Last week I had to do a trail preview for work.
It was drizzling, kind of raining on and off, but I wanted more experience with hiking in bad weather anyway and I figured getting that without a troop of kids along for the ride would be a good idea. Because I have a lot on my mind, I decided not to invite anyone along and just go for a nice 8 mile hike by myself.
Of course, I started later than intended. After spending the night in the city, I realized that I'd forgotten to bring my rain pants so had to go all the way home (though I'd been planning on going to Ashby Bart where my bike was parked anyway so this only added about a half hour to the trip). I also left the city a half hour later than intended after being treated to breakfast. Then there was the Barting to Fruitvale station to get on the one bus per hour that goes all the way up to Redwood and Skyline (and only during the school year, in the summer I add on an extra half hour of pushing a bike up one of the steepest city streets I've ever seen). Next came the joyous three mile coast moderately downhill to the Redwood Schoolhouse, our office, where I could pick up a park vehicle. (Notice that 3 miles Downhill? Guess what happens on the way home.)
When I arrived, I had a long, important talk with my boss whom I adore. As always, we talked for too long because we're both talkers. I really needed to get on the road! Finally, I got the vehicle and was on my way for the hour to hour and a half drive to the trailhead with a stop along the way to return two important phone calls I got while driving, before I was out of cell phone range in the woods.
So, basically, by the time I arrived at the trailhead for my 8-mile hike it was almost 3 o'clock. And raining.
But I'd come this far. So I continued undaunted. Well, somewhat daunted.
I'd been tasked with taking pictures of the trail and vistas. Which is hard to do in the rain so I would frantically pull out the camera whenever there was any sunshine. Maybe my boss will send me those if I ask nicely.
It all started out innocently enough. I put on my rain gear. It dribbled on me. It was beautiful out. As early as 1/4 of a mile in I felt isolated in the middle of nowhere which is impressive for a hike that's only an hour's drive from Oakland. No car sounds. No reminders of civilization. Lovely!
Of course, I had to hurry because I was trying to make it back in time for rehearsal in the city by 7 (why I thought this was possible, I'm really not sure. What is wrong with me and my horrible, warped, wrong time sense?!? And I want a pony and a unicorn and a transporter and to always be on time. And wishing makes it so <3 <3 <3)
Just as I was starting to really enjoy this wet weather affair, the sky started really dumping on me. So many issues with this.
1. my map was not in any way waterproof.
I don't have a very good memory for maps. When I'm hiking somewhere unfamiliar, I am constantly looking at the map. Checking the trail and the contour lines and, etc., making sure I don't miss a turn and trying to pinpoint my exact location at all times.
2. My rain gear- not as waterproof as rain gear should be. I think my fairly cheap Helly Hansen rain pants are going back to REI (this is why I tried them out now, and not on a long backpacking trip). Luckily, I'd brought plenty of warm layers, so when one got really wet I'd put on another. And I stayed pretty warm while moving. Though not quite so much when the wind picked up. Wind+Rain=Brrr!
3. Turns out, there's a difference between hiking in the rain and hiking after it's already been raining for like 4 days.
I had an extra approximately 4 pounds of mud on my boots at all times. This was especially distressing when trying to go uphill- after using lots of effort to pull my foot up out of the muck and raise it up the hill and transferring my weight I would...slide back down about 2/3 of what I'd just gone up. Augh!!!!!
Also, mud isn't the right word for it. After washing my boots off today I can safely say that it was actually clay. Like, really, I could probably make a small pot with what I took off of my boots today. In fact, maybe I will. If I can find the spot in my backyard where I threw it earlier tonight.
Also, it's really hard to go downhill when you're constantly sliding and there's no traction. Yes, I slipped and fell and was completely covered in mud. No, I didn't take a picture of that. Sorry.
4. What with all this slipping and sliding and grunting, I seem to have pulled something or other in my hip area. This made going up pretty damn painful. I'm still recuperating. But will be fine with rest and ice.
5. Between the extra clay poundage and the aching hip and the sliding, I was going really slowly. Like, really, really slowly.
Now, part of the reason I'd felt safe leaving so late is that the trail was kind of like a bottom-heavy figure 8. The big (bottom) loop was about 5 miles and the top loop was 3 and I knew I could cut off the top loop if it was getting too late and just not hit the campsite I wanted to check out.
