Diablo Reference Hike 2017
19 Nov. 2017
random trip report
I turned [number deleted] recently, so it's time for the annual Mt. Diablo Reference hike. This year I'm doing it with Serene Dan and Tory, but she unfortunately gets sick at the last minute.
Dan is delayed by bizarre street closures for the Berkeley Half Marathon. After a flurry of text messages, we're on our way to Clayton.
As I get out of the car door I realize, with a terrible sinking feeling, that I forgot to bring my hiking boots. I'm wearing my leather Jesus sandals. Well, dammit, they'll have to do. We're on the trail at 11:17.
Dan is between jobs and is working out basically all the time, so he's in great shape and sets of fast pace. I have to work pretty hard to keep up.
It's an absolutely perfect fall day. Cool, crystal clear. It rained a couple days ago and the trail is neither dusty nor muddy.
We reach Murchio Gap in 65 min; no record attempt today. Bald Ridge trail is spectacular as always, and I tell Dan the story of the hailstorm with Dave Gedye.
It occurs to me that the weird colors of the Manzanita - maroon bark, pale green leaves - remind me of the reversed colors on old color negative film.
From Prospector Gap to the summit we take an undocumented short-cut trail that I found on satellite photos. This trail is very steep and in reasonable shape. Unfortunately by this time my feet are hurting because of the sandals. The straps aren't tight enough so the sandals slide a couple of inches on uphill steps, producing various points of abrasion and blisters. It's kind of an ordeal.
The shortcut is quite a bit shorter than the Summit Trail, and with proper footwear you could save a bit of time, but not a lot; it's steep and the footing is bad in places.
We reach the summit and rest on the observation deck. The snowy Sierras are clearly visible. Dan didn't bring food so he gets a bunch of snacks (Fritos, peanuts, granola bar) from the visitor center. I eat leftover eggplant/checkpea stew. I get a couple of band-aids from the ranger, but they're of no help, and fall off.
We start down. My feet feel better. We jog on the shallow grades, which is fast and fun but unfortunately at some point it tweaks my lower back and I get slight nerve pain in my left leg. From then on I have to walk a bit slowly and carefully. Fortunately I didn't forget my poles.
Dan is fascinated by the diverse flora, and uses his smart phone to identify a number of species. There's some wild grape, whose leaves have turned a wonderful shade of yellow that seems to glow in the fading light.
I recite "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Reckoning" in the last mile or so. Dan hasn't heard these.
Summary: I count this as a success. My muscles feel fine, even now (the next day). My back is what it is; running downhill is and will always be a problem. Forgetting my hiking boots may measure decline of a different sort, but in my defense there was a lot of scurrying around to meet Dan, and in any case this is by no means the first time.