Is 10,000 a magic number?

What about 10,000 steps?

Along the Vezelay, FR., Camino route.

For many years, 10,000 has been given as the magic number of steps to take daily to improve our fitness level and boost our longevity. More recently, however, we’ve read that 10,000 is really an arbitrary number. In one study of women (average age 72), click here, it was found that 4,000 steps per day was beneficial. Additionally, the study said that anything over 7,500 steps brought no additional benefit.

That is not to say that counting steps isn’t a helpful tool; it can be. It is an fairly effective method of keeping track of your steps and mileage. Just as writing in a food diary is a more accurate way of seeing what your caloric intake is than relying on a running total in your head, a step counter will probably keep you more honest. And, as the study stated, for most people, any increase in steps is helpful. 

For us as hikers, another takeaway is that counting steps is not a well-rounded way to become trail-ready, particularly if your aim is longer hikes and multi-day backpack trips. Nevertheless, I find aiming for 10,000 motivating, and I am relieved to learn that I am not harming myself when I don’t reach that number. 

In my article, Training for Walking, Hiking, and Backpacking, you’ll find plenty of advice to achieve greater hiking stamina and strength that goes beyond counting steps. 

Eagle Peak on the Nifty Ninety

Fly like an Eagle!

I almost felt like soaring after reaching Eagle Peak (2,369′) in Mount Diablo State Park. It marked the completion of the four Diablo peaks included in the #Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge — Diablo, Norte, Olympia, and Eagle–and 71 of the total. Before we did any of them, I read many trail reports and found most of them intimating — steep, rocky, slippery, narrow, poison oak, hot (in summer). So, we waited until the rains had made the trails damp, but not too muddy — and this worked well for us.

Muddy trail and wild boar damage under oaks
Expansive views and dramatic skies

I also was elated to reach Eagle Peak because the weather report had been for rain. In fact, when we started from the Mitchell Canyon entrance, it was raining. The first part of the trail was very muddy and Ralph put up his umbrella. (I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to rig mine yet so that I can use my hiking poles at the same time.)

We walked on the grassy sides of the muddy sections when possible and that made our footing more secure. Having recently had surgery, I did not want to fall!

After leaving the broad, muddy Oak Road, we started to climb on dirt, single track. The trail was still muddy in places, but felt quite safe. And, when we began the long ascent on Eagle Peak Trail, mud was no longer an issue because the incline allowed good drainage.

Because I hadn’t been on the trail before, I didn’t have a good sense of where we were headed. Though there were several hills and peaks around and ahead, I had no idea which one was our destination — it turned out that it was hidden until near the end.

I would have liked to have had a better sense of how far we had come, but my Fitbit wasn’t too helpful about the mileage or the number of steps I had taken because the steep terrain had forced me to take baby steps. When we finished, it told me I had done 23,000 steps and gone almost 8 miles. While I loved seeing those numbers, they weren’t really earned. The total distance in and out was about 5.5 – 6 miles.

On the ascent, I worried about what the descent 
— until I told myself to stop worrying about the future and just wait until I had to deal with it when coming down. Sometimes “live in the moment” is a very good thing. As it turned out, the descent wasn’t difficult at all!

We loved the brilliant green grass with the trees either still dormant or just beginning to leaf out. The views across to other peaks, out over the Delta, and west to Mt. Tamalpais, were lovely and the heavy clouds in some directions and wispy in others was dramatic. The wildflower season had not hit yet — April will probably be prime time, but we welcomed the early Indian Warriors, Indian Paintbrush, and lilies. This hike for me was the perfect level of challenge after suffering cabin fever for much of the last several rainy weeks. 

Since we had heard that there was a cache at the top, and some photos showed a trail marker, we looked for them, but both were missing. We double checked our GPS because the flat top to the peak was not particular inspiring — no matter, the views were!

We loved this trail and would definitely do it again (but not in the summer when it is often in the 90s or above). Many folks, sturdier than me, do the Eagle Trail in conjunction with the other three peaks, or the 14-mile round-trip to the higher Mt. Diablo, which takes you from 590 ft. to 3,849 ft. and back again on one of the Bay Area’s toughest day hikes. 

Parking in the park is $10, but free with the California State Park permit. Park is open 8 AM to 45 minutes before sunset. Fill water bottles at the entrance. Flush toilets, water, equestrian facilities, and picnic tables at the entrance.  No dogs on trails. Horses have the right-of-way.

