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59. Black Mountain (03/28/98)

Hikers (6): Beth, Eugene, Peter, Russ, Steve, Taylor
Distance: 16 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve in Cupertino

Write-up by Peter

For the second week in a row, we headed to Rancho San Antonio in south Cupertino. This time, the plan was to hike a longer trail (twice as long as the previous week's). The fear of the increased distance prompted some less hardy members of INCH to think about leaving a car near the top of Black Mountain (half-way point of the hike), but the threat of receiving Black Leaves Of Shame managed to dispel that idea.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

I had promised the gang that the first 4 miles of the hike would be completely flat. I was half-right. The first mile and a half to the Deer Hollow Farm was flat, but soon afterwards, we began to climb up the Chamise Trail. It was certainly not as flat as it looked on the contour map! All right -- now we have a real hike! Eugene and girls were cursing me, and I loved it!

At the 4-mile point, we reached the start of the Black Mountain trail. Rusty and Esteban had gone up ahead, so I decided to wait for the other three to catch up. Muffy was starting to drag, and I was thinking that the girls would want to turn back, but much to my surprise, Taylor talked Muffy into pressing on up the trail. That's the INCH spirit!

After another INCH cheer for morale, we hit the trail and began to work our way up the switchbacks. This trail was not very difficult, but it just seemed to go on forever. After less than a mile, I looked back, and saw the girls had stopped again. I went back to give them some words of encouragement. The map indicated there was a gate about halfway up the trail, so I talked them into setting that as a goal for themselves, and we set off again.

It did not take too long for them to slow down to a snail's pace again. Figuring it would be about a 5-mile round-trip from that point to the summit and back, I called down for them to turn back. They said they would keep going a little further and then make a decision. I bid them goodbye and picked up the pace. I knew I had no hope of catching Rusty and Esteban, but at least I would try to make it to the top in respectable time.

I passed Eugene with about 2 miles to go to the top. The trail then flattened out for a while until it reached the first of the electrical pylons. A sign indicated 1.4 miles to the top and the trail suddenly steepened at this point. Final push!

When I made it to the top, Rusty and Esteban were almost finished with their lunch. I had come in 15 minutes behind them. Not too shabby. The map indicated that we were not actually at the highest point (we had merely reached the end of the trail), so we walked around for a bit to investigate, but it seemed that the point that the map had indicated as the peak was at lower elevation than where we had originally stopped, so we figured we had arrived.

About 10 minutes later, Eugene showed up. No sign of the girls. I was hoping they had turned back. After a quick lunch (it was pretty cold and windy at the top), we headed back down. I was surprised that Eugene did not want to rest longer. He was Mr. Energy on this hike! After a minimal rest at the top, he practically ran all the way back down the hill. He gets the Hiker of the Day award. Good job!

Back down at the 1.4 mile signpost, we hooked up with the ladies. Muffy had run out of gas, so Taylor had stayed with her. The two of them had made a good strong effort to do the whole thing, so there would be no Black Leaves on this day.

As we made our way back, Rusty and I began to fall away from the pack. Everyone else was just walking along at a merry pace, but the two of us were really dragging. By the time we made it back to the Deer Hollow Farm, we must have been a good half-mile behind the others. The last two miles felt like the last two endless miles of the Pacheco Trail at Henry Coe. Little kids were zipping past us. Old ladies were kicking dirt in our faces. What the heck's going on here?

After an eternity, we made it back to the car, where everyone else had been waiting for hours. My back felt like it was about cave in. Getting too old for this stuff -- that's why they call me The Gimp. Fortunately, after a few glasses of Guinness later that evening, I felt like a new man. Bring on the next hike!

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