COLD CANYON LOOP 7X December 4, 2005

Awake at a good hour, this fine day, I pondered on what to do. After reviewing my own past winter hikes for ideas, I decided to go out to watch the runners coming in. The California International Marathon finish line is only several blocks walk for me. Normally, I disdain the hoopla, traffic, and noise generated by these events, but this town apparently needs the economic benefit of major athletic events.

Unable to secure a partner (it was cold, today) for hiking, I spent the late morning and a couple memory cards shooting this event and the runners, with movie clips. Music in two places, with crowds cheering on the participants, led me to partake in the enthusiasm. No past associates came forward, out of the blue, to speak with me. A far different generation, now. Healthy foods were placed out on tables, with bottled water and better organization. The State Capitol Christmas Tree was simultaneously being decorated. Many a photo op!

After I had enough, I walked on home, and figured how to get some exercise, today. I am due to join a DPS climb next weekend, and need some limbering up.

Leaving home in early afternoon, I took Interstate 80 to CA 113 North. Russell Boulevard led me west. Stopping for drink and a break at the I-505 gas station, I was able to start my hike at about 2 p.m. The primitive parking area was almost full, and another hiker with a sizable pack started up the Pleasants Ridge trail. I was to do my standard loop, over the bumps 1,475' and 1,580+', now maybe unmarked on the new trail map as next to, and higher than, bump 1,535'.

The top of the first bump offered the vista of Lake Berryessa. It was a bit overcast, with highly diffuse light. I enjoyed snapping my own photos, and sipped a bit from my water. I carried only a light pack, with canteen, fruit drink, first-aid kit, and back-up digital camera. No flashlight, so I had to make it back by dark.

Clad in three layers, I had stripped one layer off for the climb, then put it back on. This spares my light, inner layer from rips and tears. Lots of brush on this trail. Hiking on, I snapped photos of the fulgurite and lichen clad rocks. Some other couple hikers came by, one stating that this was a good workout. They were the last I saw, this day.

Sauntering on, I remembered the class 2 scrambling necessary to use this trail. Lots of rocks that would turn back many lesser hikers. Ducks would be useful, but none were placed to mark anything. No bump registers, yet, too. I navigated my way along, and climbed the second bump. I was good on time. It began to look like light rain, but I was fine.

As I stepped down the wooden ties, I thought to compile a list of hazards, for beginner hikers. Good rain would slick down the dirt. Wet leaves can cause a slippery surface. The nails in the posts, as steps, weren't flush with the surfaces. Some sets of stairs are steeply placed, and a bad loss of balance could send one plummeting to their deaths. No handrails, too, but a tree or two made for a handhold, in spots. Also a low bridge, an overhanging branch, 4' over the trail.

Coming back to the lower, better, trail, I made good time back to the highway. The creek was dry, or a trickle, in spots. Most all of the trail surface was damp, but not slippery mud. In a few spots, bootprints in the highly localized mud made to record the sole patterns. Back to the cars at 4:34 p.m., I saw no bugs whatsoever. Not even a lizard, today. So, I'd say the trail is good.

Passing through Winters, CA, I spied a new sandwich shop. Good for a light meal and soup. The clean new restroom was nice, too. Not too busy, though. I had gotten gas back in West Sacramento at 2.299. Used maybe two gallons. I had driven 77 miles, my total round trip.

I may be leaving soon for the California Desert. This easy hike, today, helps my conditioning and confidence. The Loop is 4 miles with 1,500' gain, enough testing for the bigger peak climbs, next weekend. Those will be more distance than gain, in a relative comparison.

Some fall colors remained. Most people are probably enjoying the holidays, indoors, apparently. I'm liking the increased solitude, and the lack of disturbing beginners. Lots of toyon berries (do not eat them--they're poisonous). Red wild grape. Some new mushrooms.

Sorting things out for my big move, I will direct my full attention to getting my things over to my new place. By Christmas, it will hopefully be a very merry holiday!