Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trip Report: Emilie’s Training Hike Mount Diablo State Park

Ksenya and Emilie on the North Peak Trail on our way to Mt. Olympia.

My friend Emilie is training to climb Denali — a.k.a. Mount McKinley — in Alaska this summer, so she invited a few of her hiking friends to join her on a training hike in Mount Diablo State Park. I was hesitant to go as it sounded a little ambitious for me but Emilie assured me that she would be carrying a 35 pound pack thus slowing her down a little bit.

The weather forecast being for rain, several of Emilie’s friends dropped out, but her friend Ksenya and I weren’t afraid of a little water and mud. It ended up being quite nice weather for a strenuous hike as it was breezy and cool with partial cloudiness. Blue sky would pop in and out between the clouds making for some nice views here and there. The only drag was the sticky clay mud in some areas, but I just pretended the extra mud weight clinging to my boots was snowshoes weighing my feet down — training for next week’s snowcamping trip.

Dayhike Stats:
  • Date: January 24, 2009
  • Location: CA, Clayton, Mount Diablo State Park
  • Mileage: ~10.25 mi round trip
  • Elevation: +/-3,578'; lo pt 530'; hi pt 3,306'
  • Trailhead: end of Regency Dr., City of Clayton Open Space
  • TH Lat/Long.: 37.92208099, -121.9267883
  • TH Facilities: none
  • Trails Hiked: Donner Canyon Road, Meridian Ridge Road, Prospectors Gap Road, North Peak Road, North Peak Trail, Mt Olympia Road, Olympia Trail, Cardinet Oaks Road, and back to Donner Canyon Road.
  • Route Type: lollipop loop
  • Trail Terrain: mostly steep fire road; some rocky/gravely single track.
  • Flora: oak woodland/savanna, foothill woodland with gray pine, chaparral, & riparian; lots of mistletoe on oaks in Clayton Open Space & daffodils along Donner Canyon Road.
  • Why Go?: nice views to the north and east of Clayton, Pittsburg, Antioch, the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and beyond; lots of elevation gain = good backpacking/mountain climbing training; landmarks visited: Meridian Point, Prospectors Gap, and Mt Olympia
  • Caveats: steep and long — not for the beginner or couch potato or those with bad knees. Fire roads are exposed to the elements. Lots of sticky clay mud when wet.
  • Official Website: California State Parks Mount Diablo
  • Other Websites: Save Mount Diablo & Mount Diablo Interpretive Association
  • View my photo album.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trip Report: Mission Peak Dayhike

Mission Peak from the Stanford Ave. trailhead parking lot, Fremont, CA.

Rumored to have amazing views, I've wanted to hike Mission Peak for a while. So after watching Obama's inauguration, and being a mostly clear, warm January day, I headed down to Fremont for a butt-kicker of a hike. Just before reaching the trailhead, I stopped to enjoy a western bacon cheeseburger guilt free (one of my favorite guilty pleasures) as I knew I would definitely be burning it off on this one.

Dayhike Stats:
  • Date: January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day
  • Location: Fremont, CA, Mission Peak Regional Preserve
  • Mileage: ~6.3 mi round trip
  • Elevation: +/-2100'; lo pt 378'; hi pt 2,517'
  • Trailhead: end of Stanford Ave., Fremont
  • TH Lat/Long.: 37.50419998, -121.908493
  • TH Facilities: toilet, water fountain, picnic table
  • Trails Hiked: Hidden Valley Trail, Peak Trail
  • Route Type: up and back
  • Trail Terrain: steep double track/fire road with gravel; rocky near top; rated strenuous.
  • Why go?: 360° views; oak savanna/grassland; ground squirrels galore, coyote, birds of prey; dogs allowed (pick up poo bags please); Plenty of benches with views along route.
  • Caveats: cows = muddy when wet; popular = people & trash (pack it out!); 2100' elev. gain in 3 miles = strenuous; gravel on a steep grade = slippery
  • Official Website: EBRPD Mission Peak Regional Preserve
  • View the photo album.
Coyote looking for a meal.

Invasion of the Ground Squirrels & One Coyote

I've never seen so many ground squirrels in my life. There were hundreds and that is no exaggeration. They were chirping and chasing and digging—doing squirrel work. Near the summit I saw a hunting coyote stalking the plentiful ground squirrel prey. Thankfully I didn't see him actually eat any, but I was hoping he scored a delectable dinner eventually.

The artifacts of a consumer culture.

Trashy Lazy People

On the hike up, I noticed an inordinate amount of plastic water bottle and orange peel discards. At a semi-flat spot just below the peak there were these two trash cans overflowing with plastic garbage. There was also plastic garbage strewn about the summit.

It's sad and maddening that people find it acceptable to trash such a beautiful place. What's worse is that they carried this stuff up the hill full. They can't carry it back down empty thus lighter? I realize some of the offending parties who normally wouldn't litter felt entitled to use the trash cans, even though filled way beyond capacity, just because they were there, and hey, we are tax payers and some "public servant" is going to come up here and clean up after us right?

