Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wide open spaces

We were looking for a tough hike, going into the Labor Day weekend, something out of the way from the crowds and traffic.  Alice and I settled on a trip to Palo Alto for a hike through the Monte Bello Regional Open Space Preserve.

The trail we were taking was a roughly 6.5 mile loop on Canyon Trail leading form the Monte Bello parking lot to a backpacker's campground and back.  Trails were dirt fire roads and narrow single file dirt paths.  With a full pack of water we headed out from the morning fog into the warm grasslands.

Monte Bello is a funny place to describe.  On one hand it is a typical grasslands and mountain hiking trail, fully exposed to the sun and hot, while other portions take you on an eerie trip through a silent forest where deer forage in the tree line and the darkness and quite seem surreal.

The hike starts off descending into a canyon crossing a nearly dry stream  in heavy tree cover.  Then we began a grueling climb out along a series of nasty switchbacks on a fire road that leads to the campground.  We climbed steadily under full sun, not much shade to be found and then mercifully we reached the campgrounds for a rest and Granola bar snack.
The return leg was all downhill as we enjoyed what breezes we could find along the mountain side.  Back at the parking lot we agreed that the steep climbs moved this hike into the top three hardest hikes of the year so far.  That may change as we are planning a Mount Diablo summit climb for October.   With Labor Day marking the end of the summer season I was glad to have worked hard at our last summer hike.  Now we have lots of cool fall climbs to look forward to.

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