothing.  Mainly because I enjoyed every one of them.  Choosing one over the other seemed futile.  Besides, I had a problem recalling a number of them.  I suppose one could use that as a gauge for picking memorable hikes.  And I suppose it would work for someone who had a reasonably good memory.  But I’m the kind of guy who can’t recall the previous night’s dinner, let alone hikes going back 31 weeks.  Yikes!

In terms of words of wisdom, again I came up with nothing.  I am glad that I enjoy hiking and that’s why I head out to the trail as often as I do.  I must mention though that I am glad to live in an area that offers ample opportunities for outdoor activities and the weather to go along with it.  And that there are agencies protecting and preserving these spaces for us and maintaining these amazing trails for our enjoyment.

Shortly after noon I was back at the car.  The hike had been about 5.25 miles long with about 1,200 feet of total climbing and I had enjoyed it immensely.

Here’s a map of the hike courtesy of Google Maps:

Here’s a link to trail map from East Bay Regional Park District website – http://www.ebparks.org/parks/pleasanton#trailmap

Here’s a slideshow of pictures from the hike:

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