“Hope, sanity, compassion, thoughtfulness, health, recovery — it’s time to WELCOME 2021!” Couldn’t say it any better than how friend Katie Williams recently posted it on Facebook!
1. The “New” Cathedral in Santiago
2. Pacific Crest Trail — time to apply for permits coming up soon!
3. Bay Nature: “What’s it like inside a Woodrat Nest?
Regional, SF Bay Area:
4. Bay Trail extension coming to Richmond, CA
5. The Alcorns explore new and old local hiking trails
6. Two rewarding hiking challenges for you
#1. The “New” Cathedral in Santiago: Big happenings in Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral is open to the public again. Ivar, who hosts a Camino forum and manages the Casa Ivar in Santiago, has also been doing a weekly podcast about what’s happening pilgrimage-wise in Santiago. He recently took a walk through the cathedral and gave us a look at the restoration of what he calls the “New” Cathedral. Have a look here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2sSUoL8tDk&feature=youtu.be
#2. Pacific Crest Trail Permits: Very good news! It appears that the USDA Forest Service and Pacific Crest Trail are going to issue permits for PCT hikes of 500+ continuous miles of the trail this year. You’ll be able to apply online starting on Jan. 19, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
Northbound permits for trips starting anywhere from the PCT Southern Terminus at the Mexican border to Sonora Pass will be issued at normal levels of 50 permits per day from March 1 through May 31. Southbound permits for trips starting from the Northern Terminus will be issued at normal levels of 15 per day June 15 — September 15.
Friends of the Bay Trail in Richmond shares great news. The City of Richmond and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) have been awarded $2.2 million for building 2.5 miles of Bay Trail along the shoreline from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Trail to the northern border of the City’s Point Molate property at Stenmark Drive. For details, see the CA Natural Resources Agency press release below about award of these Prop. 68 Recreational Trails & Greenways program grants.
#6. Two of the 2021 hiking challenges in the Bay Area
#PixInParks Challenge. Santa Clara County Park System. Complete all seven featured hikes and get a tee shirt of bandana. Parkhere.org
Bills Hill at Henry Coe State Park
FINALLY we were able to tackle a new Nifty Ninety Peak. And it was great fun! The peaks in Henry Coe have posed, and continue to pose, a challenge to us for several reasons. They are all rated as difficult. Most of the trails are steep and long.
Timing can be tricky. Spring can be beautiful with wildflowers galore, but the trails can be slippery and water crossings difficult. Summer days can easily hit 100 or more and water sources can be limited. Fall is usually great, but wildfires become a concern. Winter temperatures often drop below freezing.
And even though Henry Coe is the largest state park in Northern California, it is more than 1.5 hours from us. Some of the trailheads are even farther, and not all of peaks are accessible from the same entrances.
But the first week of December, Ralph and I decided to scout out Bills Hill. I, for one, couldn’t stand waiting any longer to resume the Nifty Ninety challenge. We entered at the Hunting Hollow entrance (about 10 miles east of Gilroy, CA) and parked in the large, unpaved parking area. We then took the Hunting Hollow Trail out through the valley for about two miles.
We initially missed the turnoff to the Bills Hill’s narrow dirt trail. The large pile of rocks that had indicated the turn at one time had been scattered. Ralph rebuilt the cairn and then we turned to head back to our car. We wanted to come back when our hiking buddies — Tom Coroneos and Patricia Schaffarczyk — could come with us.
‘Scouting’ has its rewards
Though this was not the day to hike to the peak, it did have some peak moments. On the way in, we were stopped dead in our tracks when we spotted a bobcat in a large grassy field. At first the cat was crouched next to the entrance of a squirrel’s tunnel. Then it casually walked through the short, tan grass to the far end of the football-sized field and disappeared into the scrubby brush.
Bobcat in Henry Coe SP
On the way back out,near an old, weather-beaten windmill pumping water into a nearby tank, we saw the largest covey of California Quail we’d ever been lucky enough to see. We estimated 60-80 of these tufted, handsomely feathered birds. They were running about peeping, whistling, calling, and making their barking alarm sounds. (Click here for a good display: “The California Quail” by Peter Steuart. Click here.)
When we got back to the dirt parking area, I got to talking with another hiker who was returning from a hike to another Coe peak — Willson’s. He had done Bills Hill previously so I asked him about it. “It requires some scrambling,” he said.
In the week that followed, I kicked myself for not asking for clarification. How much scrambling? Did he mean the whole distance, or did he mean the last 20 feet to the peak? It had been so long since we had done a hike rated as difficult that I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The question about the scrambling bothered me as well as reading that there was lots of poison oak and ticks.
we set a date and Tom and Patricia were enthusiastic. Per the COVID-19 restrictions at the time, we drove in different cars, wore our masks or distanced depending on what was appropriate. We couldn’t have picked a better day. This is a park that can be brutally hot in summer, freezing in winter. This day it was 50s and 60s — perfect for an ambitious hike.
We set out again on the Hunters Hollow Trail and then turned right onto the Bills Hills Trail (the rock cairn was still there). We had to duck under a few low oak tree branches, but it was easy to follow the trail — for a while. It helped that there were green or pink ribbons indicating the trail from time to time.
Where did it go?
And then, with Patricia in the lead, we ran out of trail. She continued ahead, descended several feet into a steep canyon, but then came to a stop. We considered the cross-country ascent that would be required on the far side. This could NOT be right! Maybe the others could have climbed up the other side, but I doubted that I could.