Well I picked up and carried out several bottles begrudgingly, as I feel litter bugs should be forced to wallow in their own filth, but unfortunately they are already deep in it and are so oblivious they don't realize it. Where is Woodsy Owl when you need him?

Me with Flag

Me standing with the flag on Mission Peak which is not the actual peak.

The Peak is Not The Peak

The actual peak of Mission Peak is not the flag pictured above. It is the lump behind me in the photo. While standing next to the flag, I noticed that the hump behind me was higher so I went exploring. There is a surveyor's mark and a little hand made sign consisting of a sawed railroad tie and nails acting as text. The few people that were up there when I was just went to the flag and then off they marched back down the hill.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the metal post thing with the funny pipes sticking out of it that the flag is attached to actually points out landmarks. I'll have to see if there is a key. The metal post has numbers so somewhere there has to be an explanation.

Mission Peak Sign

My shadow and the official(?) railroad tie and nail sign marker for Mission Peak.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rant Alert: Drill Baby Drill

At under $2 per gallon do we really need to rape our coastline? Well guess what folks: Ol' Georgie Porgie Bush wants to sneak in some last minute sales of OUR coastline to oil and gas exploration.

I think we all learned from the recent precipitous drop from over $4 to under $2 per gallon in gas prices that "supply and demand" wasn't completely controlling the price of gasoline (was it the fat-cat CEOs at Chevron, Shell, BP, Etc.?). But the Bush administration, after years of ignoring California politically, still plans on profiting off of us by selling off our coastline, and is still ignoring the majority of us Californians who oppose drilling off of our shores.

I realize that the petroleum availability problem is greater than our gas tanks. I realize that plastics are a petroleum product. And having an uncle with a small "mom & pop" fiberglass shop (NJ Fiberglas, inherited from my grandfather, est. 1969), the price and availability of petroleum affects his materials costs in a big way. I understand the issue is more complex than just what we drivers pay at the pump. But if less oil is burned as fuel in our gas tanks and we reduce our consumption of plastics (all you people drinking bottled water and then tossing the bottle: I'm talking to you!), and all the other things we could do to curb our plastics/petroleum consumption, would we really need these new supplies?

And what if there isn't much oil there off our shores, would the drilling amount to a small drop in the bucket? If we were successful in curbing our consumption, wouldn't it all just go to China and India? Would it really help the small businesses here in California? Like the Enron scandal, California would end up pants down bent over a barrel with our coastlines full of tar and sick animals and sick people. We already have a sewage problem on our coastlines—thanks to real estate developers and the legislators/councils/commissions that don't require the developers to build new sewage treatment for all the population growth they encourage, ARGH!

Oh, and guess what my hommies in South O.C. and San Diego, the coast off of the San Francisco Bay Area is safe, but the coastline along your beaches is up for grabs...so you like surfing in tar? Want to add that to the nasty rash you already have from polluted water? Look at the map below:

Illustration from The San Francisco Chronicle (click to read the article):

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Trip Report: Winterfest 2009 Yosemite Snowcamp

El Capitan (middle-left) and Cathedral Rocks (foreground) in the pink glow of sunset with storm clouds in the distance.

I've been a member of the Yahoo! online group "NorthCA_Hiking · NCH" for a few years now and had yet to go on a trip with them. When one of the members posted a snowcamping trip for New Year's—Winterfest 2009—I decided it was time I stop lurking and actually participate. Winterfest has been a yearly tradition with NCH and normally happens at Lassen, but this year we would be camping near Dewey Point in Yosemite National Park.

Snowcamp Stats:
  • Dates: December 31, 2008 – January 2, 2009
  • Location: CA, Yosemite National Park, Dewey Point
  • Mileage: ~7 mi round trip
  • Elevation: +/-725' round trip; lo pt 7,246'; hi pt 7,388'
  • Trailhead: Badger Pass Ski Area
  • TH Lat/Long.: 37.66466904, -119.6633224
  • TH Facilities: Restrooms, water, phone, trash, snack bar, and ranger station
  • Winter Trail: Dewey Point via Meadows #18
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Trail Terrain: Marked well-traveled snowshoe and cross country ski route; groomed road to meadows, flat through meadows and then rolling hills.
  • Camp: Southeast of Dewey Point; wilderness permit required.
  • Why go?: Amazing views from Dewey Point including El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, and the Yosemite High Country; Beautiful sunset and sunrise light at the point without the considerable dayhiker crowds that show up midday.
  • Official Website: NPS.gov Yosemite Winter Sports
  • View my photo album.
Me setting up my tent (notice the manzanita poking out of the snow in the foreground). Photo credit: © Maria E. Lopez 2009.

No Trench This Time

We got a little bit of a late start, leaving the trailhead after noon, but the weather was clear and sunny and the going was easy. The campsite we picked was basically the same campsite I stayed at last year on my Dewey Point snowcamping trip with the Sierra Club. In fact, my tent was a few feet away from the location of where I dug my trench last year.

