Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter song

Hiking in the winter months brings a different view to the trail. The golden sunlit hills of summer are lush and green now covered in the low-lying morning fog. It’s a winter’s tale on the trail and this weekend’s trek took me to Morgan Territory and winter walk along Old Finley Road.

I made this hike in early summer and the multitude of trees and rolling hills made for a pleasant hike in the summer heat.  Saturday’s hike was a chillier adventure marked by muddy trails and a damp mist cloaking the path through the trees.

With a winter hike you have to plan for foul weather and bad trails.  I got both on Saturday. Jumping off from the Old Finley Road trailhead I had planned on a 9-mile hike that would loop from Sulfur Springs Trail. In summer a canopy of trees is relief from the summer heat but it caused some problems for my winter season hike.

A thick fog had settled across the area and covered the trail as I started out.  The fog that had settled low in the trees had saturated the area so much it dripped continuously down on me as I head out. It was almost like being in a light rain. The mist quickly soaked the light sweatshirt I wore.  I hadn’t packed a rain jacket because the forecast was for no clouds just morning fog.  Lesson learned.  I made my way down the trail growing wetter in the morning mist.

Footing on the trail this hike was also turning treacherous. The recent rains had left section of the Old Finley Road trails a quagmire. The trail has a good amount of clay and mud quickly built up in layers on my hiking boots.  Every step felt my feet growing heavier as a layer of mud grew thicker around my boots.  I had to stop frequently to try and clean them off which made for a slow pace on the trail.

But for all the troubles it is the weather that makes a winter hike special.  That same fog that dampens my day produces quite muted colors. Trees stand starkly in eerie poses. Water drops cling to tree branches and leaves. The light is subdued, I almost felt like I was hiking at twilight instead of nearly mid-morning.

When the fog finally lifted the view as it raced along the hillside through the canyons and valleys was breathtaking. Patches of sunlight illuminated the hillsides casting a spotlight against the darkness. The afternoon sunlight rays slant through the trees casting deeps shadows along the trail on my way back to the trailhead.

I’ll have a few more weeks of winter hikes yet to come. Next weekend weather permitting I will make a Mount Diablo summit hike to celebrate the day. Still to come are a hike to the Uvas Canyon waterfalls and a hike to Donner Falls at Mount Diablo.
It maybe the muddy months on the trail but the cold and mess are worth it for views of the winter colors. It’s a great time to get out there and hit the trail to see what sights await.