Looping the Devil – A hike on Mt. Diablo

Up and Up on Mitchell Canyon Road

2 April, 2016. 13.2 to 13.67 miles, depending on which tracker you believe.

One of the hikes we’ve had on the list was a fairly lengthy one on Mt. Diablo. We projected that we’d need to do this hike soon, in the Spring, before it got unbearably hot. I had run Brazen’s Mt. Diablo Half Marathon almost around the same time the year before, and found that I got really lucky with the weather, where it was only in the mid-70s by the time I finished. This hike’s forecast turned out similarly, relatively mild, where the highest temps forecast were also in the mid 70s.

We took as our guide Alice Hikes’ most excellent account. I was torn between wanting to spend time with puppy, errands, keeping up with my running — fitting in a long run during the week — and other assorted house stuff before my DC trip, but finally decided that I wanted to go with the group.

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Snow Basics Days Two and Three

Blue skies on Saturday

We woke to the sounds of wind blowing and batted at the sides of our tent to release snow. Unfortunately that action also released drops of condensation that went spattering all over our sleeping bags and faces. Our feet had been a little cold during the night, and we eventually realized that it was because we had neglected to completely zip up the entrance between our tent and our vestibule. A mild, very light sprinkling of snow that had blown in from our vestibule lay at our feet.

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Snow Basics Day One

Setting up camp in snow

I rose while it was still dark, so I could jump into the last shower of the weekend, finish packing, and hustle off to breakfast. At 9am, we were supposed to meet Ned and the rest of the group at Motel 6, a little further south and en route to our trailhead at Echo Lake. Despite our excitement, we had slept pretty well, what with DD’s white noise app helping to drown out the sounds of the start-and-stop air conditioner/ heat regulator.

I chose the Holiday Inn Express in part of their free breakfast, which included hot options. So it was convenient for us to sort of roll out of our rooms and to the breakfast bar area without much ado. At 7:30am, it was grey and cloudy, and sputteringly drizzly, but no snow, yet.

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Snow Basics Course, Day Zero

A slight pause on Saturday morning

Leading up to this particular weekend, we had been watching the weather like hawks. Forecasts had shown a rather large storm moving into the general NorCal area and we were a bit worried.

DD had signed us up for a 3-day Snow Basics course with Ned Tibbits’ Mountain Education organization late last year. DD’s got goals of hiking the PCT, or at least parts of it sometime in 2017 and wanted to be prepared to encounter and deal with snow conditions – in particular learning about self arrest during an accidental slip-and-fall down icy slopes, or even if a purposeful glissade goes horribly wrong. We’d probably be able to use similar techniques if El Nino proves true to form and we get an unusually high snow year when we venture on the John Muir Trail this summer (although this seems pretty unlikely due to our late July start date).

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Hiking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail Day Two

Rolling Hills

Eighteen Miles. Eighteen Miles! I should have figured it out on my own, when DD said that we’d be thru-hiking 28 miles, and completing only 10 in the first day. But I was stunned and demoralized on Day 1 and couldn’t comprehend another day that was longer and possibly as difficult as the first. I’ve run 18 miles in the past, but on relatively flat terrain or in San Francisco where hills were not as prolonged or steep, and certainly not while carrying a full 20+ pound backpack.

DD assured me that today’s route would be easier, that the inclines were not as steep, and there might be points on the trail (such as the Sunol Visitor Center, 10 miles in) where we could cut it short, if we really were exhausted. That cheered me up a bit.

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Hiking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail Day One

Lichenbark Staging/ Picnic Area

It had been a while since DD and I did a proper backpacking trip. It was my first since the West Coast Trail last year; Danny’s first since his solo Yosemite hike.

However, Danny had already hiked a segment of this path earlier in the year, the 12-mile out-and-back to Murietta Falls with Jared and Justin, the one with ~4000 in elevation gain just in 6 miles. This was the hike that tweaked his back again and made him realize that in order for him to hike the John Muir Trail this summer, he had better start taking care of his body properly stat.

I didn’t go along on that hike and stated at the time that I wished I did. At the time, and up until I actually stepped foot on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, I had absolutely *no* idea of what I was asking for.

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Brazen Racing’s Drag-N-Fly Half Marathon

Brazen Drag N Fly Half

I had spaced out.

With all the excitement of our summer backpacking and camping trips, I had forgotten that the Brazen Ultra Half Championship Series requires you to run at least five of their toughest halfs, but I had only done four! That was why I found myself signing up for Drag-N-Fly, in the remote and somewhat exotic depths of the East Bay – Antioch, and on a week that promised soaring hot temperatures over the weekend.

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West Coast Trail Day Five

Saturday, 1 August, 2015. Camper Bay to Gordon River. 13km or 8 miles.

Our goal - Gordon River and glorious view of Port Renfrew

We woke in the dark — 5am — the earliest we had gotten up on the trail. Others began stirring as well. But although we were probably the first ones up, we were among the later ones out of camp, as we wanted a hot, hearty breakfast prior to heading out. Other groups who left before us indicated that they had a “no cook” policy that morning. DD tried as much as possible to get intelligence from whoever he could, chatting with some folks who had arrived at 10pm the night before (they had started from Gordon River, and it took them some 8 hours[!] to reach Camper). Another pair of hikers told us to expect more log crossings and boardwalks.  

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West Coast Trail Day Four

Friday, 31 July 2015. Carmanah Creek to Camper Bay. 16km or 10 miles

Carmanah Camp Morning

Yes, Carmanah was foggy once again, and this time, I had a bulk of my clothing still damp from laundry the night before, including my one(!) pair of hiking pants.  There were not too many campers at Carmanah that evening – DD and I counted some six groups there, which made the campsite seem relatively uncrowded in comparison with some of the other campsites we’d seen and experienced.

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West Coast Trail Day Three

Ditidaht Nation Campsite

Thursday, 30 July 2015. Tsuquadra Point to Carmanah Creek. 16km or 10 miles.

It was damp at the Ditidaht Campsite. So damp that not one piece of the laundry we did the night before dried. But it was going to be another slow morning, as DD wanted to take his time, explore, and let our things give up a little more of their moisture. Thankfully, the sun was cooperating that morning.

The night before, our hosts had warned us of the “mice problem” at the campsite, and they had allowed us to hang our food bags on the hooks of an open shed next to their cottage. Apparently they do not have bear problems and therefore bear boxes were uneccesary. Sometime in early morning, I heard a tiny scuffling noise, and opened my eyes to see a small form clambering along the outside of our tent, inside the rain fly, but still outside our shelter. With a cry, I batted it away, murmured “mouseykins” sleepily to DD’s “what? what’s wrong?!” and fell back asleep almost immediately.

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