Trip Report: Lookout Point January 2011

Lookout Point is an unremarkable hill of 3480 feet in the Diablo Ranges, very close to the Ohlone Regional Park. It is on private property though (as far as I know), so getting there requires some trespassing. It is unremarkable, however it is on Bob Byrds list of Alameda County Peaks, and Bob hasn’t been there yet. For my trip there, I also had a few other objectives:

  • checkout the Jackson Grade Trail, as a future route to reach Mount Lewis
  • gather information about Cedar Mountain
  • reach Lookout Point, obviously
  • also reach Peak 3841ft, but I did not meet that objective

To prepare, I put in the coordinates of trail junctions as seen on mytopo maps into my GPS. I printed out a map and labeled these junctions with LP1, LP2 and so on. This helped my find out which turn I had to take at each junction.

I started at Del Valle Regional Park. I soon found out that I wasn’t able to run – something I hoped to be able to save time, but I am still suffering from shin splints. This kept me from running for almost two weeks now, and I thought this would be over by now. However, running just a few yards was enough to show that I was wrong. But fast walking was okay.

I walked along the Ohlone Trail, with a small side trip to Stromer Spring again, just like last time when I hiked to Discovery Peak. I didn’t see anybody else on the trail, I think the Park Ranger at the park was the last human being that I saw.

At OT 37 I left the OT Trail, and started hiking along the Jackson Grade Trail. This trail actually continues along Rocky Ridge. The advantage of this route is that it saves the descend to Williams Gulch and the climb up the Big Burn. Soon I saw the gate that marks the boundary of the park. I had to hop over the gate to enter private property. A little further along the trail was another fence. The trail climbs gradually most of the time, but is steep at some places. It offers good views of Cedar Mountain, where I am Particularly interested in the surroundings of Lang Canyon.

It was soon obvious by hoof prints and horse poop that this land was used by horses, and after 20 minutes I found a group of four horses at a pool of water. Hoping that they wouldn’t tell they owner that someone was trespassing their land, I passed them.

Soon after that, yet another gate marked the park boundary. This time I had to hop the gate to enter the park. I was not overly nervous on the private property, but I did feel a little safer inside the park.

The trail continues along the ridge through woodland, until it reaches the point where it joins another (unnamed?) ridge. The trail crosses the upper part of the creek that later flows though William’s Gulch and then climbs up via switchbacks. Probably because the sun rarely reaches this spot, it became cold here, and I had to take on my gloves. Almost on the way up the trail passes a pond which was partially frozen over, and then reaches Shafner Flat.

At a junction I turned left to reach another gate, which I hopped to enter private territory again. Soon after the gate the trail reaches another junction, where I turned left again.

The trail passes some kind of camp site. After another half mile or so the trail reaches a point with lots of fences, where apparently 3 or 4 different properties join. It’s a little bit confusing, but I think no matter which way you choose, you need to hop at least two fences or gates. Behind the last fence there an abandoned hut. I didn’t pay much attention to it yet.

The trail continues through woodland and finally climbs and reaches the first of about three bumps, all of which compete to be the highest point. The coordinates from my GPS (taken from Bob’s page) were obviously a little off – where they match is a slope, not a peak. After the first bump, the trail reaches another bump, and the descends a little bit, passing a third bump. The third bump had fewer trees and lots of grass on it, and an annoying, broken fence. It offers nice view of Valpe Ridge to the West, Mount Lewis Beartrap Ridge to the South and Eylar Mountain to the Southeast. Mount Lewis is barely visible behind the left most tip of Valpe Ridge, but I only figured that out later by looking at the maps and a photo. I initially mistook Beartrap Ridge for Mount Lewis.

I took a break here and ate a few snacks (two energy bars). On the way back I found that I am now pretty sure that the first bump is the highest point, according to GPS. It’s the only point where it showed an elevation of more than 3480 feet, and also from the looks it appears to be the highest.

This time I inspected the abandoned house more closely and went inside to take a few pictures. Notable were two bottles of booze in the kitchen, one of them unopened. Another room had a locker cabinet, so I wonder if this was a cabin that was rented to hunters. The gazebo had a few ropes hanging from the ceiling. I have no idea what purpose they had, but I am not a hunter.

