Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Hike 39 – Nothing Like the Grand Canyon, April 18, 2010

My morning began with a cup of tea enjoyed leisurely.  After an evening hike the day before, I was determined to take it easy today.

The usual distractions including laziness, email and the internet kept me home longer than they should have.  But I was not complaining.  After weeks of hiking in cold conditions, I would finally be able to hike free of jackets, vests or fleeces.  Back to the joys of hiking unencumbered; just jeans and t-shirt.

Everything suggested that this would be a great day to hike.

Pulling into Marshall Drive in Walnut Creek, I silenced the engine and The Magnetic Fields song “Grand Canyon” faded out with it.

My plan was to tackle the beginning of the Diablo Trail.  This would be section one of six of the Diablo Trail for me.  A week back I had covered section four of the trail.  This section would be an easy out and back 11 mile roundtrip with total climb of 1,400 feet.  There was nothing grand or canyon-like about this hike.

My trek began on the Jeep Trail in Shell Ridge Open Space Preserve.  Apparently the entire city of Walnut Creek had decided that 8:50 AM on Sunday, April 18, 2010 was the best time and day in their lives to be outdoors.

Walkers, joggers and dog handlers in every shape, size, color and clothing were out and I was not thrilled with the vibe.  I prefer trails that are quiet and unpopulated.  I quickened my pace to flee them all.  I figured I would escape most of them once I got 2 or 3 miles or about 40 to 60 minutes
from the trailhead.  After that one encounters only the few hardcore types.

Sure enough, as I crossed the gate into the Diablo Foothills Regional Park maintained by East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), I lost the crowds.  I speculate it had something to do with the smells.  Most EBRPD properties allow cattle grazing which creates a toxic environment for trail users.  Anyone with a barely functional nose will immediately know when they enter an EBRPD property. The smells are strong, brutal, unforgiving and absolutely overpowering.

There were plenty of cows and cow discharge in all shapes and forms on the trail.  It kept me nimble and honest on my feet.  At times I felt I was moving like a ballerina.  Oh, if my mother could only see me now.  My olfactory nerves meanwhile were on overdrive.  Overstimulated and ready to sign up for any form of Eastern suicide ritual.

About then, a jogger and his two sheepherder dogs overtook me.  As soon as the canines saw cows on the trail, they instinctively got to work and began to herd them off the trail.  I made a mental note to talk to my wife about getting sheepherding dogs for my hikes.

Meanwhile, the hills and the views opened up.  The hills were rolling now with gentle spaces instead of devouring canyons between them.  The temperature warmed up and I even began to sweat a bit.  Sweating actually felt good today.  The late morning breeze helped to cool me off and I never felt uncomfortably hot.

About two hours into the hike, I got to the turnaround point.  The trail so far had been totally exposed and it had been a clear and sunny day.  The hike had been gentle with some ups and downs, occasional steep sections but nothing to strenuous.  Overall, it was a great hiking trail and I was thoroughly enjoying it.

Approaching the end of the hike, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt saying “Old Guys Rule.”  I thought of an online acquaintance and smiled.  His screen name is OldGuysRule and I call him “Ogre.”  He often hikes and snowshoes in the Grand Canyon.  Sometimes when the snow gets bad, he has to snowshoe three or four miles to get from town to his cabin because the roads are closed.

A little after 12:30 PM, I was back at the car.  The temperature had climbed up from 54 degrees at the beginning of the hike to a pleasant 74 degrees by the end of it.

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:  http://www.ebparks.org/parks/diablo_foothills

Here’s a slideshow of photographs from the hike:

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