RALSTON PEAK (9,235') 29X June 20, 2012

Here on the first day of summer, it was due to be 98 degrees in town. I wished to do some exercise, and then some fine dining, so my pick with the least amount of driving was Ralston Peak. The trail from Sayles Flat comes to almost 3,000 feet of gain, something that I had not done for some time. It would assure me that I could still do some moderate elevation climbing to be able to continue my peak bagging, and advance me closer to doing 4,000 feet of gain in a day.

I left home at a later hour in the morning, and drove east on U.S. 50. Stopping for a rest break and drink, I continued east, and used another mini mart for a break and drink. Coming then to the trailhead at Sayles Flat, across from Camp Sacramento, I made ready for a nice day in the mountains. I was pretty comfortable in T shirt and shorts.

Starting up the trail at 11:03 a.m., I ran into a few mosquitoes already. Hiking up the forest trail, I began to perspire a bit, though it was cool under the trees. Keeping track of my time, I saw that I was doing well. I passed the point that I had hiked to last month, then climbed the steep trail up. I soon came to the wilderness boundary, and I already had my permit tag on my pack.

Familiar with this trail, I shot a few photos of the steep parts with the erosion gully that comprises the trail. I sought to make it to the good resting spot with views of Pyramid Peak. Getting there at 12:18 p.m., I then knew that I had the climb beat. Putting on sunscreen, I drank some water out of my 2 liters, and enjoyed my rest. Another person must have left their water bottle here, or it was just some litter.

It is a short climb with views opening up to the south, with the runs of Sierra-at-Tahoe cutting the forest. I climbed over a couple more fallen trees that lay across the trail. Plodding up, I shortly came to the 8,500 foot saddle where the use trail directly to the top was blocked off. Making it here in good time, about 2 hours, I decided to take the regular trail that is more gradual. I figured on four hours for the ascent, but I saw that I'd do better than that.

The trail drops a bit, then traverses along wildflower fields of phlox and wallflowers. There was a creek, and short, slight water on the trail, but not as bad as some years. A conditions report had declared lots of snow. That was quite outdated. Only a few patches lay to the sides of the trail up high, and, as I had seen the bare slopes of the peak, left my ice ax in the car. Absolutely no snow needed to be crossed on this entire route, and this will be a dry summer, compared to last year.

Climbing up to the highest saddle, I noted the intersection with the Ralston summit use trail, marked by some small ducks. There is no sign, and the summit is visible from here, about half an hour away. I enjoyed the success of my plans, and savored being back in decent shape. Pushing to make it to the top in a good time, I summited in 2:51, at 1:54 p.m. Great!

Tapping the top rock, I started with a few photos, then took off my pack to rest and drink my water. I started with a 360, then did my usual telephoto shots of the distant peaks. My battery went low, and my spare wasn't charged up very much. I did my own video, and rested. It would only be back to town, if I didn't stay long on top.

Two other hikers came up, and I rested some more. I ventured over to do some better views, and chatted with them a bit, informing them of other peaks to do. A chipmunk scurried about, too fast for photos until later.

The sun began to lower in the sky, so I'd just leave to take my time going down. I left the top at 3:30 p.m., and hiked back the way that I had come up. The trees made for nice photography with vivid, blue, Lake Aloha, in the distance. I took pictures of the phlox, and then the other hikers passed me on the way down. I rested at the 8,500 foot saddle, looking at my maps on my handheld, and listening to some music. All I had to do was to be careful on my descent. It was mostly downhill.

Taking my time, I stepped carefully down on the trail, slowing down at the steep gully, and then I was through it. Further, I must have not paid attention to the trail, and found myself taking a false trail down. I followed it to come to an old track, and figured at first that it might come down about the way I wanted to go. Figuring then that this was wrong, I headed toward where the trail goes to the right, as I am familiar with the terrain, and knew that it wouldn't be too far to get back to the right trail. I hiked cross country through the dry forest, then heard a helicopter. It flew on by, headed west, and I continued on my bearing back to the trail. To expedite my traveling, I maybe climbed another 100 feet of gain, then intersected the good trail. A bit worrisome, but I am good with this navigation.

Stomping on down, I shortly came back to the trail start, and came back to my car at 6:13 p.m. Other cars that I had seen in the morning were all still there. It'd be good for getting back to town when it had cooled down. I took off in ten minutes, and drove speedily down U.S. 50, to stop to get an ice cold soda. I arrived at the foothills casino to have some good reward, and got good service with plenty of water, and plenty enough healthy food. Very professional servers.

Out a bit over twelve hours from home, I did 9 miles with 3,000 feet of gain, round trip, driving then 173 miles. Capturing 277 images and movie clips (57.4 MB, 2:50, 720p HD), I spent about $26. Using about a half tank of gas, I got that earlier at 3.799.

Ready for more travel and peak climbing, I am doing research on what to do. I have visited most of the Western National Parks, but there are other trails to do, and some sights left to see. I have some fun doing the same things again, with my photography and video, now, and losing weight feels so good!