A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Sunol Regional Wilderness

October 13, 2014
Emilie Phillips

I am a creature of the mobile age. Over breakfast Monday morning, I pulled out my tablet and started researching areas to hike that day. On the drive to the wedding, the hills in the Diablo Range looked enticing. I found a regional park named Sunol Regional Wilderness which claimed to have a scenic little Yosemite and plenty of trails.

I took the morning at Isaac’s pace since he needed to recover from the previous day. Another factor in the morning was that the hotel room water tasted vile. So we arrived at the trailhead at 10:30 with only 2 liters of water, not the best starting point for a desert hike on a sunny day with 90F highs. I failed to find little Yosemite on the map, instead I picked out a loop that went out up on the exposed hills for a view, and then back down a stream valley with trees and shade. 5 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation.

The first bit was a nature trail down by Alameda creek which actually had running water. I briefly got lost on a use trail, but then I figured out their signage. From there, it was up onto the hills with dry brown grass and an occasional tree. Isaac walked a little bit, but largely it was hot and hard work lugging us both up the hills. I was thirsty and worrying a bit about our water supply, especially since Isaac was drinking freely from the water bladder.

We came to a shaded ravine, so I stopped there to asses the situation. We had 1 liter of water left, had covered only a third of distance though more than half the elevation, and I was feeling crummy from the heat. So I decided the prudent thing would be to turn around. We had already seen some nice scenery. I had gotten to show Isaac some cows hiding in the shade of the trees, and plenty of cow poop. We sat down and ate a tasty lunch of food from the famers market. It was so dry that the bread turned crusty as soon as I broke a piece off. After lunch and resting in the shade, I felt quite a bit better. I considered the map again and decided to just go for it.

Once out of the ravine, I was committed to no shelter for over a mile on the Cerro Este and Cave Rocks roads. Stopping and resting in the sun wouldn’t do any good, so I just had to make steady progress the whole way. Isaac and I wore long sleeve shirts and hats to keep off the sun.

I encountered some other hikers who had come from the backpacker’s trail down by Alameda Creek. Sounds like that might have been a pretty route. They confirmed I knew I was headed for exposed terrain.

The map showed three water holes along the road. Only one of them had any water left. California’s three year drought was evident. Off in the distance, I saw construction on a dam. Despite the drought, the hills and valleys were pretty.

I reached the top and started back down. I was pushing to get all the way over to Indian Joe Creek before taking a break, but when I came to a nice tree with shade, I couldn’t resist. We were down to half a liter of water. I ate the last yummy peach. Again I perked up after food and rest in the shade. Some Gatorade or other electrolytes would have been nice. But overall, I was feeling positive for the rest of the hike down.

Soon, we entered open trees with mixed shade. The oak trees had funny spongy balls growing on them. Some other oak trees had a parasitic plant growing on them. Mistletoe?

The trail followed straight down the creek gully. Tyson’s knees would not have liked it. We stopped at Cave Rocks, a jumble of rocks with fisures and twisty passages. I decided to splurge some of our water budget on a stop to play in the rocks. There was some good scrambling and squeezing and climbing, even some views.

Then we continued down through the woods. Isaac walked for a bit, but it was so steep his feet kept slipping out from underneath of him. Every time he fell down, he said “boom.” Eventually he slowed enough that I put him back in the pack and he fell asleep. The water ran out 20 minutes from the trailhead, but since the path stayed in the shade, it wasn’t a problem.

Alameda creek at the bottom flowed with water. Crossing it, I saw a cow that had escaped the fenced in pastureland up on the dry hills and was happily munching green stuff and slurping water.

On the way back to San Jose, we stopped at a gas station for Gatorade and ice cream.