I had this half-done blogpost in the pipeline for 17 months and now it's time to post this lovely summer hike I did a while ago.
Date: July 29, 2013
Place: Sunol Regional Wilderness to Mission Peak segment of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, Fremont, California
Coordinates (Sunol side) : 37.514098, -121.830347
Length: 10 miles in and out
The rolling East Bay hills are soft and round, pleasant to see and soothing to observe. Sanding out is Mission Peak with its pointy, pyramid-shaped summit of hard rock. Towering to the height of 2500 ft, this peak that overlooks the city of Fremont, attracts many who use the strenuous, no-let-up, 3 miles trail from Stanford Avenue staging area to the summit, as an exercise routine. For others, myself included, making it to the summit for the first time or at a certain self-imposed regularity, becomes a personal goal of sorts. An achievement that says ... nothing, really, except that one has on hand the 5-6 hours needed to make it all the way up and down and no desire to waste that time slot on less inspiring activities.
I have been up and down Mission Peak several times, stating at the Stanford Avenue trailhead or, more frequently, the Ohlone Collage trailhead. These are the shortest and steepest tails and, most importantly, begin relatively close to my home, so it is feasible for me to drop the chikas of at school, hike up to the peak at a leisurely pace, and make it back on time to pick them up.
But there are two more trails leading up to Mission Peak. One of them comes from the east: it starts at Sunol Regional Park. This trail isn't as steep as the west-originated trails but is 2 miles longer, making for a 10 miles round trip hike. It also requires a special permit because the trail goes through the lands of the San Francisco Water Company. This permit, the Ohlone Wilderness Permit, is easily obtainable at either Sunol or Del Valle Regional Parks (or at the East Bay Regional Park District office), and it costs $2 a person, for an entire year.
|Flag Hill, view from the Ohlone Wilderness Trail to Mission Peak|
I didn't plan to go all the way up, just to go as far as I could in 3 hours, then turn around so I won't be late to pick up the chikas. So I took my time, walked slowly, and paid attention to the vegetation.
|A field of tarweed|
|Acorn Woodpecker, male|
When out in the open, the view opens up. Looking around I could tell how high I have climbed already.
I was level with a vulture :-)
I saw many vultures on that hike, but very few of them in flight. Most vultures I saw that day were passing the hot hours roosting on bare tree branches, like this cute pair:
The higher I ascended, the more scarce the trees were and the trail more exposed. I thought that might be a good point to turn around and go back.
|Coastal Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)|
I already was much higher than the Maguire Peaks of Sunol.
|Maguire Peaks, viewed from Mission Peak|
There were other animals beside me that were roaming through the grass. Mostly cattle, but others too.
|A lone coyote on the high slopes of Mission Peak|
|A spider's trap web|
|California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)|
But then I noticed a sole biker coming from around the corner, struggling up the trail. I have seen him before when ascending from the Ohlone College trailhead. I grabbed my backpack and without giving another thought to the time I started uphill once again.
|Mourning Dove on a fence post by the cattle enclosure.|
|The salt ponds of the South Bay|
I made it. I hiked 5 miles to the summit of mission Peak in 3.5 hours at an easy pace, then flew those same 5 miles down in just 90 minutes. Gravity helped, of course.
I was exhausted, drenched in sweat and hurting all over when I got to the summer camp. But the big smile on my face and the elation I felt did not wear off for a very long time.