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428. Fremont Loop (01/08/05)

Hikers (9): Andrew, Barbara, Edita, Jinglan, Peter, Steve, Stevie, Sue, Taylor
Distance: 4 miles
Rating: 2 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Fremont Peak State Park near San Juan Bautista

Write-up by Steve

For the New Year, we planned a New Hike. Even though there was a wild birthday party for fellow-INCHer Cristina the night before, six of those partiers (most of whom left around 2am) showed up for the hike. Add another three to the count, and you get nine hikers who came for an advertised 3-mile, level-1 hike with a 1.5 hour drive and 100% chance of rain. Now that's intrepid (except the level 1 part)! Andrew B drove all the way from San Francisco to experience the sort of weather he misses from jolly ol' England.

In defense of the short hike, I planned the visit before consulting the map closely. It seemed like there was a big loop around the peak, but upon closer inspection, that "big loop" was measured in feet instead of miles. After tracing the route on a topo map, it looked to be about three miles. Whoops. Still, it's always fun to try something new, so what the heck.

This was probably the first hike of the "modern age" of INCH where 100% of the attendees carpooled. We crammed 5 into Peter and Taylor's decrepit Home Depot Mobile and 4 into Sue G's nice year-old car. Hmmmm, how did I end up in Peter's car? A few miles into the drive, we learned that Peter and Taylor were worried that the car might not make it. But everything went fine, and the car could have made it to the mountain powered by party gossip alone.

Once in San Juan Bautista, the roads to the park were pretty well marked. There was only one parking lot open in the winter, and it was empty. The map made it look like there were many places to park, but again, that's due to the tiny scale of the park. There are three lots, all effectively adjacent.

We donned our rain gear (it was already raining) and were off. Well, actually, the long drive resulted in a queue for the bathroom, but then we were off.

1-2-3 INCH

Luckily, we were right at cloud level when the hike began, so visibility was low and no one could see how ridiculously close to the peak we already were. We went down a fireroad opposite of the peak to pick up Valley View Trail. This continued downhill and then right back up the opposite side of a ravine in about a mile. A good warm-up for the nearly constant rain that was falling.

This took us to the Fremont plaque and monument area, from where we took the Peak Trail to the actual summit. Edita commented that this was a much better peak than most in the bay area, because it was actually rocky like a "real" mountain. Peter was less than thrilled climbing up the wet rocks in the wind, but resolutely made it. While stretching to touch the official marker, he managed to get his foot tightly wedged between two rocks. So tightly, in fact, that he had to take off his shoe to free himself. Fremont Peak is treacherous! The views, which are reportedly great, were limited to about a tenth of a mile at best.

There was a flagpole at the top, commemorating an occasion in 1847 when Army Captain John "Pathfinder" Frèmont raised the US flag on the then-Mexican peak (only to be told to take it down). Later, however, he would be arrested, court-martialed and found guilty of mutiny and insubordination; become one of California's inaugural senators; be the first Republican nominee for president; lose a lot of battles in the Civil War; piss off Lincoln; make a fortune in the Gold Rush; lose a fortune in railroads; and become governor of Arizona.

We completed the rest of the loop around the park, ending up in the parking lot after about 4 miles of hiking (4.2 according to Peter's pedometer). Although we didn't get lost on the well-signed trails, we did get plenty wet. Several of us had good rain gear, but most did not. Peter suggested upping the hike to a level two since it had some pretty good uphills. I was neutral, and Taylor was against it. So I took a look at our "Level One Metric" Jinglan--she was beat! Clearly, this was a level two!

We drove into San Juan Bautista for lunch, just like the "old days" of INCH. We took over half of a nice Mexican restaurant (just like Frèmont would have done), where they were happy to get some out-of-town business on a bad-weather day. Hot chocolates were ordered by many of the shivering ladies (and children), who weren't so keen about the "getting wet" aspect of the hike. However, we were unanimously happy about the "getting fed" part, especially Jinglan, who lit up when she learned that menudo contains tripe and no cheese. Bon appétit!

Andrew's 1st leaf
Jinglan's 60th leaf

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