Sunday, April 3, 2011

The rainy season

I needed a taste of the wide open spaces so with the warm weather we have been having I headed for Morgan Territory for a solo Sunday hike.
If I am hiking by myself I like to head to Morgan Territory which is just outside of Livermore.  I picked the Coyote to Volvon Loop hike, a nice  easy six mile hike with just over 800 feet of climb in altitude with just a few steep spots.  I was expecting a hot day on the trail so I packed the summer hiking boots, water a hat a couple of camera lenses and headed out. 
The weather was actually cold with a stiff breezing blowing across the staging area as I started out.  Nearing the entrance to the dry creek bed I heard a noise at first what I thought was wind in the trees.  Not quite.  The steady tumble of water in the stream bed next to the trail let me know I was in for a damp hike.
I don't know what the name of the stream that runs alongside the Coyote Trail, I could not find it listed on the map.  I have hiked the trail several times before and usually it is bone dry or at best a trickle coursing along.  Today the water tumbled and churned among the leaves and fallen tree branches as it wound  along the park.  Heavy rains and runoff fueled the spring stream and I was amazed at the sight of several small waterfalls as the water coursed downstream.
The trail was slick from the water and the first part of the hike was a steady descent  that was made a little treacherous by the wet conditions.  That wasn't the worst of it.  Finishing off the forested section of Coyote I stepped into the grasslands to begin the swing toward the Volvon Trail and was greeted by the muddiest trail I have seen.
The grasslands were a spectacular emerald green, lush from the recent rainfalls.  The dirt trail is about 8-feet-wide in most parts but as I soon discovered the rain runoff played havoc with the trail.  Whole sections of the trail were covered in thick mud, standing water or both.  Trying to navigate around the muddy spots by hiking on the grass was a bad option as the water soaked the grass as well, making it soft, slick and muddy and just as bad option to walk on.
I did my best to try and find the driest patches to hike on but quickly my shoes were thick with mud.  Stepping in the wrong spot I could feel the mud trying to suck the shoes off my feet making the climb a little harder.  But the view was magnificent, green hills against a deep blue sky.  Summer hikes will have the hills a dark yellow, withered under the sun with hazy summer skies.  This was some of the best views of the territory I have seen.
I pushed as fast as a pace as I could completing the six miles in just over three hours, not bad for a pudgy photographer schlepping all his gear around.  I can only imagine that even now in early spring the waterfalls at other area parks are probably stilling pounding with water.  Next weeks hike may take me to the Berkley area but wherever I go for the next few weeks I will be prepared for wet and muddy conditions.  The rainy season has left its mark on the trail and it is time to explore.

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