Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunol Saunter

Refusing to be discouraged by the slow start to the wildflower season, I continued to seek out promising bloomage venues this weekend. Soloing this week, I decided on Sunol Regional Wilderness. Other reports are that the flowers have been really good there, despite the cloudy and cold conditions I’ve mostly been exposed to so far. The weather on Saturday was much more like the traditional clear sky and sun bathed fare of a NorCal spring day. By 8:00am I was already down to a single layer, and the sun was kissing the back of my neck. Fearing a sun burned collar area; I looked in my pack for my trusty, anti-fashion sense, boonie hat and discovered an odd circumstance. I had forgotten it! I could hardly believe that I didn’t have my old floppy boonie hat. The weather must have me psyched out. With temperatures rising north of 80 I realized what had been lacking in my previous hikes this year. Sun! Lots of sun! Flowers like sun! Resourceful as usual I rooted around and found the white bandana Sue bought for me last year at Denali. It has a map of the national park printed on one side. Kind of a tourist thing, but hey; bandanas come in handy sometimes. I wrapped it around my head and let it drape the back of my neck offering protection, but making me look a bit silly I’m sure.

I headed up Flag Hill trail and began seeing lots of Miniature Lupine, Winter Vetch, and Owl’s Clover. But up at the top there were many tall clusters of Silver Lupine in full bloom right near the bench. The clear skies offered fantastic views over the emerald green expanse of hills and dales. Lots of Golden Poppies, Indian Paintbrush, and Blue Dicks were also found in patches near the rocks. I could see Maguire Peaks rising to the north, and decided to head over there even though I didn’t expect to see many flowers. I continued on down the other side of Flag Hill trail to High Valley trail, which is the only trail access to that area of the park. Hiking out that way I came to a downhill switchback and could hear some mooing below. I looked down at the lower trail and there was a whole heard of cattle headed slowly up the trail. There must have been 20 or more. There wasn’t really any way to deviate off trail. Too much brush with poison oak among the offerings. I didn’t like the close proximity of the narrow trail and all those damn cows, so I scrapped Maguire Peaks and turned around. This is the down side of grazing. Damn cows and cow poop everywhere.

Instead I headed up Vista Grande trail, but was glad I did. The trail is quite steep in places, but not as steep as Flag Hill. Once you have the altitude, the views open up like no other place in Sunol. Well, except for Maguire Peaks, but you know that story. You don’t realize how abrupt this little ridge is until you are up on top looking down at the trails below. The views are well worth the climbing. The air is great, plus it’s amazingly peaceful and quiet. There is a bench at the highest point where I sat and watched two large Red Tailed Hawks gliding over the terrain seemingly acting as a team in search of anything meal worthy. This area must have hundreds of burrowing squirrels per square mile. I saw some nice displays of Royal Larkspur, Blue-Eyed Grass, Blue Dicks, Lupine, Poppies, Paintbrush, and many others. I also saw some Chinese Houses beginning to bloom on Eagle View trail near the creek. I returned on the Indian Joe trail, which seems to be very popular with the casual strollers. Lots of people on trail, but not many flowers. It’s a pretty trail though. I even ran into some kind of impromptu bible study in the shade of a group of trees along the trail near the rock caves. I was happy to have them completely ignore me as I passed by smiling and waving. I found it so boringly ironic that they could be surrounded by such inviting natural beauty, and perfect weather, and yet be sitting around attempting to seek “the creator” inside an old book. I think if I were God I would be mildly offended, or perhaps amused.

Click here to see my photoset on flickr

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