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64. North Peak (05/02/98)

Hikers (12): Beth, Cindy, Ed, Eric, Eugene, Louisa, Mei, Nanda, Peter, Steve, Sue Q, Taylor
Distance: 16 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton

Write-up by Peter and Eric

Peter starts out ...

Despite the threat of rainy weather, 12 people showed up for this hike, including three newbies (Ed, Mei, and Sue, who came with Louisa). Excellent!

We had been to Mt. Diablo many times before, but had always gone to the summit itself. Each time, on the way back I had looked over at the adjacent peak with all the antennas and had thought that it would be nice to hike that peak for a change. Well, this was the day!

The intention was to start at Mitchell Canyon, hike 3 miles up to Deer Flat, another couple of miles to the antennas, and then back. Looking at the map at the trailhead, I noticed that the peak with the antennas was actually North Peak, not Eagle Peak, as I had originally called it, and it was a little further away (about 7 miles, not 5). Fearing that this would cause confusion, I tried to gather everyone around to inform them, but without much success. Aaaaahhh -- screw it! What could possibly go wrong?

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

The skies were overcast as we started out -- nice weather for hiking. The first 2 miles were flat, without much excitement. I was out front with Egg for most of the way, with Eugene, Esty, and Nanda a few steps behind, and the rest of the pack walking along in a big group, chatting away happily.

As we approached the beginning of the uphill to Deer Flat, Esteban caught up with Egg and the two of them took off at a blazing pace. I walked at my usual tortoise pace, accompanied by Nanda. Eugene was a few steps behind and the rest of the pack in tow.

We huffed and puffed our way up the climb. I was using my new camelback water pouch for the first time and I put it to good use on the hill, sucking down large amounts of water at every switchback (you can make up your own jokes about "sucking the hose"). The air was thick and muggy and I could feel the rain was not too far away.

We made it to the top without stopping (my usual goal) and found Egg and Esty resting comfortably at the Deer Flat picnic tables. I noticed Esty was rather quiet. I soon found the reason -- Egg had beaten him up the hill! (Esty is the benchmark by which all hill climbing is measured. If you can beat him up a hill, it goes into the writeup.)

I figured the pack was a few minutes away, and I was starving, so I took advantage of the break to eat half my sandwich. I have to go back and thank the lady at the Clayton Safeway for packing so much roast beef into that sandwich. It was great! Just as I was finishing up, the rain arrived. Out comes the rain gear!

We sat there quietly, listening to the pitter-patter of the rain. A few minutes later, Eugene showed up. A couple of minutes after that Muffy, Taylor, and Cindy came along too. They broke the news to us -- Louisa and the newbies had turned back. Sounds like Black Leaves to me! (We later found out that they did actually make it to Deer Flat, but then took a wrong turn, asked directions, were told they were going the wrong way, and headed back to the car. Since they're newbies and gave a decent effort, we'll give 'em a break and hold off on the Black Leaves this time).

Eric and Esty were getting pretty cold (they had been there quite a while), so they headed out along with Nanda. I was worried that the others would take a wrong turn, so I stayed back with them.

Eric's turn ...

Although others may claim to the contrary, Hike #64 was a hike to Eagle Peak ....

The hike started pleasantly enough with a steep three mile climb up to Deer Flat. The sun was shining; I was feeling great; and much to my surprise, I handily beat Steve up the climb. This latter event was the highlight of my day; things quickly degraded from there.

After a 45 minute wait at Deer Flat (during which it started to rain), Taylor and Muffy showed up, announcing that the newbies behind them had quit in shame. Steve, Nanda and I took off again quickly, ready to shake off the rain and cold. We headed towards Eagle Peak, not knowing that everyone behind us was heading to North Peak. The path to Eagle Peak was beautiful. It ran along a high ridge lined with wild flowers.

Upon reaching Eagle Peak, Steve, Nanda and I waited again (a common activity that day) for the rest of the crew. Of course, they were crawling towards North Peak, and were nowhere to be seen. We stayed on Eagle Peak for half an hour, trying not to get blown off the top by a now frigid wind.

Luckily, a rock quarry next to the parking lot could be easily seen from the top of Eagle Peak. Peter was kind enough to point out this landmark at the start of the hike. We took a trail down from Eagle Peak, never letting the quarry out of our sight. Unfortunately, the trail degraded quickly, to the point where it was more of a creek bed than a trail. Steve, claiming some past knowledge and more common sense, chose at this point to take a looping trail back to the lot. Nanda and I refused to lose our landmark though and continued into the wilderness. We spent more time sliding down the muddy slopes than hiking. The trail disappeared completely, our rate of progress slowed to a crawl, but luckily Nanda and I had chosen a direct path back to the cars. Amazingly, we ran into Steve right before the parking lot; although he wasn't sporting mud all over his backside.

At this point, we waited some more ... over three hours to be exact. Peter made it back in about two hours. The others were quite lost and delayed by tadpole hunting. Steve, Nanda and I entertained ourselves by throwing rocks at a trashcan, traveling back to town for snacks, and Nanda's amusing jokes: "A koala is defined as a small furry mammal which eats bush and leaves."

Back to Peter ...

