Ohlone Wilderness April 2016

 

img_0263Where: Ohlone Wilderness Trail starts at Mission Peak in Fremont, Ca, passing through Sunol Regional Park, Ohlone Regional park and finishing at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore, Ca.

Information about the trail: A permit is required to enter the wilderness from the East Bay parks department, check out their website for pretty good information about the trail (cost $2 per person and includes the trail map with general info and trail markers), you can only camp in designated camp grounds which you reserve in advance, Sunol Backpackers campground and Maggie’s Half Acre are the most popular ones due to the distance between each site, available water, views, and pit toilets.  The fee for the camp sites is $5 per person per night so very reasonable.  Some people choose to do the trail in 2 days but I would not recommend this as you would miss some great camping and it is a pretty tough trail with lots of elevation gain and loss.  I have gone both ways on this trail, Del Valle to Fremont last year and Fremont to Del Valle this year, I think this year felt harder but it was also a LOT hotter on day one.  Either way gives amazing views and lots of uphill butt work!  There is not reliable water on the trail so you will need to carry your supply for the day until you hit the campsites, where there are faucets with water you should still filter.  There are also pit toilets at the campsites but honestly they are pretty gross and I prefer digging a cat hole.  It is not recommended to leave cars parked at the Fremont side as they get broken in to so you can either take public transport or have a friend drop you off, leaving cars at Del Valle is very safe (get free parking passes when you call to reserve your campsites)  There is lots of wildlife here for a park so close to towns, we have seen coyotes, deer, golden eagles, hawks, rattle snakes, gopher snakes, squirrels, rabbits etc.  There are also cattle in a few parts of park, even though it is close to towns once you get past mission peak you can only see the wildflower covered hills rolling around you and hear the whisper of the wind in grasses.  I highly recommend this trail for an early season excursion!

Total Distance: 28 miles

April 6th 2016, Day 1, Distance: 12 miles from Mission Peak to Sunol Backpackers camp

After being dropped off by one of our group members super wonderful parents, we started our hike with the big uphill of Mission peak around 9am. It was not hot yet as we had a nice breeze from the ocean hitting us on this side of the hill but be aware there is very little shade for a lot of the trail.  Before turning away from the growing crowds of Mission Peak hikers we hit up the last nice pit toilet and had a quick snack after our climb up the hill with full heavy packs.  We had a few newer backpackers in our group and I was very impressed with how awesome everyone did!  We soon headed off turning to the left and through the first gate and sign in panel of the wilderness.  It was not long before we were walking through fields of amazing wildflowers of California poppy, yellow and purple violets, lupine, and Indian paintbrush.img_0251img_0252As we dropped over the hill we lost our cool ocean breeze and it got really hot out in the open, the weather forecast had predicted high 80s to low 90s today. However the rolling green hills and abundance of pretty things to look at kept our spirits high. It was a quiet day for wildlife since it was so hot, we did cross paths with a small rattlesnake on the trail near Sunol, and a garter snake which slithered quickly off the trail a little while later.  Lots of turkey vultures were riding the thermals and a few red tail hawks made brief appearances as well.img_0259img_0265

As the heat grew we took whatever chances we could to take short breaks in the shade and got to cool off in a stream flowing over the trail in a few places.  At the end of our long, hot day we finally made it to Sunol Backpackers camp around 5pm.  We had two great sites, Eagle’s Eerie and Stars Rest.  There were no other campers so we had the beauty all to ourselves and the amazing sunset!

As per my usual backpacking plans I wanted to stay up for the stars but was shortly asleep when I crawled in my tent around 8:30pm, not even making it to hiker midnight (9pm).  We were serenaded by a few owls that night and enjoyed a nice warm breeze through the tent doors.

Day 2: 6 miles from Sunol Backpackers camp to Maggie’s Half Acre camp

The sunrise was equally amazing to the sunset last night and I sipped my coffee slowly watching it creep over the hills. I am usually an early riser and like to get out of camp quickly before the day heats up. Since we had such a long hard day yesterday and we were not in too much of rush to get going today with a shorter 6 miles, the rest of the group slept in while I enjoyed the morning show.img_0284

We got out of camp around 9:30am and headed off to face the next set of hills.  It is cooler today in the high 70s, low 80s, still nice and toasty in the sunshine!  We saw a immature Golden Eagle at one of the watering holes as we crested a hill mid day and it was enormous!  The second day on trail is one of my favorite places in this wilderness.  This area has no day hikers because it is so far out from either entrance at Sunol or Del Valle and the hills really open up all around you.  There are wildflowers everywhere and it is just so peaceful.img_0285img_0288img_0294

We got to Maggie’s half acre backpackers camp below Rose Peak and set up camp by 3pm. It was great to relax away the afternoon  here and then we walked the short 3/4 mile up to Rose Peak without packs, it is 3,817ft (just 32 ft lower than Mt Diablo.)  It was super windy at the top but we got some great views from the surrounding hills and valleys.img_0310img_0312img_0343

We all shared bites of various freeze dried meals and climbed into bed before it was dark, as it got chilly and windy pretty quick at this higher elevation camp. Plus the weather was about to switch to rain the next day.

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Day 3: Maggie’s Half Acre to finish at Del Valle, 10 miles

What a whirlwind of weather in 3 days!  We woke to overcast skies and a few rain drops as we packed up, luckily I had looked up the weather before hand and knew this was a possibility so we were prepared for this crazy 3 day weather shake up.  We threw on pack covers and rain gear and hiked out around 8am.  We lucked out that it just drizzled off and on most of the morning and gave us cool views of the clouds hanging over the valleys.

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Cloud shrouded Mt. Diablo in the distance

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We saw a few different types of wildflowers today and cruised on the mostly down hill section with a few short bursts of uphill work.  We saw a small family of deer disappear into the mist and enjoyed the change of scenery as we descended into pine forest and damp gorges.

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We hit the cars parked in the Del Valle lot around 1pm and promptly cleaned up in bathrooms with running water (sweet joys in life!) and headed into Livermore for the usual burgers and beers rewards. What a great trip!img_0335

 

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