Place: Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, Pleasanton, California
Coordinates: 37.614845, -121.881910
Length: about 4.5 miles
Level: Moderate to Strenuous
Several years ago when the chikas were still very young all the hikes we could go on were on short, toddler-friendly trails. One day I couldn't take it anymore so I called the babysitter and she agreed to watch our offspring for the most part of a Saturday, so Pappa Quail and I could go on a hike together. It was up to me to select the destination and I picked Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park - a park I had my eye on for some time. I've been back there several times since, but always on my own - the obligatory uphill mile before even getting to the main trail system of the park did not seem to me to be suitable for most of my would be companions. Last Monday, however, I had the opportunity to go on a hike with a friend of mine and once again I chose to go to Pleasanton Ridge.
|Our hike as captured by my GPS. The GPS found the signal only half way up the hill. Our actual starting point is the same as the ending point - at the park's main staging area.|
|The Oak Tree Trail|
The wind didn't bother the little American kestrel that was hovering above the hillside in search of a branch. The kestrel is a local resident there - I think I've seen it every time I hiked Pleasanton Ridge, and always in the same area.
|The Ohlone Wilderness and Rose Peak|
One of the most striking sights on the ridge are the beautiful orchards of old olive, well over century old trees. These orchard were planted and are still owned and tended by The Hillcrest Ranch in Sunol.
Having grown up in the Middle East, olive trees were a very prominent part of my childhood surroundings and the olive folklore makes a good bulk of my folklore and horticultural knowledge. I do consider olives to be the most beautiful trees. The soft spot in my heart aside, here in California olives are exotic and out of orchards are also an aggressive, invasive species.
(Having said that, I also admit to planting an olive tree in my own yard in the hope of owning a bit of this beauty (and of uncured olives) myself sometime in the future ... )
|Olive trees, Olea europaea|
|Cattle water pond.|
|The City of Pleasanton with the Morgan Territory in the backdrop|
Fortunately the toyon did. All dressed for the winter holidays the red-berried toyon looked very colorful and festive next to the dark live oaks.
|Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia|
|Valley Oak, Quercus lobata|
|Kilkare Canyon and Sunol Ridge|
Now we were going downhill. Mostly. The Thermalito Trail runs just beneath the ridge and along t there are several cute nooks with cattle ponds and lovely oak trees.
This trail isn't straight and monotonous but dips and rises. Generally, however, we were going back down, what made our pace considerably faster.
There were vultures circling over us from the beginning of the hike, but as the day warmed up and wore on there seemed to be many more of them in the sky. And they were also swooping much lower and closer.
|Forming a Committee|
At that time I also paid a closer attention to the olive trees. There were two kinds of olives there - large, still partially green olives, and small black olives. The large olive trees appeared to have been harvested already and the leftover fruit were all holed by some larvae. The small-fruited olive trees however were still laden and the olives looked in top shape. I rubbed and sniffed them, inhaling the rich smell deeply.
View South to Sunol Regional Wilderness
|Coming down the Woodland Trail|
Back home I looked it up and indeed - the Vallecitos Nuclear Power Plant was built there by General Electric in the late 50's and it was decommissioned in the early 80's. Decontaminating and cleaning of the nuclear waste was completed only in 2010.
|Sunol Regional Wilderness|