1156. Loma Prieta (11/10/18)
Hikers (24): Arlene, Baltazar, Cathy K, Chinyet, David, Hong, Jarda, Karl, Kathryn, Kendra, Kevin, Mihail, Nagendra, Paul, Praveen, Qi, Rainer, Sabine, Sandy F, Sarbinder, Sophie, Steve, Susan S, Yenya
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 5 beauty
Park info: Uvas Canyon County Park near Uvas
Write-up by Steve -- Pictures by Qi, Chinyet, Jarda, Praveen, Karl and Mihail
At the maximum, there were 38 people signed up for the hike. But due to a little bit of smoke in the air. . .from a fire 180 miles north. . .several people ditched Friday night. Clearly we have a few un-intrepid hikers on the roster.
The Camp Fire, which dumped a lot of smoky air on the Bay Area, started after the hike had been scheduled. The hike would involve prolonged exertion, so it was unwise by the standards listed in the picture above. But unless you are actually sensitive to these things, sitting around your house all day might be equally detrimental to your health. That was my argument as I drove through hazy air to Uvas Canyon, where I was pleased to see (when they were close enough!) the other 23 INCHers who were still signed up. I had been concerned about the parking situation (when seeing 38 people), but we pretty much had the parking lot to ourselves.
While we were getting ready, I pointed out that Ross's two dogs (in addition to Ross and Helen) had signed off, comprising four of the late drops. Sarbinder noted that the dogs probably didn't have free will in that decision, which is sort of commentary that makes INCH fun. I highlighted that another two of those who dropped were German, although we still had two Germans on the hike. So, like Americans, Germans are apparently split on the importance of air quality. Or something like that.
Despite having been to this park many times over the years, we'd never taken Swanson Creek Trail from the parking area, which is a much better route (than the road) to get to Nibbs Knob Trail. We had to cross Swanson Creek twice due (apparently) to the original trail having slid into the creek, but otherwise it was a nice bypass of a paved road.
From the end of that trail, which is the campground area, we hung out long enough to see the tail end of hikers and then proceeded over to the start of Nibbs Knob Trail. I warned the front-runners that we'd go to Nibbs Knob on the way up, while everyone else would tag it on the way back. This was a strategy to make the wait time shorter at the "gate", which was the next point where we'd wait.
The strategy mostly worked, with Sarbinder, Mihail, Susan S, and myself tagging the summit and getting back down quickly enough to pass Sabine and Kathryn before the gate. Unfortunately, we didn't find Sophie and Rainer at the gate when we got there. We waited until we saw Karl and Chinyet before re-starting the hike.
From there, it's a walk along a well-used dirt road. In the old days, we used to be worried about the home owners along the road, but it's pretty clear now that no one minds hikers on the road, which is great. Many cars passed us along the way. We eventually reached the main intersection where Loma Prieta Avenue intersects with Summit Road. We left a big arrow (made of locally sourced waste) and took a right toward Loma Prieta. Later we'd take a left through the wide-open gate to the summit. As I've seen written elsewhere, everyone is pretty cool with hikers to this particular summit.
At the summit, we reunited with Rainer and Sophie, who were looking around wondering if this was the correct summit since no one was there. We sat down on a nice concrete slab and waited for the rest of the group to file in. Sabine, Kathryn, Hong, and Qi were the next group after the front-runners. And it wasn't too long until everyone was there. The old mattress at the summit was still there, although unusable for anything you might imagine a mattress to be used for.
It's worth talking about the air quality at this point. It was pretty crappy on the steep trail up to Nibbs Knob, but up on Loma Prieta, it was practically (or at least relatively) "fresh air". So sitting around at the most prominent point in Santa Clara County was especially nice. The views were reduced by the thick smoke below us, but it's really more about the destination, right?
On the way back down, most people went up to to visit Nibbs Knob on the way back.
I took a longer return route to visit some rarely touched property, and figured (since I got a bit lost) that I'd be the last one back. But as got near the end of the hike, ran into Chinyet near the campground. Took him and Yenya down the other end of Swanson Creek to close out the last of the trail segments in Uvas. As we got just to the last 50 yards of the hike, we saw Kevin/Arlene/Nagendra coming the other way (reversing our way up in the morning). We walked up the stairs to the picnic area, where the post party was still going strong (smoke doesn't deter INCH!).
We soon learned from Sarbinder that a group of four--lead by Sabine--had missed the turn onto Summit Drive and kept going downhill. They were still missing. This wouldn't be so surprising except that Sarbinder did the same thing, and warned them they were going the wrong way as he was coming back up. It's all good--they figured it out and came in fifteen minutes later, having tacked on almost two miles of additional (fortunately fairly flat) distance. Great hike!
Nagendra's 90th leaf
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