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Friday, May 3, 2013

The Ohlone Wilderness Trail (Apr 12-14 2013)

The Ohlone Wilderness Trail is an excellent length for a quick weekend trip. The terrain is hilly but the tread is kind. This 28 mile trail consists of a mix of double track dirt road and single track linking Fremont and Del Valle. There are numerous campsites and official water sources available. The trail can be very dry and sunny or cold and windy, so prepare for the exposure. There is little cover on many stretches of this beautiful trail. The habitat is a mix of oak savannah, spring wildflower-rich meadows and dry chaparral.

Valley Oaks

Open Savannah

Rivers of California Poppy on the way to Rose Peak

A few weeks ago Fiona Maclean, Jared Baker, Cris Valerio and I finally got to the hike the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. I say "finally" because last year we attempted to hike this trail but there was a closure due to maintenance concerns. This trail is very heavily used in parts, i.e. Mission Peak, and seldom used in others. 

We began our journey late on a Friday evening after tying up loose ends at work and food shopping. By the time we arrived at the Del Valle end of the trail, the road was closed to the Sailor Camp Trail. Fortunately, we could still park at the Del Valle Family Campground and night hike up the Vallecitos Trail. It was a steep accent and we warmed up quickly. It felt so good to be out on the trail again.

We camped the night near Boyd Camp and awoke in the morning to a spectacular orange and blue sunrise. There were fantastic views down into the populated valley and Lake Del Valle below. All through that first day there were magnificent views and splendid wildflower displays. Rose Peak offered one of the best views of the day.

Baby Blue Eyes

The map that comes with the permit required to hike this trail is very well done and offers a great key to identifying the surrounding peaks and cities from Rose Peak.

Goat Rock was one of my favorite spots on this trip. Jared and I even discovered a mother Prairie Falcon whilst scrambling up the grassy side of the rocks. It would be best to leave this nest alone and keep a good distance away from the cliffs at Goat Rocks. 

Mother Prarie Falcon

We camped the second night near Hawks Nest campsite.

The third day was a scorcher. It was hot and sunny and there were suddenly a lot more people as we neared Mission Peak. All sorts of folks were climbing Mission Peak and not all of them were happy. Jared and I got a kick out of the folks who were loudly exclaiming their discontent with the ascent. It was a sharp contrast to the delightful, laugh-a-minute fun the four us had been having that weekend.

Gopher Snake on the way up Mission Peak

Cris posed a good question: "why are people drawn to use some parkland so heavily and others barely at all?" I could only surmise that the fact Mission Peak was a summit gave people a goal in their outdoor activities. I truly believe that many people have lost their ability to interact with a landscape. They see something beautiful but they don't know what to do with it. We are so used to being fed entertainment that we don't know how to create our own. A peak gives us a singular obvious focus to our time in the outdoors. The view from the summit also gave local residents a new perspective on their home and the surrounding land. 

Mission Peak

The view from Mission Peak

Every week, as environmental educators we try to pass on the tools for children to develop their relationship with the land.

Recycling is only part of the solution.

On our way down, all of us were gifted with great views of a Golden Eagle who dwarfed the Red-Tailed Hawk that was harassing it. One pass of this enormous raptor brought it only eight feet above our heads.

This trail is not remote wilderness at all. There are cities visible nearly the entire length of the trail. However, it is still very beautiful and if you are a trail runner looking for a good hill workout or a backpacker looking for something scenic, well organized and close to home in the Bay Area, the Ohlone Wilderness is the trail for you.

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