On Friday Chris Hall and I set off on a hike I had always wanted to try. Admittedly though, I had always wanted to try this hike in the pleasant spring weather while the hills were still green. Although we didn't make the hike at the right time, we didn't regret it.
We headed out Friday morning at around 10:30 AM from the Stanford Parking lot in Fremont west of Mission Peak. We quickly made the 3 mile ascent up Mission peak from an elevation of 390 to 2517 feet. The hike is popular, and the peak was full of plenty of folks with tattoos. I don't know what the relation is between tattoos and hiking Mission Peak, but there's certainly sort of correlation. Chris and I made it up the peak pretty fast, and in my head I was quite proud that we were ascending the peak with backpacks as fast as the others ascended without backpacks. Later I would be regretting this attitude, as by the end of the day we would approach our physical limits.
We then descended down Mission Peak for about 5 or 6 miles to the Sunol Regional Wilderness. This was probably the easiest section of the hike, as our legs were still fresh to handle the descent that was not too steep.
We watered up in Sunol, and then climbed the eastern slopes of the Sunol Regional Wilderness heading towards Rose Peak. The climb was grueling under the hot sun on the bare hill sides. It was hard enough making it to the Sunol Backpacker Camps at the east end of the park (mile 12, 1590 feet). But Rose peak was still a long ways out and up.
We continued the long, hot descent, stopping frequently to re-hydrate at just about any nice shade we could find. Chris and I joked a lot about being left for dead in the hot sun with nobody to find us (as we saw nobody on the trail from the Sunol Regional Wilderness all the way to our campground). Somehow I think this humor helped us get through that hot afternoon. What also helped was to see my first bobcat sprint across a field. I had actually joked with Chris earlier in the trip that it would be awesome to see a bobcat and a mountain lion. Well, at least we saw one of 'em!
We continued climbing, passing South Fork Indian Creek at mile 16, 2800 feet. Then we passed Doe Canyon Camp Junction at 3380, where we were pleasantly surprised to see deer crossing the trail! At last we made it to Maggie's Half Acre, our campground immediately below Rose Peak, at around 8 in the evening. The campground is at about mile 18 (not including our extra jaunt up Mission Peak), at 3590 feet. Chris and I had talked about relaxing under the stars and getting some good reading done. I think we both read a few minutes of our scriptures, and then conked out within a half hour of lying down. I was nearing sleep at about 9 o'clock. No star gazing above the cloud line for us!
After sleeping well under pleasant skies, we packed up and ascended Rose Peak, the highest point in Alameda County at 3817 feet. From Rose peak one can see the coastal hills, Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Diablo, and Mt. Tamalpais. I suppose on a very clear day one could see the Sierra Nevada range.
We rejoiced at the prospect of descent after a day of climbing. Though I would quickly come to realize that my sore knees and tired feet would not handle the descent well. Chris is far better at descending than I am. I feel like the section of the hike from Rose Peak to just before Del Valle (going down the Big Burn) is the most scenic of the hike as it passes through some highlands and more forested areas. There were even some areas that were still quite green.
I found the descent quite rough, and Chris had to stop to wait for me on several occasions. I think being a heavier hiker on small feet/ankles wears on me. So hopefully I can get a little lighter and stronger this summer to remedy that.
By 12:45 pm we arrived at the parking lot in Del Valle, pooped out and ready for home after about 30 miles of hiking. In the next day I must have consumed nearly 8000 calories, still feeling plenty hungry. But I was glad to know my limits were greater than I knew before.
Here's to new challenges!