We backtracked, looked around, and saw that far off to the right was a barbed-wire fence. We decided to follow it up the hill. And sure enough the plastic trail ribbons once again began to appear. The trail was moderately steep and I was very glad I had my hiking poles — especially along the stretches where the trail was covered with a couple of inches of leaves.
We tried to avoid the thin, bare branches that hung over the trail — not able to determine which were poison oak and which were other scrub. We never did see any sign of ticks.
We reached Osos Ridge
From Osos Ridge, we could see Bills Hill a short distance to the south. Our narrow trail continued along to our left (south), but we had read that the barbed wire fence just ahead of us was not the park’s boundary. It was still park property, not private, making it was legal to crawl under the fence to follow the wide dirt fire road south to Bills Hill. Trail ribbons confirmed our choice.
With our goal in sight, we followed the undulating road and made the last steep ascent to the summit — a flat, rather bare area except for a few oak trees bent over time by the wind. In the spring the area would likely be covered with bright grasses and wildflowers and on a clear day it would offer extensive views to such regional peaks as Pinnacles, Mount Umunhum, and Mount Hamilton.
But this day it was hazy, and we didn’t care a bit — we were quite content basking in the bit of sunshine we found, eating our well-earned lunches, and taking photos. Ralph and I were very happy that we had checked #80 off our list of challenging Nifty Ninety Peaks.
Coming back down the hill went quickly. We tied some plastic ribbons to mark the turn in the trail that we hadn’t seen when we went up. In a few places we slowed to search for bare dirt to walk on rather than slippery leaves, but it went without incident. Back on Hunting Hollow, Tom and Patricia were again in the lead and they managed to see the bobcat where Ralph and I had seen it previously.
Hiked Dec. 6, 2020. Approx. 7.5 miles rt.
Taste Testing at Kelly Brewing Company
As has been our custom after our hike, we looked for a brewery on the way back home. A stop in Morgan Hill at Kelly Brewing Company for beer accompanied by pizza from the food truck out front hit the spot. It happened to be the final day that outdoor dining was allowed before another of the COVID-19 shutdowns in the SF Bay Area. So, another perfect day on the trail — and at a brewpub!
My new book, “Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails” will be published this fall.
For years, I have thought about writing a new book about women hikers; Covid 19 and its restrictions has helped it come to pass. It’s not that I wanted to be told to shelter-in-place, or to have to cancel exciting travel plans, but at least this time has provided an opportunity to do something creative at home.
Walk, Hike, Saunter…
is for hikers, especially women, who are looking for motivation, encouragement, information, and inspiration to put on their trail shoes and get on hiking trails here and abroad. It features the contributions of thirty-two wise women, all 45 years of age or greater, who share their sometimes humorous, occasionally frightening, always open stories of the joy walking brings to their lives.
How and where—the sharing begins
They tell where they hike, and how they keep going when things get tough. The stories they tell are the ones they would share at hiker gatherings and around a campfire (if time and circumstances allow).
There’s more to come!
We’ll soon be posting more details about the book here—in particular the names of some of the women who are included. If you are active in the long-distance hiking community, you’ll recognize several because of their extraordinary feats—such as earning the Triple Crown Award for completing the Appalachian, Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest Trails.
However, there’s something for all hikers
Walk, Hike, Saunter is for anyone who hikes—whether in their neighborhood, on the paths in their local parks, or along long-distance trails in the U.S. or abroad.
This has been a wonderful project for me because of all the generous and accomplished women I have been able to work with—hearing their stories has been inspiring—and helped me stay (somewhat) sane during these trying times.
I am very excited that we at Shepherd Canyon Books will soon be able to share Walk, Hike, Saunter with readers.
Thanksgiving and Gratitude
Here in the S.F. Bay Area, the days have been so mild with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. However, when it starts getting dark at 5 PM, and colder, we realize we have to work a bit harder to fit hikes into our shorter daytime hours.
This reminds me that I have much to appreciate about where I live, why I try to support environmental causes, and how grateful I am for the thousands of people here who work to protect our environment.
In particular, I am reminded of the importance of the regional parklands around me, which…
- provide hundreds of miles of trails that I can hike.
- bring ever-changing displays of flowers, trees, and other plants.
- have quiet places to clear my head and exercise my body.
- inspire my writing and photography with its scenic beauty.
- support wildlife—from ladybugs covering entire branches; herons stalking their prey; hawks soaring overhead; flickers hammering cavities in tree branches to build their nests.
- offer the opportunity to gain perspective on our place on this earth.
- allow free, or inexpensive, visits to all who want to come.
And, people are instrumental in what happens…
- by envisioning the setting aside of parcels of land to create parklands.
- when they work to acquire properties that would otherwise turn into developments.
- by volunteering to help with fund-raising, to interface with the public at the kiosks and gift shops, and by organizing work parties for weed control.
- when they become park employees that build fences and picnic tables, clear out invasive plants, repair storm damaged trails and roadways, and educate park visitors.
- by voting in tax measures to support and improve our parks
Galen Rowell, photographer, climber, author (1940-2002) in Bay Area Wild: A Celebration of the Natural Heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area wrote, “The San Francisco Bay Area holds the most extensive system of wild greenbelts in the nation, with more than 200 parks and other protected areas lying within forty miles of the city.”
We are truly blessed to live here.