Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Archive for the month “June, 2010”

Hike 34 – The Rolling Hills of Round Valley, March 28, 2010

Early Sunday morning, I jumped out of bed excited to be hitting the trail again. This time I was planning to hike some new sections of Round Valley Regional Preserve. I had first hiked here a couple of years ago and since then, this park has become one of my favorites among the East Bay Regional Park system. This was the best time of the year to hike here since the hills in the area were lush green after the winter and spring rains.

I enjoy driving along Marsh Creek Road where the park is situated, and watch the landscape unfold as the miles roll by. The fun begins after crossing the small city of Clayton which rests peacefully under the shadow of Mt. Diablo. Steep hills and equestrian farms line the winding two-lane road for a while. Then the landscape begin to mellow out and canyon walls open up to reveal gently rolling hills. Eventually the hills flatten out completely and give way to some of the most fertile farmlands in the nation.

But today I was lucky to get to the trailhead at all. I avoided a near collision with a car driven by a semi-awake zombie along Marsh Creek Road. He had drifted on to my side of the road but was able to correct his mistake in time. I figured it was just as well. A near-death experience would certainly add to my appreciation of this hike and beautiful day.

At 8:25 AM I took my first step on the trail. Temperature outside was 50 degrees and there were six other cars in the lot. I was surprised to see so many cars but was glad nonetheless to note that other folks too were out enjoying this park. One of the cars there, a silver Acura, looked familiar. I thought I had seen it at the parking lot at yesterday’s hike as well. What I noted about both the cars was that the front passenger’s seat was folded down. It could be a coincidence or a like-minded person. Anyway, I had some trails to check out and miles to eat, so off I went.

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Hike 33 – Completing Trails Challenge 2010, March 27, 2010

The morning began with excitement.  This hike would wrap up Trails Challenge 2010 for me.  Also, I had hiked each day the last two weekends and hoped to hike both days this weekend too.  If successful, I would start catching up on the number of hikes I was behind.  It was looking like I might be able to hike 52 times over 52 weeks after all.  🙂

Unfortunately, I stayed up late the night before and that delayed my departure this morning.  On top of that, Google Maps gave me wrong directions to the trailhead.  So I finally pulled into the Clyde Woolridge Staging Area along Grass Valley Road around 9:10 AM instead of an hour earlier.

But conditions outside were ideal for hiking.  The temperature was 55 degrees and the sky a cloudless clear blue.  Silencing the music I had enjoyed in the car, I stepped out to the sound of loud but distant gunfire.  There is a marksmanship range at the park and since I had not heard reports of random bullets striking hikers or bikers, I figured I was safe here.  My goal today was to cover the 12.4 mile Lake Chabot Bicycle Loop.

Audio of gunfire:

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Hike 32 – Like Nothing Before, March 21, 2010

I was happily driving along Happy Valley Road through Lafayette, thinking this indeed is a very happy place.  There were plenty of reasons for my happiness:

  • There were daffodils and other colorful flowers lining both sides of this winding road.  I highly recommend a spring-time drive on Happy Valley Road to experience this wildflower show.
  • I was listening to some amazing music in the car.  Specifically, “Chicago Wind” by Andrew Bryant, the song currently playing.
  • My wife and I were both feeling healthy again.  It looked like we had finally licked the cold that had been bothering us for nearly two months.
  • I had completed a 10+ mile hike yesterday with relative ease.
  • If I could complete my 10+ mile hike today, I would be only one hike away from completing Trails Challenge 2010.  Yeehaw!

There was one more reason I was looking forward to this hike.  Yesterdays’ hike included total climbs of about 1,000 feet.  I would climb about 1,800 to 2,000 feet today.  This would be a better gauge of my mental and physical recovery from the weeks of battling a cold.  If successful, I could then seriously concentrate on making up for the hikes I had fallen behind on this “52 Hikes” project.

At 8:30 AM I pulled into the Bear Creek Staging Area parking lot.  There was just one other car there.  The temperature at the trailhead was a bitter 45 degrees with no hope of sunshine.  But the hills were rich with a layer of fresh green grass, and that was good enough for me.  I was planning to complete the challenging loop described in the Trails Challenge 2010 Guidebook.

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Hike 31 – This is the Place to Soothe Your Mind, March 20, 2010

It felt good to be tapping my fingers on the steering wheel again. Better yet (for the world at large, since no one could hear me), I was singing loudly along with the song. I was definitely feeling good this morning. The best part was that it had nothing to do with drugs, medication, caffeine or nicotine. The cold my wife and I had been battling for weeks was gone and on top of that I was enjoying some great music.

For the last few months, I had been going crazy driving long distances to and from hikes without having any interesting music to listen to. Finally, I made a mix CD of some of the newer songs I had acquired. I enjoy listening to sad songs because they always make me happy. This time it was The Flatlanders (a super-group from Lubbock, Texas consisting of a cast of rotating musicians centered around Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock) singing “Homeland Refugee,” a song about the current mortgage and housing crisis:

Now I’m leaving California for the dust bowl
They took it all, there’s nowhere else to go
The pastures of plenty are burning by the sea
And I’m just a homeland refugee…

At 8:10 AM, I pulled into Wildcat Canyon Staging Area in Richmond, California. Today I was planning to go on hike three of five of Trails Challenge 2010. The temperature at the parking lot was a cold 52 degrees and the landscape looked stark and desolate. Three other cars were parked in the lot this foggy and cloudy morning. Meanwhile, a sign at the trailhead warned us to watch out for, of all things, a nudist touching himself inappropriately, not mountain lions or rattlesnakes. California, I love you.

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