Location: East Bay, Contra Costa County
Entry fee: $0
We started this hike with two very specific goals: don’t get lost, and get Molly back to the city by 12:30pm.
The drive up into the Berkeley hills was beeeeautiful…completely amazing views of the whole Bay. (It was supposed to rain all morning, but the rain never came.) It took us a little longer to get to the trailhead because South Park Road was closed due to salamander migration. Yes, that’s right. Salamanders migrate. Where to? Good question. Apparently the great newt commute happens every winter as newts make their way to the rivers and streams to lay their eggs, then up to the hills for the dry season (and by now I would hope you all know the difference between a newt and a salamander.)
Anyway, we didn’t see any migrating newts (unfortunately), but we did find the real trailhead this time around. Off to a good start.
If you are planning on doing this hike during the rainy season, be prepared for some serious mud. There are also signs everywhere warning you about the copious amounts of poison oak all along the very narrow, super slippery trail. So don’t fall off the path.
We made our way through some cool eucalyptus groves and saw a few rabbits…but nothing super exciting. About 4 miles in we decided to take the spur up to the stone lookout at Wildcat Peak. This is about .01 miles off the path and totally worth the extra 5 minutes. In addition to the Bay you get views of Briones Regional Park and San Pablo Reseviour to the east for an incredible 360.
The 10 lbs of mud on our shoes and lack of traction made this hike more perilous than most. Less than 2 miles from the finish we did have did have one hiker go down in a dramatic flailing of arms and legs (down a really non-dramatic slope) into a puddle of muck. The fall was quickly followed by a hoard of cross country runners prancing nimbly by us through the mud. Salt in the wound. Totally unnecessary.
The final stretch of this hike is 1 mile of paved road that is crowded with runners, dogs, old people, and baby strollers. We didn’t get lost. And we were back at the car before noon.
Hike #12: RAGING SUCCESS! This hike is a great option if you’re looking for something a little longer with some seriously awesome views. The trailheads are a little bit confusing, but careful attention to the directions will get you to the finish line. Apparently this trail gets crowded in the summer, but aside from the runners we didn’t encounter any other traffic on our trip. Do it in the winter if you want a good butt workout. And consider wearing padding.
Lessons learned: eucalyptus is an invasive plant introduced to California by Australians during the gold rush…the government encouraged planting them with the hopes of using it as an additional source of timber for the railroads, but the wood was unsuitable and now the trees are just everywhere; salamanders migrate.