I didn't dig a trench (a.k.a. snow-coffin) this time for a few reasons:

  1. The snow pack isn't very deep yet.
  2. Trenches can be a lot of work (the way I do things anyway).
  3. There are a lot of manzanita bushes in this spot and last year I had to re-dig my trench because I ran into one right in the middle of it.

In hindsight, there were a couple more good reasons: Because the weather was so warm (for snowcamping that is), the trench would have been colder than my tent (it was in the 40s in my tent New Year's Eve and the following night). A trench would have been the temperature of the snow (i.e. 32ish), which is good when it is 15 degrees out but not when the temps are about or higher than 32. Also there was little-to-no wind, so the wind benefits of a trench over a 3-season tent were not needed either. And finally, because it was so warm (the storm that blew in overnight rained on us Friday morning), rainwater could've seeped around and through my old tarp and dripped on me. However, my 3-season REI Half Dome rainfly is seam-sealed and water tight.

In the snow kitchen, New Year's Day morning, 2009.

Partypooper Stove = Partypooper Rebecca

This was the first trip for my new MSR Whisperlite Stove. I had practiced using it in my kitchen, but this would be the first field test. Luckily there were several other campers there that knew how to use a whisperlite as I had quickly forgotten what the heck I was supposed to do with the little arm that hooks into the pump. I also did not construct a proper insulated pad for my stove to sit on, so I had a little bit of a sinking problem.

However, I did do one thing right and take my stove down to my dad prior to this trip to fix the pot slippage I experienced on my kitchen test run. He cut little X's on the pot supports with his dremel tool which worked brilliantly at keeping my pot from slipping off of my crookedly-sinking-into-the-snow stove.

About midway through making dinner and melting water, my stove pump inexplicably decided that it didn't want to hold pressure any longer, which meant my flame was down to a flicker and dying fast. I had enough heat to finish melting enough snow for my next-day's water needs, but not enough to boil fluid for a hot brandy and cider New Year's Eve beverage, making me a little cranky and concerned about what I would do for the rest of the trip if my new stove continued its bad behavior. Add to this my very cold and wet toes, I decided it was time to retire and crawl into my sleeping bag at about 7:30 p.m.

My MSR Whisperlite test run in the kitchen.

Hotty New Year!

I woke up in the night too hot, looked at my watch, and it was midnight! How's that for a snowcamping happy new year? I checked my little thermometer and it was mid-forties in my tent making my zero-degree sleeping bag a little hot, and falling back to sleep a little tricky. But I'm not complaining, any night spent too hot in the snow is a good night.

The morning was sunny, bright and lazy. After a short morning walk to greet the sunrise at Dewey Point, I decided to give my stove the ol' college try and it decided to work like a charm. My New Year's Day Pecan Cranberry Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Bacon breakfast was the envy of the group and my hot cocoa was just that: hot.

Self-portrait. New Year's Day morning at Dewey Point.

The rest of New Year's Day would also be pleasant and relaxing. Some of the group wanted to go skiing and some were talking about snowshoeing to Stanford Point. I was still being lazy and decided I wanted an easy slow day. I would go on a little solo snowshoe to Dewey and Crocker Points and practice my navigation skills along the way. Turns out most of the group would only do Dewey and Crocker Points as well.

Self-portrait. New Year's Day Crocker Point.

A Change in the Weather

Fireman Mike brought his radio, which not only could he use — as Sarah pointed out — to call some YoSAR guys to "rescue" one of us <wink-wink>, but also receives the NOAA weather report. It forecast some rain coming in Friday morning turning into snow in the afternoon and temperatures to drop considerably Friday night and Saturday morning.

Sure enough, at 4:30 in the morning I heard the pitter patter of rain drops. I put my boots and shell on and jumped out to gather my stove. I didn't want it to freeze after getting wet in case the temperature dropped considerably. The rain would come and go throughout the morning. I crawled out of my tent at about 8:00 and the consensus was to pack up and go rather than stay one more night. Packing wet gear is one thing, packing frozen solid ice cube gear is another.

The hike out was misty at times. At others the sun looked like it might poke out of the clouds just briefly, but to the west and north the sky was darker and meaner and the snow would start on our drive home.


Self-portrait. Mist and rain on the hike out Friday morning.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mount Diablo View from Yosemite

P1010066Originally uploaded by bondgurl

When I read in a hiking book that you can see Yosemite's Half Dome from the summit of Mount Diablo I didn't really believe it. But here it is in opposite: the view of Mount Diablo from Dewey Point in Yosemite. I snapped this shot during a snowcamping trip this weekend in Yosemite (trip report soon) and this is the treat that mother nature gave us on an evening stroll to Dewey Point from camp. To be doubly sure of what I was looking at, I took a bearing from my GPS and dialed it in on my compass. Mount Diablo is the two humps in the background poking through the Central Valley fog. So, if A = B then does B = A? Not always, but I'm willing to believe now that If one can see Mount Diablo from Dewey Point, then in theory one can see Half Dome from Mount Diablo (barring the usual smog infestation that is).