Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ohlone Wilderness Trail-Backpacking 2012/13

Two Years ago Melinda invited me to a joint backpacking trip on the Ohlone trail. We spent 2 nights and 3 days on the trail, mostly to our own little selves, as one would expect at a wilderness backpacking and hiking trail during the first of January on a weekday. I wrote about it here. Now that another daughter has become interested in backpacking, Melinda decided that she needed to be inaugurated into the same conditions as I had. Ohlone in the dead of winter. And I wouldn't miss it, so there I was too. This article is "Ohlone, number two, 2012. Or 2013, depending on whether you count it for when we left or when we got back.

Happily, we had a driver this time so we didn't have to ferry two vehicles to the start and end of the trail; we just left a car at the end, at the Sunol side.

The day was bright and beautiful, a real relief, since earlier in the week it had looked like rain might be a possibility! By the time we got started, it was about 2:30 pm, which was fine since we were staying in the campground just a couple miles up the trail. That way, we'd get one section of tough climbing out of the way in the first short day.

Tess, the warm little wonder, accompanied us.

It doesn't take long for the going to get steep, here on the Del Valle side.

Unlike the last time, we met several groups of day hikers coming down the mountain. It was pleasant to share a little conversation with some of them.

Again, I was the main photographer, which meant shots of the backsides of my companions (since I was the slowest!) and several self photographs, since I was determined to appear in at least some of the pictures!

One very important element is signing in at the trail sign-in panel.

You never know if that is the way they will be able to locate you if you fall off the edge and lie there waiting for the helicopters!

Here you see a common sight, our Trailmaster Melinda consulting the official map. I know she was impatient with Loreleigh and I, who were not as interested in digging out our maps to share the burden. We trusted her, and if she led us astray, we were willing to shoulder some of the blame for being the sheep we were.

The first camp, Boyd's camp, while not far from the trailhead, was at the end of an extremely steep, longish climb. It was so steep that my feet did not know they could bend that far in the "up" direction. Unfortunately, I had suggested that we come back to the water source once we dropped our stuff at camp, believing camp was closer than it was.

It looked like there were two campsites there. Number one was right there at the trail and by the outhouse. Number two was off a ways and more private.  found our site, the nice secluded one with an impressive overlook, and then pondered the demoralizing trip back down to the water. I volunteered to go back down for it, and scored by getting a Little Debbie brownie for filling Melinda's bottle too.

Loreleigh went with me, and we took an alternate primitive trail down to the water pump. It was obvious we would not be coming back up that steep and somewhat eroded trail, but it was nicer than repeating the same track multiple times! We saw a doe with two older fawns on the way down that track.

After pumping the bottles full through my Katadyn purifier, we headed back up the steep track and arrived just as it was getting dark, around 4:30-5. We wasted no time in boiling up some water four our freeze-dried meals.

Commercial freeze0dried meals are the way to go! Flavor, lots of calories to help you stay warm, no mess, not much thought or prep ahead of time, just picking ones that seemed good. That night I had Mountain House Chicken Fajita, which was delicious! Loreleigh shared around some brownies she had baked.

It was dark. It was cold. All we wanted was for it to be late enough to go to bed. I tried not to think about how hard it might be to sleep all those hours until dawn. But finally it was close to 8pm, and we decided, Bedtime! Which meant a nice peaceful game of solitaire while lying in my bag, and a podcast before curling up for sleep.

At about 4am, I had to get up, and I saw this sight, made beautiful by the full moon.

It was a cold, cold night, but we had expected that, and prepared the best we could. I wasn't yet wearing every piece of clothing I had brought, that would come the next night!

We didn't freeze, and woke up to a fresh new beautiful day in the wilderness, ready to begin enjoy it!


  1. Hi, I met your group on the Ohlone Trail this winter at Hawk's Nest. Looks like you guys had a great time despite the cold nights! Congrats to your little canine companion for making it through too!

    Since you mentioned that the trail is really steep on the Del Valle side, I wonder if it will be easier to do this trek in reverse direction.

    I'll see if I can make it through to Del Valle next time instead of turning around at Maggie's Half Acre.

    So, to tell my side of the story, I've decided to get a blog, thanks to your inspiration!

    Have fun hiking and hope to see you on the trails again!

    1. Hi Cris, it was a pleasure meeting you!
      There is more to consider than just the steepness of the Del Valle side. One thing we had to figure on was how the situation of the camps worked out with our hiking schedule. And even though it was hard for me to believe it, going steeply downhill is as hard on your legs, it's just easier to breathe! It's also hard on my feet. My hiking shoes were better this trip, but the previous expedition, my toes and feet really suffered going downhill. I had to stuff double socks into my shoes to try to keep the toes away from the end of my shoes.