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366. Ridgeline Trail (01/03/04)

Hikers (25): Alexandre, Barbara, Cal, Cristina, David, Elaine, Eugene, George, Gwynneth, Hoy, Hussam, Isabela, Janice, Jennifer, Jinglan, Kevin T, Padraig, Pauline, Peter, Russ, Siemel, Steve, Steve P, Tammy, Taylor
Distance: 8 miles
Rating: 2 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park west of Pleasanton

Write-up by Steve

For the first hike of the New Year, we had to plan something reasonably quick and close to make time for later festivities. Pleasanton Ridge fit the bill, and it had been over two years since our last visit. Only 13 people signed up, but 24 hikers showed up at the trail head. Apparently a lot of people were trying to fulfill their New Year's resolutions. Might also have had something to do with fair-weather hikers, as this was the first clear day in a stretch of cold and rainy weather.

1-2-3 INCH

Pleasanton Ridge is interesting because (1) it contains an abandoned olive grove and (2) it has an eight mile loop that is rarely wider than a quarter mile. Up, up, up we went along the Woodland Trail toward the olive grove. There are lots of trail junctions near the top, so I waited for everyone to catch up. This proved to be a much longer wait than expected, as Isabela had injured herself very early in the hike. It was a good eight minutes between the last pack of people to when I saw Cristina, Isabela, and Barbara slowly coming up the hill, chatting away (this is only half a mile into the hike!). Now it was time to charge off and try to "lead" the hike.

There were some spots of frost along the trail, as well as an occasional frozen puddle. Was thinking I would catch everyone at "Gate 19," a weird section of trail that appears to plunge down and off in the wrong direction (indeed, Pauline seemed quite suspicious!). The ol' walkie-talkie confirmed that the front runners had wisely gone the correct way, and we all caught up at the turn-around point on the trail. Glad to see people really do use the maps!

We lounged around and enjoyed lunch, and learned that Elaine had showed up late and was hiking on up too. I was betting she'd catch the tail end of the group, but Cristina and Isabela beat her to the lunch location. We left a little later and caught Elaine not too far down the trail. Good job! We were now a happy quarter hundred.

Figuring it would a long while for everyone to get back, I took off down the Thermalito trail to try to find some of the many geocaches in the park (found four). Caught up with Peter at one point, who predicted that the front-runners would probably get lost at one of the turns (another unlikely turn, but well marked with a sign and highlighted on the map). Sure enough, Russ called in with a lost group, but eventually everyone made it back alive. Even with the tricky trails we officially downgraded the hike to a level two--it's a super-easy hike when the temperature is cool.

Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Kevin broke out some beer and food from his recent birthday party. We all sang "Happy Birthday" in his honor. Let this be a lesson: should you want INCH to sing a tune, just provide booze! Of course, if you want to stop INCH from singing, the same bribe applies.

Milestones:
Isabela's 1st leaf
Steve's 290th leaf
Steve P's 1st leaf



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