We left Deer Flat, heading along the fire road towards Prospector's Gap. After a few minutes, the rain let up and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds. About 3/4 of a mile down the road, we came to a 5-way intersection. I saw the others were going at a rather slow pace, and by now I had realized that my estimate of the whole hike being 9 miles was a poor guess -- if we wanted to go to North Peak, it would be more like 14 miles -- so I suggested that the others take the downhill route back to the car.

While they were mulling it over, I found a new trail leading to the Prospector's Gap -- the Bald Eagle Trail. It looked like it was quite a bit steeper than the fire road, but I had a feeling it would be shorter, so I decided to go for it. To my surprise, the others came along with me. Yes!!! That's the INCH spirit!

This was a great trail -- it started out steep, then got steeper, as it wound its way up to the top of the hill. As I huffed and puffed my way towards the top, I could hear the others down below. The bugs were out in full force, buzzing in my ears all the way up. I knew Taylor was not going to enjoy this part!

From the top, I looked down and saw the fire road winding around. I figured I would see Esteban, Eric, and Nanda somewhere on the road, but there was no sign of them. Maybe they were on the same trail as me (but I doubted it). I pressed on. The trail went up and down along the top of a ridge and through some overgrown areas. This is my kind of trail -- I'll take a winding, narrow, hikers-only trail over a wide, dusty fire road any day.

The trail finally ended at the Prospector's Gap. I looked around for arrow markers, but there was no sign of anything. Maybe I'd be able to be the first one to the top! I left a couple of bright orange post-it notes with INCH arrows, and then continued on. Less than a mile to go ...

The antennas loomed above as I got closer. There was no sign of anyone at all. I began to think that maybe this was some sort of restricted area, but I hadn't seen any signs to that effect, so I kept going. The final couple hundred yards up to the peak was pretty steep, but well worth the climb. At the top, there were some metal steps that led up to the biggest antenna. This looked like the highest point on the mountain. I went up the steps to the top and sat down. Finally made it!

From the top, there was a beautiful view of the entire East Bay. I sat there for a few minutes admiring the view and catching my breath. It was so peaceful and quiet, as opposed to summit of Mt. Diablo (which it seemed like I could almost reach out and touch) which is always crowded with carloads of people. Very nice!

I finished the second half of my sandwich and the rest of the water in the camelback. I was now completely out of supplies, but I knew the way back would be much easier, so I was not worried. The good thing was that there be no load on my aching back. I was debating as to how long I should wait at the peak for the others, when I noticed dark clouds gathering once again. It made my decision much easier. You don't want to be sitting at the foot of an antenna when there are dark storm clouds overhead!

As I headed down, it began to pour heavily. I was glad I had brought my new hooded windbreaker. For once, I was properly attired. My moment of joy was short-lived. As I started coming down the steep portion, I slipped on one of the slick rocks and came crashing down on my side. Owwwww! I gave my left leg a pretty good scrape and I could feel a sharp pain in the outside of my left thigh. Nothing broken, but I figured this was going to bruise up pretty good. I was just hoping I hadn't screwed up my lower back (again!). Better keep walking before it tightens up.

A few minutes later, I was back at the Prospector's Gap. I noticed my orange post-its were still there under the rocks where I had placed them. As I picked them up I noticed some new writing on them. Taylor, Muffy, Cindy, and Eugene had made it this far, then turned around and headed back. They had been so close to the top!

From the Gap, the final destination could be clearly seen -- the quarry that looms over the Mitchell Canyon entrance. I took the most direct path back, straight down the fire road, then switching over to the Donner Canyon Trail. At the bottom of Donner Canyon, I decided to be adventurous and try another new trail, the Back Creek Trail (I knew the other trail would eventually lead back to Mitchell Canyon, but the last time we had taken it, it had been a muddy quagmire). Actually, it turned out the Back Creek was a trail we had taken on our first trip to Mt. Diablo and had never been able to find again. It is another great trail: hikers-only, leading along a beautiful babbling brook, then through some tall grass, before finally coming out in the open on the flat plain leading back to the parking lot.

As I limped back to the car, I saw Esteban, Egg, and Nanda had arrived long before me and were already lounging around. After some discussion, we figured out that they had gone to Eagle Peak, not North Peak. The good news was that they had also done a great hike and had also saved themselves some mileage. The bad news was that they had to sit around for a long time and wait for everyone else to show up.

Speaking of the others, it took about another hour before the rest of the gang showed up. They had taken a wrong turn on the way back and had ended up walking a couple of extra miles, bringing their total to 16 miles on the day. Good job!

Muffy had stopped on the way to pick up some tadpoles and bring them along in a Snapple bottle. Well, by the time they had made it back to the car, the babies were all on their way to Froggy Heaven. Seems that the boiling water in the Snapple bottle was not what the doctor ordered. Bad Muffy!

The other bad news was that Cindy had a dinner date she was supposed to meet in less than an hour. Uh-oh! Nanda put the pedal to the metal to get back as fast as he could, but we got back to Intel too late. Poor Cindy! On her first INCH hike, she got the Triple Moon, and now this. Hang in there -- it will get better, I promise!














Milestones:
Ed's 1st leaf
Mei's 1st leaf
Peter's 60th leaf
Steve's 30th leaf
Sue Q's 1st leaf



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