Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where eagles dare-redux

Almost five years ago Alice and I ventured up the slopes of Eagle Peak at Mount Diablo State park in what we though was one of the hardest hikes to be found.  Under a sweltering July sun, out of water we managed to finish our marathon trek up the mountain tired and beaten vowing never to return.  Some promises are just meant to be broken.

I had already made two return trips to Eagle Peak, one this past New Year's Eve using a different route.  Our original route had taken us along Coulter Pine Trail from the Mitchell staging area where we met up with Eagle Peak Trail for a steep climb to the top.  My two return trips previously had tried a new path following Mitchell Rock trail until it intercepts Eagle Peak Trail just past Twin Peaks on the way up.  But I was bound and determined for a return trip to our original hike trail to see if it was still as bad.

This morning's hike had me winding my way along Coulter Pine trail.  The views were familiar; a rusty water tower, rocks and pebbles covering the trail and seemingly endless trail winding up the slope.  Hiking poles in hand I started my ascent to see If I could duplicate our death march from five years ago.

Just over one and half hours into the hike I reached the Eagle Peak summit marker, I was on top.  Just about three miles of steep climbs, a few switch backs and painfully close encounter with a low hanging tree branch on the trail had brought me to the top in just about the same time and distance as my other two recent attempts.  What happened?  Where was the grueling death march I had remembered.  Near as I can figure on our original hike we must have had a failure to navigate.

On my reent hike up Eagle peak I noticed one thing different, signs, signs everwhere signs.  The powers that be on the mountain seemed to have put up more trail markers.  Also I noticed today a small rock wall had been built near turn in the trail to keep hikers from straying off the correct path.  I think maybe we took a turn on one of the many similar but wrong dirt and rock trails and got lost on that hike five years ago.  the new signage does a good job of guiding the hiker along the route to the top.

Today's hike measured out at around eight miles with a climb just over 2,300 feet as the trail winds up and down leading to and from the fire roads.  It still is a trip for the experienced hiker as this peak, no matter which route you take requires attention and focus on the trail.  One little slip up and your smacking tree limbs with your noggin or worse.

This turned out to be a good hike and one to keep for future use.  I have made three trips up the peak, two in one month so I will turn my attention to other trails on Diablo including the summit in the future.  Eagle Peak isn't the scary monster I thought it was but it's height and treacherous trail conditions make this a worthy climb for any hiker.

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