3X DOUBLE BAG: Fiske (2,868') 13X and Mt. St. Helena (4,343') 23X February 18, 2008

Something told me to wake up at 3:20 a.m., this day. I caught the news on the Net, and slowly prepared for a hike. It was forecast to rain again for the next week, so I had then better get out while I could. Soon, it might be too warm for these peaks.

Motoring past the casino on CA 16, I came to the Cache Creek Regional Park Lower Site. It was getting light, and I had plenty of time. I would need that extra time, as it turned out. Starting along the gated dirt road at 6:46 a.m., the low water bridge was fine to cross. I had delayed this hike for that reason, for a longer period after the heavier rains for this year.

Most everything was as it was. But then, I discovered to my chagrin and inconvenience, that many fallen trees and bent brushy plants lay across the trail. I had thoughts of turning back, but in the spirit of exploration, I sought to see what the presumed storm damage was. My pack got caught on twigs as I crawled underneath some overhanging brush. It was thick, in spots. In some sections, a use trail went around the obstacles, entailing a short but steep set of dirt footprints going up and by.

I finally came to my favorite overlook, halfway up on this trail. Someone had cut brush, here. I shot the dawn light on the peak across the way, and liked the sight of the cleared rocks, newly seen for the world.

Having some water, I continued up on the twisting trail. I came to even more fallen brush, which irritated me. Many hikers would choose to turn back. I had to get this peak. Too much driving to be defeated. Climbing up to the main Blue Ridge, the trail was more open through the previously burned chaparral. I saw the peak in the distance, and knew it takes me only about another 20 minutes to top out.

Lots of bootprints led up the damp trail, and I never saw any mud anywhere here. Orange peels littered the trail. Some hikers don't have the conservation ethic that I do.

I topped out at 9:03 a.m., and enjoyed the hazy views. No Sutter Buttes, Lassen Peak, or the Sierra were visible, though.

An associate of mine had placed a new register book. What happened to mine? I signed in. Resting and drinking, my diet soda really perked me up. I shot a few panorama sequences, and dwelled on my ascent. It's different every time!

Headed back down, I didn't relish going again through the brush congested trail. But, it was easier going downhill. I ran into a few other hikers, and sauntered down back to the start.

To the car by 11:25 a.m., I motored off north, and enjoyed the driving. I shortly came to CA 20, and took it to CA 53 south. I got some drink and used a gas station restroom, then motored along nicely, knowing I was making good time.

To the primitive parking at the summit of CA 29, the Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park, I took off for the second peak, Mt. St. Helena, at 12:57 p.m. Lots of cars parked all about.

Birds were chirping loudly, and I tried to record the sounds. I was shortly to the main summit dirt road, and relaxed. I'd be back well before dark, this time. I paced up the summit road, passing a few climbers at Bubble Rock, then said my "Hi's," to other hikers coming back down. Summiting the Saint by 3:10 p.m., I snapped photos, and enjoyed the bright afternoon sun and deep blue sky.

Cloud banks rolled in over the ridges, and I took another panorama sequence. I was dressed in only two light layers, but other hikers coming up had no packs or warm clothes. Some with T-shirts and shorts. I gazed at the view to the north, and then figured to leave before the other hikers asked for water and maybe complain that they didn't have any warm clothes. I checked the east mid-summit, the highpoint of Napa County. No register, after a quick look.

There was still some smaller patches of snow. I saw many new use trails attempting to cut the road switchbacks. Shame, again. No conservation ethic, there, again. The local enviro club cut loose the hikers, too, so there's no education for that.

I put on more clothes, and walked faster to stay warm enough. I thought of the other hikers. They'll learn a lesson, hard. All climbers had left Bubble Rock, and some mist rolled in, making for some diffuse lighting. Soon, the fog rolled in, and I had no views of the Napa Valley. Then, I was in the tall trees, and then on the park foot trail. Back to my car at 5:29 p.m., I shortly drove off.

Too tired to stop in Calistoga or St. Helena, I went to Napa for a quick and cheap burger and drink. Traffic wasn't too bad going home.

I hiked then 18 miles, with 4,700' gain, total, and round trip. I shot almost 300 images, and spent several dollars, and used about a half tank of gas (purchased a few days previous at 2.999) for the 215 miles driven.

I started on the first peak with four layers, getting damp inside my parka, then down to two light layers on the second peak. Surprised at how many other hikers had very little warm clothes, I wished I had brought along more layers for my descent in the mountain's shadow. I saw no ticks, although the colder morning may have kept them a bit dormant. No, or few, other bugs, too. I liked the sounds of the birds while hiking on Mt. St. Helena, apparently feeding on something in the trees. Acorns or berries rained down at the monument, all done by our avian friends, I'd guess.

This double hike was the most miles and gain I had done in a day, last year. I hope for some bigger hikes come this summer, when I hope to bag some Wyoming peaks.