Hiking in the heat doesn’t spoil the views

Sept. 28, 2010

Dolores Ciardelli

I’d been meaning to go hiking in the hills around here so of course I chose this weekend, hoping it would reach 100 degrees.

Actually the opportunity presented itself because Emily West and I, co-editors of Views magazine, are learning all we can about Measure W, which would extend San Ramon’s Urban Growth Boundary. (Views is the monthly magazine published by DanvilleExpress.com and SanRamonExpress.com.)

We met with the “No on W” folks last week and will soon meet with the proponents. Matt Vander Sluis of the Greenbelt Alliance mentioned at our meeting that he was leading a hike Sunday morning in Hidden Valley Open Space that would pass right by the Urban Growth Boundary that Measure W seeks to move.

This was tempting because I wanted to take pictures of the area to accompany our coverage. I hesitated to commit to a long hike, but Matt assured me that it would only take 10-15 minutes before I was on top of a hill with 360-degree views. I could take my photos, enjoy the scenery, and return to my car rather than hike for the entire three and a half hours.

Now if I’d analyzed Matt’s statement I would have realized that the only way to get anywhere with great views is to walk up an incline. That was indeed the case. And the word is not “up,” it is “UP.”

I drove through the Dougherty Valley neighborhoods and met the group in time for our 9:30 a.m. start, and away we went after everyone shared sunscreen and the leaders made offers of extra water. One woman brought up the almost-rear with me; she nicely advised me that the hike was neither a race nor a test and there was nothing wrong with stopping.

She said some hiking clubs quickly advance forward, moving with great determination. She prefers hikes with the Greenbelt Alliance where participants can feel free to stop to admire whatever they might see along the path.

So up and up we hiked and talked. At least I was never too winded to talk, so that’s something. After about 20 minutes, there we were on top of a hill with the promised 360-degree view. Magnificent. The leaders, Matt and Ken Lavin, pointed out what lay in each direction — from Alameda County in the south to Norris Canyon in the west. Of course we all recognized Mount Diablo to the north and had a great view of the Blackhills, formed by the dark chaparral between the mountain and Blackhawk.

Ken explained that Mount D, with an elevation of 3,849 feet, wasn’t formed by a volcano although much of the summit is volcanic rock. This came from eruptions 190 million years ago some 3,000 miles to the west; the rock traveled here by a movement of the earth’s tectonic plates. Mount Diablo, probably one of the youngest landforms in the East Bay, began to rise only about 2 million years ago.

We stood looking down at the Dougherty Valley development nestled among the hills, and Matt told us that Hidden Valley was dedicated as open space as part of the development agreement. To the east was Tassajara Valley.

As the others continued down the other side of the hill and into the open space, I carefully retraced my steps. By then it was 10:30 and beginning to heat up considerably. If it weren’t for the heat, I would have been tempted to stay with the group. Hiking the local hills is a wonderful way to appreciate our home.

The Greenbelt Alliance has hikes all over the Bay Area, which sounds like a great way to discover new places. Learn more at www.greenbelt.org.

East Bay Regional Park District has much hiking information on its website at www.ebparks.org. It’s in the middle of its September-October Wednesday Walks that begin at 9:30 a.m. and usually end by noon. A three-mile hike in the Las Trampas Wilderness just west of the San Ramon Valley will take place Oct. 27.

Save Mount Diablo offers hikes with naturalists, including Tarantula Treks. Its website, www.savemountdiablo.org, also lists Sierra Club hikes on the mountain.

I’ll definitely hit the trail again. Even my short jaunt on the edge of suburbia was a great get-away. Although next time I’ll pay close attention to the weather report.

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