Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mission Peak to Milpitas hike (January 9, 2010)

After starting the new year day by hiking Mission Peak with Prem and Promila; it was good to follow it up with some longer hike. We tried to do this hike last year, but nobody in group was aware of the route. So when Chetan proposed it, I jumped on this opportunity. I called at the Ed Levin park phone number, and left a message to find out which is the nearest place where we can park the car around 5:30 AM. The park ranger returned my call, and told me that nearest I could park was on Piedmont road which is around 1.5 miles from the park gate. There is no wonder why Ed Levin is not as frequented; apart from charging parking fee, the park is not friendly for early starters, as the gate opens at 8 AM. And as commented by many hikers before, the trail was not well marked.

Chetan, Nitin, Narayanan and I started the hike from Stanford Av parking lot at around 6 AM, we did get parking space this time. It was still quite dark and foggy; and suddenly I realized that we are 5 hikers instead of 4. Chetan got little freaked out by this creepy mysterious hiker who was walking with him closely for some time now; he almost went off the trail to give him/her the way. But he could not get rid of this hiker. I think the hiker was just waiting for somebody to go with at gate, and did not want to go alone in dark. Chetan started explaining that he had been constantly freaking out for last one week on anything sudden, after watching Paranormal Activity; and he kept pointing to some things in the fog. That is what a good horror movie could do, it awakened artistic visual powers in him and made logical IBM engineer see the world differently. He further mentioned that his house does not appear the same to him anymore. To be honest, we all got startled by presence of this mystery hiker, who kept with us, very quiet, for at least half the hike.

We were at top of Mission Peak in 70 minutes (I know, I know, slower by some of you guys’ standards). We decided not to have Promila’s ginger tea at that time, and do it on Monument Peak. Chetan and Nitin were surprised by Promila’s dedication to wake up at 4:30 AM, and make the tea. Once you reach the maze of cell phone towers; two boards have conflicting information; one says no trespassing; another point to same direction saying Monument Peak trail. If you look at the Google Earth; we missed the Monument peak by little distance.

As per GPS, total hike was 12.5 miles; that means around 9 miles was just straight and descent, after reaching top of Mission Peak. There was absolutely no other hiker we saw after Mission Peak, which was great, however there was a downside to it. The cows here are not used to humans. So they were really puzzled as what to do with us, and so were we. Finally we settled on one protocol which worked for us. We would go as close to them as 100 feet (so we still have chance to run just in case they decided to chase us); and just stand there so that they can make their mind. It was classic case fight or flight instinct on display. Out of around 10 such close encounters of 4th kind, we have to get off the trail only two times. And this is the first time I heard cows howling and that too for a long time.

With adrenaline pumping, we forgot the ginger tea, and had to sit at one point to have it. There was a pair of coyotes, just playing in the meadow besides us, which seems banal comparison to the cows. Finally after reaching Ed Levin, we saw around half a dozen hang gliders, taking off and practicing. There was no much wind, that is why they were not able to go up. After dodging some slices from Spring Valley Golf club near Ed Levin; we safely reached to the road and climbing down on Calaveras.

This was where we saw the ugly part of human foot prints. On the creek on our left side, we saw computers, monitors, mattresses and lot of other junk just dumped. It was around 11 AM, when we reached our car; so in all it took over 5 hours to do 12.5 miles. I think this is once a year hike; I think it is better to Hike Mission Peak from Stanford Ave, go to Monument Peak and come down via horse shoe trail back to Stanford Ave Parking lot – that could be done in 3.5 hours or less. So for all of you who missed it, we can do it anytime later.