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290. Priest Rock Trail (10/26/02)

Hikers (9): Cal, Eugene, Guillermo, Hussam, Janice, Jason, Peter, Russ, Steve
Distance: 8 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 7 beauty
Park info: Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve near Los Gatos

Write-up by Peter

A large number of INCHers, including myself, had been beset by various flu and cold-related ailments this week. The best remedy is a good hike in the fresh air to sweat it all out. It will either cure you or kill you -- either way, you won't be suffering any more!

The intrepid group met up at the trailhead. Luckily there was enough roadside parking to accomodate all of us. There had been a rumor that the legendary Hiking Mike would be showing up this week, but, as usual, he was nowhere to be seen. He is elusive as the yeti, but Cal claims he really does exist. The Sighting would have to wait for another day.

We did have one newbie join us on the hike -- welcome, Guillermo! He was no yeti.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

We got off to a fast start, and I started feeling the post-flu effects right off the bat. I was huffing and puffing and gasping for air before even making it to the first turn. By the time we reached the second turn, I was coughing up a lung. Mmmmmmm, phlegm! I decided to stop and catch my breath while the others continued on. I really didn't mind hiking alone, especially on this day, because it would be too painful to try to talk and hike at the same time.

After a couple of minutes, I started up again, this time at a slower pace. This felt much better. I got into a good rhythm and started switching over to autopilot. I wish I had done this from the start. I caught up with Eugene, Jason, and Guillermo just before the gate at the 1.5 mile mark. Dobby was giving the newbie his standard interrogation -- welcome to the INCH!

I kept going ..... I could see Cal and Janice a little further up the trail. These guys had just climbed Whitney a few weeks earlier, so this hike was a piece of cake for them. I set myself a goal of keeping pace with them, but to my surprise, I found myself actually gaining ground. They must have been taking it easy, or maybe it was a trap, just like the ones The Man sets -- he plays possum and lets you catch up to him, then turns on the jets and blows you away. Dog!!!

When we reached the trail intersection at the midway point, I could see the other three guys heading up the hill. Esteban was out in front by himself, with Rusty about a quarter-mile behind, and then Hussam further back. I knew there was no way I could catch Steve and Russ, but maybe I had a shot at Hussam. I picked up the pace a little, while being careful not to overdo it and start hacking again.

I was actually starting to feel good about this hike. Maybe the stuff about sweating out the flu really is true. I was cruising now ........

I caught up with Hussam at Dead Man's Hill (I don't think that's the official name, but I know it's claimed many a hiker -- if you don't believe me, just ask Atul). Hussam was starting to slow down pretty good. Yep, this is one of those climbs like the ones at Henry Coe -- the first time you do it, it delivers some major whup-ass on you. The returners have a definite advantage as they know what they're in for. I laughed heartily as left him in the dust while the buzzards circled overhead.

By the time I reached the top, Steve and Rusty had already been there a while. I kicked the sign designating the official top, and then found a spot on the side to rest my bones. Aaaaaaahhhh! It sure felt good to sit down. My throat felt as dry as a bone, despite all the water I had been drinking. I just sat there quietly for a while, trying to breathe through my nose instead. Things gradually started to feel better.

The rest of the gang showed up pretty soon thereafter. We were also joined by the usual assortment of bikers. In all the times we've been here, I don't think we've ever seen any other hikers at the top. I guess we're the only ones crazy enough to walk all the way up.

After a good rest at the top, we packed up our gear (including Dobby's orange peels) and headed back. The climb up had taken it all out of me and I was starting to really feel low-energy now. Thank God it was downhill all the way. My knees didn't like it, but my lungs appreciated it. Normally, The Man would wait up and walk down this hill with me, but not on this day. He wanted to get back quickly to watch the UCLA-Stanford game. Why he would want to waste time with a crappy Pac-10 game is beyond me, but at least it was better than furniture shopping or playing video games. As for me, it was time to go home for a hot shower, a nice tumbler of whiskey, and a well-earned nap!

Cal's 30th leaf
Guillermo's 1st leaf
Jason's 10th leaf

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