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81. Saratoga Gap Loop (08/08/98)

Hikers (7): Beth, Jane M, Jessica, Johannes, Peter, Russ, Taylor
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 2 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Write-up by Peter

A week after the death march, we were back for more punishment. Fortunately, the weather had cooled considerably and the location we had chosen for the hike offered tons of greenery and shade.

We welcomed two new members to INCH: Jane's friend Jessica, and a new TCAD member, Johannes (or, as Taylor said, "your highness?").

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

From the intersection of Hwy 9 and Skyline Blvd in the hills above Saratoga, we walked along the flat Saratoga Gap Trail for a mile and a half through the woods, then turned onto the Charcoal Road. This fire road led downhill steeply into the valley below (in fact, it's so steep that bikes are not allowed to go downhill).

After about a half hour, we found ourselves at a gate. Hmmmm. There was no sign of this on the map. Could it be that the INCH was lost? This would be a first - NOT!! Well, we had two choices: either go back up the steep hill, or keep going downwards. We chose to keep going.

Before too long we were walking through a residential area with dogs barking at us. Not good. We were definitely off the map. Not good. At times like this, there's only one thing to do: sit down and eat.

Just as I had taken my first bite, an old man came out from one of the houses and started yelling at us about trespassing on a private road and threatening to either shoot us or call the cops. Being the brave soul that I am, I let the women deal with it. Taylor and Jane went over to soothe him and reassure him that we had not intentionally taken this road. Well, the girls worked their charm. Before you knew it, the old man was walking down the road with his arm around Jane. He walked us all the way to the end of the road and gave us directions on how to find our way back. I tell you, those women can get away with murder!

We found ourselves walking along Stevens Canyon Road, and before too long were back in the park again. Jessica and Jane were late for something, so they decided to shortcut back along the Charcoal Road. The rest of us kept going along the Grizzly Flat Trail. Either way, it was going to be a steep climb back up to Skyline. The difference would be that once we made it to the top, we would still have about 4 miles of walking to do.

Two miles to the top ... let's rock! Rusty took the lead, with me in pursuit. Muffy, Buffy, and Johannes brought up the rear. The Man was setting a mean pace. I was doing my best to keep up with him. It seemed he would get a big lead and then slow down and let me catch up, then pull away again. He's an evil god, but as we got closer to the top, I sensed Canteen Boy was actually running out of steam. I passed El Presidente about a quarter-mile from the top and let momentum carry me to the gate at the end of the trail. I think he just let me do it so that I'd have something to write about. High five!

We sat at the top for about 15 minutes before the girls showed up. No sign of Johannes. He had being doing pretty good most of the way, but seemed to have slowed down going up the hill. We waited a little longer, and were just about to send out the search party when he showed up. Good job! He seemed pretty damn tired, so we suggested that he walk back along Skyline and we could send a car back to pick him up.

The rest of us headed across the road and began the walk back in on Peters Creek Trail. This trail basically zigged and zagged back and forth as it ran parallel to the road, so it stretched a short distance into a long drawn-out trek. It took us over an hour and a half to get back to the parking lot.

The Man was starving (he had not brought much food along in the anticipation of the Hot Dog Fest that was to happen at Jane's place later in the day). Now I understood how I was able to beat him up the hill! He made a beeline for the hot dog cart. Meanwhile, Muffy hopped into Carmen and went to retrieve Johannes. After everyone regrouped, we headed out.

Bring on the `dogs!!!

Jessica's 1st leaf
Johannes's 1st leaf

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