However, there was still a point, for about a half hour, where I was NOT having fun. Where I was kind of panicky. Where I really thought I might be spending the night on the trail in the rain without a tent or sleeping bag and in crappy rain gear (see #2). [But, may it be pointed out, With enough food and water and some medical supplies.]
Basically, the first part of the loop (the part before meeting up with the top half of the figure 8) was seeming to take Way too long. I attribute this to #3, 4, and 5. Also, #1. Careful reading of the map (now that it's not getting ruined by raindrops every extra second I peruse it) shows me that the first part of the loop is by far the longest and a lot of uphill. But, in my rush to avoid hiking in darkness and to make it to rehearsal, I hadn't taken a super careful look at the map, intending to pull it out whenever I had questions, not realizing that each time I brought it out in the rain it would get less and less useful.
So, it was seeming like it was taking way too long and I was seeing property line fences that weren't on the map (and the EBRPD usually puts them in) so I started thinking that maybe I had somehow missed a turn in my desire to hole up inside my hood to avoid the rain. It usually does not take me 2 hours to hike 3ish miles!
Luckily, just as all hope was starting to feel lost, the trail curved sharply downhill. Now, I remembered that the map had mentioned a 200 foot elevation loss after the 700-800 foot elevation gain. (And, now that I can look at the map at leisure, I see that it was even more dramatic than that. And how very flat the entire rest of the hike after this first half-loop is!) So, I was faced with a difficult choice. Do I assume I'm right and go down lots and lots of mountain I'll just have to hike back up if I'm wrong? Or do I turn around and go back the way I came because then I can at least be fairly confident I can find my way back to the car. Even in the dark, with my trusty headlamp that I never hike without.
I decided to trust my orienteering skills and descended 400 or so vertical feet in about a half mile, slip-sliding all the way. When I got to the bottom, the clouds literally parted.
It stopped raining on me! And I could see that I was right where I needed to be. At that middle point on a figure 8! Huzzah!
And since it wasn't raining, I could look at my soggy, sticking together, starting to tear map and see that the rest of my hike would be fairly flat. I did decide to ignore the 3-mile top loop to the campsite. It looked super self-explanatory and my hip was really hurting.
On the way back, I took a few good pictures whenever I wasn't going to get the camera drizzled on. This includes a great picture of a pool of mud that looks just like the chocolate river from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie- exact same color!!!
Luckily, the road was flat most of the way because going up was really painful. There were a few spots where there were choices to make and, although I was fairly sure they all went to the same place because there was only one trail marked on the map, it was frustrating given that I just wanted to stop hiking on an injury. And get warm. In due time, I saw cars on the road. And then I saw my mint-chip ice cream colored park district car in the lot!
I did my best to not get mud all over the car. Turns out I needed all 3 pairs of socks I had brought in order to always keep my feet dry. You can never bring enough socks when hiking in rain! Trust me on this. They are light and make life so much happier. Avoid misery! Always bring extra socks!! I changed into an entire new set of clothes, including other shoes. Though the boots I'd acquired at Kai's clothing swap had served me quite well minus a minor blister.
So then I made the hour drive back, which became longer when I took a wrong turn or two. I think my navigation skills were a little taxed at that point.
The hardest part, though, was dropping the car off and then getting on my bike for the three-mile ride up the hill from Redwood Schoolhouse to Skyline, which is pretty tough in any circumstances. I was tired, in the dark, in the rain, with an injured hip.And the cars driving by really fast with their headlights are scary. And I was hungry. Waah. And then, when I got to the normally fun/scary coast down one of the steepest city streets I've ever seen, I did not feel up to the challenge of flying down that road at the speeds its angle makes my bike go at, while there was water on the road. I'm still a pretty novice biker. So I walked down that street until it got somewhat flatter. Finally, I got back to Fruitvale Bart. At which point it was about 9:00 and there was no way I was making it to rehearsal which, being in the city and far from Bart was about 40 minutes away and ended at 10. So I gratefully headed home, jumped in the shower, and ignored my bag of soppy heavy muddiness.
I actually can't wait to go back some other time. I'd love to see this place in the sunshine. And it's a really nice adult-beginner backpack. I'm assuming the campsite is nice. The trail was beautiful!
If you made it all the way to the end of this, comment!
I think it's pretty interesting. But then, I'm a bit of a narcissist. Perhaps I'm merely recording this for my own gratification and memories.
But I hope you enjoyed my Epic tale of the Epic hike of Epicness. Epic.
Oh, and the next day I went on a job interview and got the job! But more on that later.