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51. Wildcat Peak (02/07/98)

Hikers (6): Eugene, Peter, Ram, Russ, Steve, Taylor
Distance: 11 miles
Rating: 2 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Wildcat/Tilden Regional Parks in the Berkeley hills

Write-up by Peter

This was supposed to be a Level 2 (easy) hike. Note that I said "supposed to be". El Nino was out in full force -- rain pelting down, and 80 mile-per-hour winds blowing cars and people all over the place. Despite these conditions (and the killer dogs near the trailhead), the brave INCH hikers pressed on!

Well, we did not get too far. We slogged uphill through mud and water for about half a mile. At this point, the trail did a sharp switchback and headed up along a ridge. Esteban and Rusty had gone up ahead, followed by Eugene, then Ram, Taylor, and myself.

As we approached the switchback, I heard a massive flapping sound and thought some giant condor or pterodactyl must be landing nearby. It was actually Rusty's poncho getting ripped to shreds by the gale-force winds!

A few steps later, there a loud high-pitched shrieking noise. Ram thought some poor animal must have gotten caught in a trap or something, but it was actually Eugene howling!

Now, the rain turned to sleet. The wind was blowing horizontally, and almost carrying us off our feet. Most of us were not prepared for this (I certainly wasn't -- just wearing a T-shirt and shorts).

We were getting pelted with sleet -- we had to do 11 more miles of this? Not bloody likely! I decided it be would be wise to retreat and try again another day. Rusty, Ram, and Esty were about 200 yards up the hill and were waving for us to continue on. Unfortunately, Eugene (who had the car keys) was on his way to join them and had not seen that we had stopped. Taylor and I had no choice but to go further on and join the others.

We huddled in the howling wind. I tried to talk everyone out of going on ahead, but they wouldn't listen. The fools decided to forge ahead, while Eugene, Taylor, and I headed back.

Even the trip back down was torture. It was tough enough not slipping in the mud, without having to worry about the wind blowing you away. We finally made it back around the corner and got some degree of shelter from the wind. Whew!

Back at the car, we changed into dry clothes and waited for the others. I had a feeling they would be coming back soon. Sure enough, after a few minutes Rusty showed up, drenched from head to toe. He had fallen on his butt a couple of times going up a steep muddy hill and his poncho had been ripped from his back and carried off in the wind. He told us Esteban and Ram were still pressing on.

At this point, we decided to take off and head home for a nice hot shower. Rusty stayed behind to wait for the other two. As it turned out, he did not have a long wait. The others soon also threw in the towel and beat a hasty retreat to the car.

El Nino had won this round, but we will be back to hike another day!

Peter's 50th leaf
Taylor's 40th leaf

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