I retraced my route back, without any more noticeable events or sights. The horses where gone when I passed the spot where I first saw them. I ran a few segmemts of the way down, as much as my shin splints allowed. I ran past another hiker close to the parking lot – the first human I saw on the whole trip.

The trip was 14 miles long, and it took me 5 hours and 45 minutes.

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First Run With My New Huaraches

So I received my huaraches kit from Invisible Shoe two days ago and assembled them on the same day, but not before stopping at Michaels to purchase a leather hole punch for $11. Yesterday I made a short walk around the neighborhood to test them. The shoes feel great, it is almost like walking barefoot. However, it was cold. I happened to tie the right shoe more tight than the left one, not on purpose, but I left it that way to see the effects. The string of the right shoe between the first and second toe rubs a little bit at the webbing, but it does not really hurt. The left shoe makes more noise when it hits the ground.

Today I started my first test run of a bout 1 mile. However, a night at 30F/-1C is proably not the best condition to run almost barefoot. And running does not warm up the feet sufficiently. So, the feet felt very cold. I ran on a path with a lot of gravel and could feel every stone, and often hurtful. I hope will get used to that some time. I am a little doubtful if getting the huaraches was really a good idea. But I will certainly give them more tries.

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Trip Report: Tehan Falls December 2010

Since google maps introduced the terrain maps and I spotted the Tehan Falls I wanted to go there. The Tehan Falls are 60 feet high, which sounds impressive. However, they are hard to reach, and require some serious bushwhacking. The shortest route via Tehan Falls Road is over private property and close to houses, so I never really considered it. So I thought I have to hike 10 miles (one way) or so via Pleasanton Ridge. But recently I discovered that I could enter the northeastern part of the park via the ‘Preserve’ at Laurel Creek Drive.

I figured that after a few weeks of rain there should be enough water in the creeks for the falls.

The route I planned would lead me from the preserve via a ridge north of Gold Creek to the main ridge and then to another side ridge between Gold Creek and Tehan Canyon. From there I would bushwhack to the falls. The route worked, but was more difficult than expected. Also, I should have gone better prepared. I did carry a printout of mytopo maps with me, but I also should have entered the coordinates of important junctions into my GPS unit.

I parked at the parking lot of the preserve at Laurel Creek Road. Behind the restroom house I turned left along the single track trail, over the bridge and along the trail to a small canyon where two creeks join. From there I turned left where the ridge starts. The barely visible trail continues to a fence with missing wiring. From here I turned left on a dirt road which is about 10 feet wide. It was a beautiful trail overgrown with fresh green, but it looked well maintained. The trail went up and down, partially very steep, and featured beautiful views of the valley. Shortly after an X shaped intersection (I went straight) the trail abruptly ends at a gate.

I think this is where the Pleasanton Ridge Park begins. I climbed over the gate. (Note: I am not sure if the whole trip would have been a lot easier had I turned left at the X intersection – on satellite images it looks as if that trail might join the trail on the other ridge, which I only reached after climbing the main ridge. Maybe I should find out another time).

On the other side of the gate the wide trail did not continue, so I had to follow the ridgeline on a barely visible deer trail. The ridge line turned left, and after a short climb lead to a clearing. To follow the ridge, I turned right, following the deer trail. At some points I formed arrows out of branches because I was worried that I wouldn’t find my way back. This turned out to be a good idea.

At some point the ridge ended where it joined the main ridge. This was way steeper than I thought, maybe 60 degrees, and I had to climb it on all four. At the top, the ridge is lined by a fence with a trail on the other side. I walked along the fence and found a spot where the lowest wire was missing (apparently this was well known by the deers because a deer trail lead right to that spot), and crawled under it to the trail. The views from the top where magnificent.

To the east, I could see Pleasanton and Dublin, Mt. Diablo to the north east, and the SF Bay to the west. The trail, as I found out later, was the North Ridge Trail. I followed it south. I knew that at some point it would be joined by another trail leading east onto the other ridge. I found it at trail marker 41, but didn’t recognize it, so I continued further south to trail marker 39, where I finally recognized my mistake.