Reach Mitchell Canyon Entrance station at the end of Mitchell Canyon Road in Clayton, CA.

Starting from Mitchell Canyon Staging area, start out hike south on Mitchell Canyon Fire Road and then shortly after that, take Oak Road to the left. After a quarter mile on Oak Road, turn right onto the Mitchell Rock Trail — passing Mitchell Rock and then Twin Rocks (both on your right when ascending). right on to Eagle Peak Trail to the peak. We did an out-and-back, but many people make a loop either deeper into the park, or back down to the parking lot from Eagle Peak (but it starts with a good scramble downhill). 

Visits to Russian Hill and Nob Hill

Visiting S.F.’s Famous Hills

On the same gorgeous March day that we climbed San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and visited Coit Tower (see description here), we also climbed Russian Hill and Nob Hill. This sounds more formidable than it really is — these are 275′, 300′ and 325′ in elevation. Still, climbing all three requires some up and down on San Francisco’s famous hills and by the end of the day we were ready for a stop for some cool brew.

But first
We were in the city with our friends Patricia and Tom to tackle three peaks listed in the ‘Nifty Ninety Peaks’ challenge that the Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club has issued.  We started our day with a ride of BART over to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Street station, stopped at a nearby Peet’s Coffee and Tea at 1 California Street for coffee and scones, and then headed for the first peak of the day: Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill, which is in the earlier post.  

After our tour of Coit Tower and studying our maps, we set out for Greenwich Street. Greenwich took us straight for several blocks and right up the hill into the Russian Hill neighborhood. We crossed over Hyde Street to what looked like the highest point around ( the Alice Marble Tennis Courts/George Sterling Park) but when we referred back to the GPS, it indicated there was an even higher point several blocks away. So we set off and by trial and error (the tall apartments and other buildings didn’t make this easy to do visually).   

We really didn’t mind wandering around a bit — especially when we spotted the “First Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor” on the corner of Hyde and Union Street and were able to treat ourselves to cones. It was a perfect San Francisco day — warm enough to enjoy ice cream, not hot enough for it to melt away. 

We made a few wrong turns — in large part because Russian Hill Street is tiny and not easily found even on GPS. The short street is lined by upscale homes occupied by residents who probably prefer to keep the number of visitors down. It’s likely they don’t want the tourists that visit well-known curvy part of Lombard Street, which is not that far away. 

(If you decide to look for this point, it sounds complicated but here goes: Off Vallejo Street, East of Jones Street, and opposite Russian Hill Place. Google has this site as “Russian Hill-Vallejo Street Crest Historic Place.”

On to Nob Hill 

interior Grace Cathedral, S.F.

From Russian Hill, we walked another 6-7 blocks to reach Nob Hill. We went first to the beautiful Grace Cathedral where we admired the interior with its stained glass windows, a Benny Bufano statue, and peaceful ambiance. We walked the outdoor labyrinth (there is another  inside). 




We headed uphill again passing the social club known as the Pacific-Union Club a1000 California Street. Wikipedia says, “The clubhouse was built as the home for the silver magnate James Clair Flood. The former Flood Mansion…was designed by Willis Polk. It is considered the first brownstone constructed west of the Mississippi River. Along with the Fairmont Hotel across the street, it was the only structure in the area to survive the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.”

At the next corner, we came to the highest point of Nob Hill, the intersection of California and Mason Streets, where the 4-star super-fancy Mark Hopkins and the 4-star Fairmont Hotel reign. At the Fairmont, visitors can sit at the Tiki Bar serenaded by a live band that is seemingly floating on an island in a pool. As I recall, back in the 1950s, there was a faux rainstorm/hurricane as part of the experience. Then, as now, your tasty drink is served with a tiny paper umbrella. 
Since we all had well over our 15,000 steps for the day, had walked more than 7 miles, and had climbed the three peaks, we decided to take the California Line cable car down the hill.

We had our beer and snacks at Schroeder’s (German beer hall), and then made our way back to Market Street and the Embarcadero BART station for our train ride home. 

Terrific day and terrific way to check three more peaks off our list!  
Hikes done March 8, 2018.  Our Nifty Ninety Peaks #24, 25, 26