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50. Murietta Falls (01/31/98)

Hikers (9): Cap'n Dave, Frank, George X, Julia, Katherine, Peter, Ram, Russ, Shanti
Distance: 12 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Ohlone Regional Wilderness south of Livermore

Write-up by Peter

The 50th INCH hike! Where better to celebrate, than at the scene of our first ever Level 5 hike: Murietta Falls.

Much to my disappointment, two of the original founders did not show up. Taylor was unmotivated, and Esteban made some lame excuse about having to shop for furniture. I was sorely tempted to give them each a Black Leaf for their pathetic showing. On the plus side, we did have five, yes five, enthusiastic newbies.

After waiting for an hour for everyone (Julia) to show up, we finally hit the road. As we started to head up 680, the rain arrived, but our spirits were not dampened one wit. In true INCH spirit, no-one even mentioned the thought of abandoning the hike. It was one of INCH's proudest moments!

We drove around Livermore, doing multiple U-turns as we searched for the Safeway, but to no avail. We finally gave up and stopped at Nob Hill. I was starving already and I scarfed down two donuts while we were in the sandwich line. Can't hike on an empty stomach (especially at Murietta)!

We finally arrived at Del Valle Regional Park. The place was deserted (as expected). There was only one vehicle in the parking lot -- Ram was there, waiting for us, and packing heat. Upon reflection, he decided to leave the guns behind in the car. Right about then, the rain ended -- perfect time to start the hike!

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

As usual, Murietta did not disappoint. The first mile and half is the Mother Of All Hike Beginnings. If you can make it past there, you've got a pretty decent shot at doing the whole thing. Rusty just took off like a bat out of hell. This hike is cake for The Man! Ram and myself were not too far behind. We were wondering when Cap'n Dave was gonna start sprinting up the hill, but he had chosen to hang back with Julia and her friends (at least for now).

We made it to the top of the ridge without too much difficulty. The cool weather definitely did help. It did not take much longer before we began the descent down into Williams Gulch. Once there, Rusty and Ram did not want to hang around, so they kept going up the ridge on the other side. I waited for the others to show up.

It took them much longer to arrive than I expected, and I was starting to get pretty cold. Just as I was about to leave them a note with directions, I heard their voices approaching. I was thinking that the newbies might be tired out at this point and was going to urge them to head back, but they were all eager to continue. Excellent attitude!

Time for Cap'n Dave to show his stuff -- he set off to catch Rusty (Canteen Boy already had a 20-minute head start). I waited a couple of minutes for the gang to catch their breath, and then rest of us began the trek up the Big Burn. It starts out slow, but then wears you down and kicks your butt!

The pack fell behind shortly after the rest stop at the gate. The trail was straightforward from this point, so I did not wait up for them and kept going. No sign of Rusty, Ram, and Cap'n Dave. I figured they had to be close to the falls by now.

As I made the final turn and came over the top of the falls, I saw the boys walking down below. It turned out that Cap'n Dave caught up with them right at the top of Big Burn. Great job, Dave!

The boys were looking for a place to cut over and walk to the bottom of the falls (in all our previous trips, we had simply gone as far as the top of the falls). I picked up the pace to catch up with them, but before too long, I saw them heading back to me. It seems the road they had taken had dead-ended onto a private road.

Hmmmmm ... well, we just decided to head off trail and follow the sound of running water. Before too long, there it was -- the beautiful cascading waterfall! After all those trips and miles of torture, we had finally seen it! As we settled down to enjoy our well-deserved lunch, we heard the rest of the group coming down. Rather than take the long route as we had done, they just shortcut straight down from the top of the falls. (It is strange that with all these trails through the Ohlone Wilderness, there is not a single one that takes you to the foot of the falls. How bizarre!).

As we sat there admiring the view and taking pictures, I initiated the newbies into the tradition of the INCH Full Moon. Welcome to Shanti, Katherine, Cap'n Dave, Frank and George (a.k.a. the Costanzas)!

It was getting late, so we began to head back. We just took the shortest path, straight up the ridge. It was pretty steep, but thankfully, it was short. Back on the trail, Rusty and I soon found ourselves separated from the stragglers. Every now and then, we would hear some strange sounds behind us, but when we looked around nobody was there. The Ghost of Murietta lives!

On our way down the Big Burn, we were a little ways past the gate when we heard the sound of the gate closing behind us. We turned around, but once again, no-one was there. Time to get the hell out of here! As we picked up the pace, we heard some crashing sounds behind us. This time, it was not the Ghost -- just Ram, barreling down the mountain. How bizarre!

Once again, the three of us were the first ones to arrive at the Gulch. And once again, Rusty and Ram took off early while I waited behind for the others. It did not take them that long to arrive this time (Shanti was also running down the mountain -- I wish my knees could take that kind of punishment!).

Next came the part of this hike that has traditionally been my most hated part of the whole ordeal -- the climb back out from the Gulch. I guess I just have bad memories of the first time we attempted this hike and ran out of water and almost collapsed in the 100-degree heat at this point. This time, it was not a big deal. In fact, it was over before I knew it. Maybe I will have fonder memories of this trail the next time around. Naaaaaah!

From the top of the ridge, it was just plain ol' downhill back to the car. All in all, an excellent hike -- well worthy of the 50th!

Milestones:
Cap'n Dave's 1st leaf
Frank's 1st leaf
George X's 1st leaf
Katherine's 1st leaf
Shanti's 1st leaf



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