Back to the correct trail, I had to hop the gate. I followed this trail downhill  to a point where it climbed again. According to my topological map, this was the point where I had to start bushwhacking downhill on the southern side of the ridge. I followed a deer trail, first through woods, than a grassy clearing and then chaparral. Again I created markings using sticks. At some point I found a creek bed with almost no water, which I followed to the left (east). Along the way the creek was joined by other creeks, all of them with no water – not a good sign when one is looking for water falls. Further down, after climbing over a few fallen trees which crossed the creek, I could see an old trail along the creek, which I followed until it ended abruptly at a steep cliff: this is where the falls should be, but without water, no falls. The cliff was steep. Lots of fern was growing on top of it. I could imagine that if there was enough water, the falls would be beautiful. However even then, coming from above, I had a bad vantage point, and I couldn’t see an easy way to climb down the cliff.

I took a break, before I headed back to the car, almost exactly along the way that I came. The whole trip lasted just a little bit more than 3 hours. 7.3 miles according to my GPS unit. I could have saved 0.75 miles if I had turned at marker 41 right away instead of going further south.

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Trip Report: Discovery Peak December 2010

Discovery Peak is the highest peak in Alameda County. Currently I need a rough plan for my next challenges, so I thought about either climbing all peaks in Alameda County, or climb California county high points – or at least those in the SF Bay Area. So climbing Discovery Peak serves both. The peak is on private property, but just a few hundred yards from the Ohlone Wilderness boundary. However to reach it one needs to cross a land bank area for less than a mile.

When I arrived at Del Valle, I briefly thought about taking the left turn after the bridge to use the overflow parking lot, because the trail leading to the Ohlone Trail is a lot nicer from there, but there was a sign reading ‘no parking beyond this point’, so I took the right turn instead.

I started at around 10am, with a fast pace. The trail starts soon with a steep but short climb, but levels off later. On the way to the sign-in panel I ran on the level parts. This is the first time I tried running with my new backpack, so I need to get used to running with it.

When I signed in, I wrote OT 31 as the destination, but actually meant OT 33, so I can pretend that I loop around from there through Stewart’s Camp and Murietta Falls.

Arrived at Stromer Spring at 10:47. I took the trail leading up from there to Boyd’s Camp. It started raining, but only for a short shower, creating a beautiful rainbow.

Unfortunately I got a phone call when I was up on Rocky Ridge. Next time I turn it off, which would also save power in case I need it for an emergency.

I ran all the way down from Rocky Ridge to the Gulch, where I arrived at about 11:20. I encountered two hikers hiking up. They were the last human beings I saw until I arrived back at the car.

Climbed up the Big Burn, only running on the short level and downhill parts. I didn’t see any poison oak, although this area was full with it in spring, when I hiked up here with Darius. I probably didn’t see it because they lost their leaves. I took a short break at Schlieper Rock at 11:37, eating a granola bar and briefly enjoying the view from the top of the rock.

Found an almost decayed coyote or dog near Johnny’s Pond. Looks a little bit like a sheep, but the teeth show that it was definitely a canine.

Arrived at OT32 at 12:53. This is where I left the Ohlone Trail and turn left to Rose Flat. There is a makeshift gate there constructed out of barbed wire and sticks. To open I needed to remove a wire loop, which was held there by tension.

The towers of the peak soon became visible. I arrived at Rose Flat at about 1pm. I found two trailers there, I guess to store hay although they were empty. There are also the remnants of an old farm structure, but its purpose not recognizable any more. I turned left here, hopped another fence and then followed the road for a few yards to the peak.

The views were not that great from there, but the weather was bad. It was raining a little bit. The place is not very spectacular. There is a shed there which apparently getting remodeled, with solar panels on top. There are wind wheels on the towers, which make a lot of noise in the breeze. Rose Peak is visible from the, but behind a few trees which had already lost their leaves for the fall. Looking SE I could see another peak which appeared a little lower, but it was hard to see. When I left, I could see easily see Rose Peak again, which appears higher, although I know it is not.

On the way back I decided to turn left at OT33 to return via Stewart’s Camp and Murietta Falls. I didn’t know that part of the trail from OT33 to the falls. It was all downhill, so I ran all the way to the falls, just stopping at the water faucet to fill my filter bottle with fresh water. Somehow I completely missed the camp sites, so I still don’t really know where they are. I arrived at the rocks above the falls at 1:49. The creek carried very little water, so I didn’t bother climbing down to see the falls.

The rest of the hike was not very spectacular. I ran whenever it was about level or downhill and walked uphill. The downhill parts are tricky, because some parts are very steep. I was back at the car at 3:28.

According the my GPS, the trip was 15.3 miles long and lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes.

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