Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No snow but a new park

This story started 10 years ago... Shortly after we immigrated to California at the end of October 1998, we got some snow on both sides of the Bay Area, Mt Hamilton over San Jose of course, but also on Skyline Boulevard on the Peninsula. Used to it in France and Switzerland, we were excited to get the kids to play in the snow. Unfortunately, little did we know that the highway patrol did not let anyone driving up Mt Hamilton Road when there was snow at the top...
Ten years later, my will of getting to the snowy ridge fired-up again last Saturday when I saw the white mountains while driving back from Los Gatos High School track. Sure enough, the CalTrans website was confirming that Highway 130 was closed from Joseph Grant County Park on. I guessed it was closed to car traffic and plotted to park at the park and run the 11 miles to the top, and back. The State Police Officer did not buy into this plan and warned me I would be considered as trespassing would I decide to still run on the road. A recent American citizen, I did abide by the law (albeit an unclear one), surrendered and decided to do my long run in the park instead.
At this point, around noon, big clouds were still stuck on Mt Hamilton, blocking any visibility of the famous Lick Observatory, but it was not raining and the temperature was in the 40s. I left my gloves in the car and took off with one bottle of Gu2O. With some pictures of the Ranch House, it was just the beginning of a long photo safari around the Park. After 30', rain started, a cold and freezing one. I did not push the pace, stopped often for more pictures and completed a 20-mile loop around the park in just under 4 hours of elapsed time, ending up really cold and wet. Needless to say, the Officer was still at the same place, protecting his territory, not the nicest way to spend a holiday (President's Day). Hotel trail, Manzanita, Bonhoff, CaƱada de Plata, Washburn trails, the 6-dollar entry fee was well worth the afternoon spent. But definitely not a "walk in the park..." Apart from certain sections of the Coastal Challenge through the Costa Rican rain forest, I never be so soaked than this Monday. In several occasions, the trail was disappearing, transformed into a creek by so much water from the persistent storm. Some other sections were quite muddy, the trail being damaged by the numerous cows.
I was the only soul in the park, and my car was the only one in the parking lot. It was quite ultraholic to have chosen such a stormy and cool afternoon to visit these trails. I will need to come back to visit Mt Hamilton and the Lick Observatory, but need to wait until the snow is gone. So long for training in the snow for Western States, you need to drive all the way up to Tahoe for that. No wonder why there are still so many kids and teenagers in the Bay Area who have never played in the snow yet.
Being the only human on the trail, some animals were curious and observed me coming and passing by: a couple of coyotes, flocks of cows, a salamander, four deers, dozens of prairie dogs, a few squirrels, tens of birds, ducks. See my Picasa photo album for some of them as well as some views of this great park over San Jose!

1 comment:

Eddie Parber said...

These a great photos! Sounds like you had a beautiful day. What better than an impromptu escapade to a deserted park filled with wildlife. A nice little Saturday if I do say so myself.