Of April Fools Day, Good Friday and Easter

Yesterday was April Fools Day as well as Easter.  I was thinking of posting this yesterday but then one thing rolled into another and before I knew it it was past midnight. So here it is.

Thirty five years ago, it was another April Fools Day.  I will always remember that day.  That was the day my elder brother, my sister-in-law and my younger brother were going to see my future wife.  Ours was an arranged marriage and I had not met her till that time.  It was early morning, around 9:00 AM when my family members were about to go to my bride to be house when my younger brother said, “Hope this not turn out to be an April Fool joke.”  My elder brother stopped in his track, looked towards me and said, ” Well, it is also Good Friday and the good will surely overcome the bad.” We are not Christians and Good Friday did not carry much importance to us in India except that it was a holiday.  To make a long story short, it definitely did not turn out to be an April Fool’s joke. In another month and eight days, it will be our thirty fifth anniversary and I must have been blessed by someone high up on that Good Friday.

Move forward thirty five years and to April Fools Day and Easter.  Leader of our hiking group had sent a message for a hike up Mount Umunhum, a 3486 feet peak in Santa Clara county, California.  The trail leading up to the summit was opened to the public in September of 2017.  We had been to the grand opening and was fortunate to be part of a group to hike down.  There are three parking lots for this trail, one at the entrance to the park at bottom, one somewhat in the middle and one near the summit.  Hiking up from the bottom lot is nearly a day long affair.  The trail that was opened last year starts from the parking lot in the middle (Bald Mountain) and goes up about 3.7 miles to the top parking lot.  There is another trail leading up to the summit and an alternate path is to climb up 159 steps and walk a small distance.  Bald Mountain parking lot is quite small and fills up very quickly on weekends and holidays.  On my last three attempts, I was not able to find a parking and was forced to drive to the top parking lot.  So I had never completed the round trip of the trail as it is harder to hike down and then hike up and had returned from about half way down the trail.  This time I was determined to complete the round trip so I told my group to be at the parking lot as early as possible.  I was at the bottom parking lot before 7:30 AM and was greeted by the wonderful sight of the moon setting on the western sky over the mountain.

Moonset over Mt UmMount Umunhum with old radar station on the left and the setting moon on the right.

I had to wait for about fifteen minutes before my friends arrived.  I left my car in the bottom parking lot and four of us drove up to the Bald Mountain parking lot.

mount umearly morning
Mount Umunhum in early morning light

Being early had its reward as there were still few parking spaces available.  We parked our car and started our hike.  The trail is a designer trail with very decent grading and switch backs with lots of shade.  Trail is about 3.7 miles long from the Bald Mountain parking lot to the parking lot at the summit.  It was a perfect hiking weather, sunny but cool with a light breeze.  We had a very pleasant hike, wandering around from time to time, exploring.  Completed our hike of nine miles with an elevation gain of about 1300 feet in three hours and forty five minutes with many stops along the way to enjoy the vistas.  So another happy April Fools Day and the blessings of Easter.  I am sure I won’t be here for next thirty five years to tell another April Fool story.  But as long as I live, I will remember these two April Fools Day.  They were perfect.

View of the valley from Guadalupe River Watershed Vista Point on the left and Doppler weather radar on Mount Umunhum on the right

Summer of 2017 – Part 5- Independence Day

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3qq

On Independence Day, July 4th, my dog Skooby and I decided to be little independent and go for a morning hike at Almaden Quicksilver County Park.  The park is just a stone’s throw from my house and  one of the several park entrances is a walkable distance.  With Skooby I did not want to walk on the main road although major portions of the road did have a footpath.

PART 5: July 4, 2017 : Tuesday: Independence Day
The day started off well, sunny but cool with a nice breeze.  Skooby, being a good dog, decided to do his morning ritual at the start of the trail, thereby releasing me from the burden of carrying his load throughout the hike.  Starting of the trail had a steep gradient, but the path to the next junction was short and shaded.

