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    2003 Ohlone Wilderness Backpacking Trip - Day 3
    (Sunday, 11 May, 2003)

    See also my photo gallery from this trip.

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    Sunday, 11 May:
    Our camp at Eagle's Aerie I woke up at 5:45 to answer nature's call, then, deciding it was still much too early, went back to sleep until 7, when I woke up for good. It was much warmer this morning, 58°F, and there was virtually no condensation on our gear, which was nice. Our campsite warmed up quickly as the sun peeked above the hills to our east as we made coffee and had breakfast (again, oatmeal for Sarah, a bagel and cream cheese for me). I made several much-needed adjustments to my pack to get the hip belt to ride over my hips rather than below them. I wished I had done this yesterday! We broke camp pretty quickly and hit the trail at 9:50. It was a steep descent from our camp to the edge of the backpacking area. This was the one area that was not well marked at all - unless one knew exactly where one's site was (or just lucked out, as we did), a long'ish hike would be required to find most of the sites, especially coming from the east as we were. We passed spur trails to several other campsites that we didn't know existed. It'd have been nice to explore these other camps, but we didn't really want to drop our packs so soon after putting them on, so we continued on our way. Flag Hill rises above the Sunol wilderness headquarters

    The trail climbed gradually to Cerro Este Rd, which we'd been on on another hike, then we descended to the McCorkle Trail and had a 2 mile gradual descent to the park headquarters. There were more flowers here -- lupine, , blue nightshade, and Ithuriel's spears. As we neared the parking lot, the people density increased accordingly, but it continued to be a lovely hike along green hills. We stopped at the park HQ for a little while to relax, use the facilities, eat, and top off our water. We polished off our gummy bears and beef jerkey and ate more of what we could, more to remove weight from our packs than because we were hungry (although we were a bit peckish). From the park HQ, we signed in at another panel, climbed a lovely singletrack through a wildflower-strewn field, crossed Calaveras Road, then entered SF Water District lands.

    Trail through the SF Water District lands up the east side of Mission Peak Although I've climbed Mission Peak numerous times from the Stanford and Ohlone College trailheads, this was my first time from the east. The trail clibmed steadily, but gently through a pretty forest with occasional views east of the main features of the Sunol Wilderness, Flag Hill and Maguire Peaks. This was the mellowest climb of our journey so far as we passed a ruined wall of an old homestead and continued ascending towards the base of Mission Peak. A huge oak tree beckoned us to stop for a while, so we did. We weren't really hungry enough for lunch, but we rested and snacked and enjoyed the lovely spring day. Since our trail thus far was on a well-graded fireroad, I decided to change into my Tevas and give my feet a respite from hiking boots, them having served me well on my Mt. Whitney dayhike last year.

    Sarah contemplating Mission Peak We continued climbing gradually until we left the SF Water District lands - apparently they employ much kinder trail-makers than does the EBRPD. No sooner had we signed in at the panel at the east end of the Mission Peak preserve than the trail turned steeply upwards. There were many cows here, and they were much more accustomed to humans than the ones we ran into near Murietta Falls. My heart rate monitor died again as we climbed - argh! We reached the intersection with the Eagle trail, dropped our packs, and headed to the summit via the southern trail, a bit longer than the north trail, but much less steep. Before long, we were atop Mission Peak. Although I've been here a dozen-plus times, I saw the hills to the east with new eyes, having just hiked over them. Sarah nearly stepped on a small snake near the top, so we watched it for a few, had someone take our pictures, then walked back down to our packs. I called Ross on the way down to give him a heads-up that we were nearly done. I changed back into my hiking boots, wanting something more substantial than Tevas for going down the sometimes-slippery west side of the mountain.

    Sarah and I at the bottom of Mission Peak - done! After a brief ascent, we began the descent of Mission Peak. This was, as I expected, really hard on the knees and most of the rest of my body. I saw some thoughtless hikers disregard the signs asking people to stay on the trail to prevent erosion and unsightly shortcut trails, and another group of hikers laughed as their dog chased a cow, probably unaware that that's very illegal, and in a great many places, would result in their dog being shot. We were definitely getting back to civilization for better or for worse. The descent continued to be knee-jarring, but we were getting very close to the end now, so I blocked that out. Sarah was by now more than ready to be finished, and more or less stopped talking, concentrating on keeping her footing on the slippery trail. A few turns from the finish I called Ross so he could come and get us; we soon got to the parking lot at 6:20 - we were done! We hurriedly dropped our packs and changed into our Tevas, just in time for Ross to pull up. Again we really appreciated him giving us a lift! When Sarah and I got home, we ordered, then entirely devoured, a large pizza, looked at pictures for a few, then crashed out hard.

    This was a super-fun trip, although perhaps a little tough for my first backpacking trip in over two decades. My gear worked out very well, and I very much look forward to my next backpacking trip.

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    Day's statistics:
    Distance: 13.5mi (including ~1.5mi side-trip to the summit of Mission Peak via the south side)
    Total Time: 8hrs 30min
    Elevation gain: 2,770 feet
    Difficulty: 7.5
    Scenery: 7.5
    Trail condition/markings/etc: 9 - clearly marked, and in good condition considering the number of recent storms
    Wildflowers: 6
    Overall rating: 7

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    Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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