Hike 30 – The Foothills of Devil Mountain, March 14, 2010
My morning began with a lot of death threats directed towards the alarm clock and Daylight Savings Time. Today time sprang forward an hour, depriving all the good citizens of America an hour of sleep. It also meant that the sun rose an hour earlier so everything would be brighter when I opened my eyes. I don’t like that. Meanwhile, my wife and I were still fighting a cold and had spent another restless night. Needless to say, my motivation to hike today was low.
My plan was to go on a 7.5 mile hike in the Diablo Foothills Regional Park. This would be the second of a minimum of five hikes I had to complete as part of Trails Challenge 2010. But I felt that mentally and physically I could not handle 7.5 miles, and I struggled to get myself excited about the challenge. Finally my wife came up with a clever solution and suggested I plan an easy hike, and if I felt good enough, extend it to the moderate or challenging loop. Trails Challenge 2010 offers three alternatives to each hike and classifies them as easy, moderate and challenging, and one can easily switch between the three.
With an improved attitude, I jumped into the shower enthusiastically. I am usually my brightest, bravest and boldest in the shower and there it dawned on me that the best I would be able to do today might be a moderate hike. I just did not have the capacity to take on a challenging hike. Under normal circumstances, I would find this 7.5 mile “challenging” hike easy.
Unfortunately, all this procrastinating, debating and motivating took a toll on time. So I pulled into the Castle Rock parking lot in Walnut Creek at 9:45 AM instead of 7 AM as planned, or more truthfully, dreamt. I wanted to get some early morning, sunrise photographs on the trail this spring but it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully, the temperature at the trailhead was 52 degrees and the sky was blue with barely any clouds. It was indeed a perfect day to enjoy the outdoors.
The hike began along Pine Creek which could be described as a rather happy, upbeat and chirpy companion. It was great for company and like magic, uplifted my sour mood. I felt better about picking the “moderate” 5 mile hike and looked forward to enjoying it. While Pine Creek was great company, the trail I was on (Castle Rock Trail), was nasty and treacherous right off the get go. It was very muddy, wet, sticky and slippery because of the rains. While this section of the trail is gentle on the legs, a bad slip here could definitely ruin the day, not to mention the gear and camera.
Soon it joined the Stage Road Trail which was dryer and continued to remain gentle. As the hike progressed, I felt better about being outdoors again. I was even looking forward to hiking up the steep Buckeye Ravine Trail. I expected that section would test my resolve to hike today and I would quickly know if I could complete the “challenging” 7.5 mile loop. Either way, if I could negotiate the Buckeye Ravine Trail successfully, everything would be easy after that.
As expected, the Buckeye Ravine Trail was wet and messy. I pitied the folks who had decided to take this section down. Most of the marks I saw on the trail were those made by the slipping feet of downhill hikers. I was glad to be heading up because I could firmly plant one foot before lifting the other, thereby having better balance and traction and preventing slips and falls. The trail soon brought me to the Briones to Mt. Diablo Regional Trail and I turned right on it.
This section of the trail was exposed and I was hoping to see rolling hillsides covered with wild flowers given the recent mix of rain and sunshine. Unfortunately, I was disappointed because there were hardly any wild flowers yet. Eventually I came to a clump of yellow flowers and took some photographs. Still, there were other rewards for me, mainly the views of beautiful green rolling hills that dominate this park, and a beautiful springtime hike.
A short distance later, I picked up the other section of Buckeye Ravine Trail heading down. Thankfully this was shorter and flatter than the previous segment. It was also more exposed, hence dryer too. Still, I managed to step into a pool of muddy water and got my hiking boots totally wet and splashed mud all over my hiking trousers.
Soon, I picked up the Shell Ridge Loop Trail and it started climbing up. A few sections of this trail were steep and exposed to the wind as well. I zipped up the vest, put my head down and continued climbing. I was feeling cold and since I stopped often to take photographs, didn’t warm up sufficiently. A couple approached me from the opposite direction with extra large (or whatever fancy name coffee shops calls them), cups of coffee in their hands. I wished there was a coffee and donut stand on this trail because I could have used a hot beverage and a sugar-rush right then.
But I also knew that my hike was soon coming to an end. I wondered if I could have done the 7.5 mile loop. A part of me said, “Sure, without a problem.” However, when I re-phrased the question, “Would I be able to repeat half of the hike right now?” The answer quickly and emphatically was, “No!” I’m glad I listened to my wise wife and what my body was telling me, instead of taking a stupid rigid macho stand, and insisting on going for the longer loop.
Finally, at 11:30 AM, after negotiating yet another treacherous section of the Castle Rock Trail, I got back to the car. The temperature at the trailhead had crept up to 60 degrees now. The parking lot was full and there were cars waiting for open spots.
Even though I had opted for the shorter hike, it had taken a lot out of me. Back home shortly, I had lunch and immediately crashed for the afternoon. Hopefully, we both could lick this infection soon and get back to our regular lives.
Here’s a map of the hike courtesy of Google Maps:
Here’s a link to a brochure and trail map from the East Bay Regional Park District website:
Link to Trails Challenge 2010 website:
Here’s a slideshow of pictures from the hike: