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92. Black Mountain (10/31/98)

Hikers (9): Eugene, Jamie, Mary, Miwako, Peter, Russ, Stephanie, Steve, Wei-Kai
Distance: 16 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve in Cupertino

Write-up by Eugene

After the cruel joke that the rain gods played upon us at Coit Lake, it was refreshing to start out on a DRY hike for a change. This was our 4th visit to Rancho and our 2nd trek up Black Mountain. An important reminder when planning a trip to Rancho is to arrive early! The lower parking lot gets filled immediately and there are always battles for the sparse parking spaces.

I arrived to the park on time at 8:00a and saw Jamie and Mary there. Jamie had arrived at 7:30a to beat the mad rush. Stephanie (newbie) also came at the same time, but couldn't park in the lower lot. After stretching and waiting for another 1/2 hour, I saw Saviz Da-Man (a.k.a the Leather-Clad Gimp) approaching, and I figured that he got the shaft trying to park. He was immediately followed by Rusty and Esteban who also dragged their sorry asses out of bed late. This is one of those rare times that I felt vindicated for having a motorcycle by utilizing the motorcycle parking area in the lower lot.

Realizing that it was Halloween and was supposed to be a "theme hike" as dictated by Muffy, I thought we might have to succumb to her wrath because we all had forgotten to wear costumes. However, she wimped out and didn't show up on the hike (black leaf?) so we were lucky this time. The only people that didn’t forget were Weikai and Miwako who were decked out in their Halloween garb. Miwako was trying to be “G.I. Jane” (no offense to Jane, of course) but I didn’t know what the hell Weikai was supposed to be. I assumed that he was trying to be a ghost, but isn’t the sheet supposed to go over the head instead of in the pants? My guess was that he was cold.

After intoducing Stephanie the newbie to the group, we headed into the park.

1, 2, 3, ...INCH!

As with the previous hikes at Rancho, we had to filter through the hordes of weekend warriors and families out for a day in the park. As we were approaching Deer Hollow Farm where the men are men and the sheep beware, we noticed a mole/muskrat/rodent critter sticking his head out of the ground. This reminded me of the Gopher in Caddyshack which was mocking Bill Murray's attempt to subdue it. The funny thing about this rodent was its boldness. It was either blind or just wasn’t afraid. Saviz, the leather-clad gimp, attempted to scare it by stomping on the ground, but to no avail. Then as Rusty and Esteban approached the mouse-like creature, it disappeared into the hole without a trace. My guess is that it sensed Richard Gere was nearby itching for a little game of “hide the gerbil” and didn’t want any part of that.

Note from Peter: I have no idea where this "leather-clad" thing is coming from. I have never been clad in leather in my life ... well, at least not on a hike!

Walking another mile along the Rogue Valley Trail, we headed towards an area which was supposed to be a pond. All we saw there was a dried-up basin which looked more like the Utah Salt Flats. About 1/4 mile later, we made a sharp turn to the left onto the Chamise Trail where the long climb up started. We began to build up a sweat as we traveled upwards and it wasn't too long before Steph got hot and took off her sweater, showing off her buff body. She stuffed the heavy sweater into my backpack and insisted on volunteering to carry it, so I caved in and let her take it (note from Peter: Nice move!).

As we kept walking, I kept an eye on her to see if she was suffering, but she seemed fine. I guess I should have been paying attention to the trail, because at this point I almost stepped on a live snake! Thanks a lot, guys!

At the top of the switchbacks, we came out into a grassy meadow, which marked the last flat area before the climb to the top. At this point, Weikai and Miwako turned back. I wanted to "black leaf" them, but Fatso became soft (note from Peter: Hey!!!).

After getting earfuls of abuse from the guys, I took the backpack away from Steph. The trail started to get steeper at this point, and I didn’t want to seem like a wimp. The climb up to the peak was a bummer. Esteban and Rusty were up front, and Steph and the Gimp were walking together, leaving me behind. Jamie and Mary were somewhere in the back. I saw another snake (a dead one this time) on the trail. About halfway up, I met a couple of brothers who were taking a short cut back, and I took note of the path.

I finally made it to the top and joined the others for lunch. Jamie and Mary showed up a few minutes later. Rusty and Esteban went wandering off somewhere with Mary. The two dorks came back a few minutes later but they had lost Mary. Nice going!

I told the group about the shortcut back. Three of us decided to take it, but the others (especially Jamie) chickened out, thinking that it would be too steep and unknown, and we would get lost.

Stephanie, the Gimp, and myself forged ahead to discover the unknown. I saw what I thought was the path and walked about 100 feet to a dead end. It was official: INCH got fooled again. After poking around for a bit, the Gimp found the trail and we continued down the hill. At the next fork, Steph took over the scouting duties, and she was a good one too.

The trail reminded me of the garden maze in The Shining -- Jack Nicholson with an axe and us screaming “RedRum” as we ran away.

After a while, we saw power lines, which was a good sign because it meant that we were approaching the PG&E trail. We finally got to Vista Point and saw that trusty bench underneath the power tower. We stopped and rested for a few minutes. Looking northeast, you can see the Shoreline Amphitheater, and if you really squint, you can see my house in Mountain View.

The shortcut was worth it. We did get scratched up a bit, but we basically cut 3 miles out of the return trip. We took the High Meadow Trail back to the parking lot, arriving there long before the others. No point prolonging the downhill anf flat portions!

Stephanie's 1st leaf

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