Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Hike 42 – Conquering My Everest, May 1, 2010

This hike is going to be brutal.  I know it but I have to do it.  I’m doing everything I can too not feel too anxious.

The last time I was here on a hot summer afternoon, I had to give up and complete it a different time.  Today, I had to conquer this hill.  This time I had two strong allies on my side: experience, and better planning.

My goal was a modest 11.2 mile hike with about 1,850 feet of total climb.  The section I struggled with two years ago was a 1,000 foot climb in just over a mile.  It was a hot summer afternoon and I almost made it to the top before concluding it was best to turn around and live another day.  I completed the section from the opposite direction later.

At 7:10 AM, I pulled into the Round Valley Regional Preserve parking lot.  The temperature this early was a cool 56 degrees.  It looked like an awesome day to hike.  Conditions were windy and a little cold but those would only help me in my hike.  Out here, I’ll gladly take windy and cold over hot and stuffy conditions.

The hike began with two quick climbs that warmed me up and got my heartbeat going.  The sun cast long exaggerated shadows of my legs and I wished I had such long legs.  I could use them on that killer steep section.

Round Valley Regional Preserve happens to be among one of my favorite parks in the East Bay Regional Park District system.  I love the beautifully contoured rolling hills that look like camel backs.  It is home to a number of endangered species including the red-legged frog and the San Joaquin kit fox.  Because of it’s remoteness, not many people know about it.

The hike would take me from Round Valley through Los Vaqueros Reservoir to Morgan Territory Preserve.  The first 3.7 miles of the trail rise gently about 400 feet.  After that, a 1,000 foot monster rises up in 1.15 miles and it is followed by a 350 feet climb in less than a mile.

For the most part, the wind carried away the sound of birds chirping and the contents of my daypack violently elbowing each other.  The trail here was dry and crunched under my boots.  A dry crunchy trail would help with traction.  Wet trails during winter and dusty trails in summer and fall make hiking here challenging.

As I approached the entrance to Los Vaqueros Reservoir & Watershed, I saw the ominous-looking Morgan Territory Ridge looming large in front of me.  This was my Everest.  I was glad that things were different this time.  I was hiking in spring, not summer.  The day was still fresh and the temperature was significantly friendlier.  Besides, I now had the knowledge of how close I was to the end of the climb before I turned back and knew I would be able to do this with ease today.

The trail began climbing immediately.  An hour later, I got to the turnaround point; the intersection of Miwok and Blue Oak Trails.  The Los Vaqueros section was steep and did not have any flat or down sections.  The section through Morgan Territory was also up and had some steep parts, but it was flat in a few places and overall not as steep a climb.  My legs thanked the folks who designed this section of the trail and cursed the designers of the Los Vaqueros section of the trail.

From the top of the ridge I could see the Central Valley, the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains as well as Los Vaqueros reservoir itself.  I turned back with a smile.

Heading back to Round Valley, the morning breeze had warmed up from chilling to refreshing and I enjoyed that.  I was back in the car by 11:15 AM with the thermometer settled at a comfortable 75 degrees.

This was a perfect day and weekend for hiking.  Besides, the monster was slayed and it did not bother me any more.  The lesson of this hike was that knowledge, experience and planning make a big difference.

On the drive back home I realized that I may not be doing many more hikes in the East Bay until the fall because temperatures were warming up.

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

Here’s a slideshow of these and other photographs from the hike:

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