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96. North Peak (11/27/98)

Hikers (5): Jane M, Peter, Pistol Pete, Steve, Taylor
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton

Write-up by Peter

The day after Thanksgiving .... time to work off that big turkey meal! Originally we thought this would be a "men-only" hike as all the women would be out searching for bargains on the "official start of the Christmas shopping season", but we were pleasantly surprised to find that they got their shopping done at the crack of dawn and then joined us for the assault on the North Peak of the Diablo Range.

The last time we had attempted this hike had been somewhat of a disaster. Through a combination of miscommunication and ineptitude, only one person (me) out of 12 actually made it to the correct peak. Things would hopefully be better this time.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

It was your standard chilly, grey, late-November morning as we set out on the Mitchell Canyon Trail. During the spring and summer this part of the park is full of nature lovers admiring the flora, but today the place was deserted. Not much to report as we walked the 2.5 miles along the bottom of the misty canyon. I was actually glad to get to the uphill portion leading out of the canyon and up to Deer Flat because it would give us an opportunity to warm up a little.

Esty, Taylor, and Pistol led the charge. Jane and I walked behind at a slower pace. After a while, Jane started to slow down and motioned for me to keep going. Knowing that it was not that much further to the Flat, I pressed on. It was a pretty good climb, as usual, but the cold weather certainly made it less tiring.

I caught up with the front-runners at Deer Flat. They had been there for a few minutes and were eager to press on since they were cooling down. Just as they were about to head out, Jane appeared on the horizon. She said she didn't need to rest very long, so we all decided to wait and head out together. Pistol Pete asked me how difficult the rest of the trail was and I assured him that the hard part was over and the rest would be a piece of cake. Famous last words!

We headed out on the fire road towards the Prospector's Gap. Portions of the road seemed a lot steeper than I had remembered. Pistol Pete was starting to give me dirty looks. Hmmmmm. Maybe I had spoken too soon.

From there, we turned on to the Bald Eagle Trail. Definitely one of the most beautiful trails in the park (and hikers-only!), but also pretty damn steep. Pistol Pete was now starting to curse me! In fairness to myself, I have to say that I did not intentionally try to mislead him. The last time I was here, it really felt that the part up to Deer Flat was the hardest part of the hike, but this time it was the Bald Eagle Trail that was kicking our butts (but it was the good kind of pain!).

From the top of the ridge, the antennas of North Peak came clearly into view. I still remember Pistol's face: "We have to go up there???" Jane did not look too thrilled either. There's no turning back now!

The rest of the hike was actually pretty easy. We worked our way along the remainder of the Bald Eagle Trail and emerged at the Gap. From here, it was a straightforward stroll up the fire road to the antennas. The only tough part was the last couple hundred yards which were pretty steep and slippery.

Our reward for all this hard work? A great view, but not much chance to enjoy it because it was freezing at the top! I spent about 10 seconds at the peak, then climbed down and sat behind some bushes to take refuge from the icy wind. I tried to snarf down my lunch as fast as I could so that I could put my hands back in my pockets again. Jane was shivering like crazy -- that girl needs some fat to keep her warm!

Needless to say, we headed down pretty quickly. We could actually feel the layers of temperature difference as we scurried down the mountain. Once we got below the Prospector's Gap things were a lot better.

Jane was practically running down the hill, with her poncho billowing behind her like a big blue cape. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Super Jane!

I think we all made it to the bottom in record time, and not a second too soon. Just as we began to head out in the car, it started to pour. Good timing! Now, time to go home for a long, hot shower and some hot chocolate. Mmmmmmmmmmm!!!

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