I had in mind a short hike, about an hour and half up and half an hour down. But Skooby had different ideas. He wanted to have some side trips. I had to keep him on a tight leash as I heard a rattler (rattlesnake) about half a mile into my hike. This was a first in this trail in many years of hiking. Another hiker who was coming down the trail told me that he had also heard one when going up the trail. I was cautious after that. But when we came to creek with flowing water, it was difficult for me to stop Skooby. He had to explore and being a good, conscientious dog, he decided to add to the water volume of the creek. As per his request I did not photograph him on the act, though the gently flowing creek with soothing, gurgling sound assured me that it did not mind Skooby’s indiscretion. There was Skooby on the bottom right of the photo on the right, happily exploring.

Skooby’s act was for good measures as after this creek with flowing water, we were greeted by one dry creek after another.  A disappointed Skooby searching for water on the photo at bottom.

As we were climbing up, it was becoming humid and Skooby was panting. He was still game but seemed to be getting tired.  At eight and half years of age, the heat and the steep grading must have been tiresome for him.  In previous hikes he would always try to go in front of me trying to explore every bush.  Today he was just content to walk by my side or follow me.  I just may have missed a turn on the trail but the trail I took rewarded us with great vistas.

Reason for making this hike a short one was that we had a lunch invitation to attend to. But somewhere during one of Skooby’s side trips, I must have taken a wrong turn. It was getting warmer and I had to make a few stops to ensure that Skooby drank enough water. It was getting much longer than I anticipated. But every cloud has a silver lining. Longer hike resulted in a roaring appetite to do justice for the ensuing lunch party. Also the view of our lovely valley from the hilltop was fantastic.

By the time we were back to the parking lot, it became a ~ six miles hike, 1200 ft elevation and a good three hours of hiking.

A hike can’t be complete without a selfie. So here it is (just to prove that Skooby did not hike alone).
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May be continued as summer unfolds.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Summer of 2017 – Part 2- A New Trail

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3ml
Summer of 2017 had been quite unpredictable.  There were a few days of triple digit ( fahrenheit ) temperature followed by mild, even cool for summer, temperature.  So when the leader of my weekend warrior group of hikers suggested a new trail, we decided on one that will be in shade for much of the hike just to be on the safe side.

PART 2: June 25, 2017 : Sunday: A New Trail

I would have missed this hike like many of the hikes that I missed during the last few months.  After the kids left for college, need to get up early in the morning was no longer a priority. Specially during weekends, it had now became a habit of sorts to scan the social media in the morning. Normally the group that I hike with drive to one meeting point and then bundle together in one or two cars, depending on the number of hikers, to the chosen trailhead for that day.

During all these years we had hiked many trails in the area around Castle Rock State Park but did not hike this particular trail. On this day our group was small, only four hikers.  At the start of the journey we were greeted by a mystery, an old VW Bug that 20170625_085518must have skidded down from the highway above and stuck for all these years in a tree. Wheels were long gone, paints were faded but there was no mistaking the shape.  After the perfunctory selfies and photographs, we proceeded on our hike, leaving the bug and its mystery to be solved by some other mystery blogger.

 

No more mysteries followed but the trail rewarded with us views of majestic oak groves as the trail meandered up and down the hills.  Due to the orientation of the early

morning sun with respect to the hill we were on the shade for majority of the hike.  We sent our silent thanks to the weather gods because a few sections where there were no shade, sun was brutal at the hilltop.

This new trail was a joy to hike.  Elevation gain was about 400 ft, but we started at a high point of about 2500 ft. We made a loop of the trail, retracing only a few hundred feet of the of the trail at the end of the hike.  Definitely a trail worth going back to.  We could still see the remnants of wildflowers clinging to the side of the trail in many places.  Surely there would be a bounty of wild flowers during spring.

A wild mushroom fulfilled our appetite of photographing wild flowers. Satisfied, we bid adieu to the trail with a promise to come back next spring.

 


To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.