Somebody asked me recently why do I hike? the short answer is it is a good release from the stress of work and home and all the tumultuous happening that weigh down upon me. A trip to to the hiking trail is a walk back to sanity where I focus on just one thing, the trail itself. Good thing I can still focus because I need every bit of it at Saturday's East Side Loop hike at the Las Trampas Wilderness.
I had planned on this hike a couple of weeks ago but a police roadblock on the only way road in to the staging area turned me around. With August temperatures expected to tip the 105 degree mark I packed 5 liters of water and set off for San Ramon where I would hike a sunbaked section of the park's eastern expanse. This wasn't going to be an easy hike by any means.
I saw the trail described in my hiking book as one of the most challenging hikes in the Tri-Valley area. They weren't kidding. It was hot on the trail but even a cool day would have been a challenge on the course I had laid out. I was on a what was supposed to be a short 7-mile hike climbing my way up and down canyons and ridge lines but came out at almost 9 miles as the confusing trail markers had me carving a crazy path on the rugged trail.
I joked on some parts of the trail I liked it so much I did it twice. Truth be told I got turned around on the trail. Las Trampas doesn't feature the clearly posted trail markers of Mount Diablo State Park. These vague markers didn't even seem to match my map and often I came upon unsigned trail junctures. I would have been totally lost with out my iPhone and trusty Motion X GPS realtime mapping. I was able to guide my way past a few wrong turns comparing the GPS map to the printed map at the trail intersections to find the right course for the loop.
If the weather was hot the climb didn't help matters on the trail much. My GPS charted a climb of almost 2,700 feet second only to a Diablo summit hike. Climbing over boulders, slipping on slick gravel and dodging the poison oak made for an exciting time. Between the heat the climb and the rugged features of the trail I was on a slow pace around the loop. It took me over 5 hours to complete just 9 miles. I was on the verge of not feeling well and I had to take a break to regroup and rest for the final push home.
It was definately one of the hardest hikes I have done to date. Trail conditions in any weather call for an experienced hiker to pay attention and test his skills and endurance. The climbing zaps your strength and an new hill to climb at every turn saps your will too. I don't think I will be returning to this neck of the wilderness any time soon. it just might be time for some cooler hikes along the coast soon. But still it is good to know that I can tackle the tougher trails without too much trouble.