Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A bit of Yosemite at Sunol park

I know, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. So why not plan now to take off the pounds you know you're going to add after our national eating holiday? I've got just the place: Sunol Regional Wilderness in the East Bay. With miles of hiking trails, newly-greened hills, and a rocky gorge dubbed Little Yosemite, it's the perfect antidote to our traditional pig-out and pigskin day.

Last fall, I took a roughly 4-mile hike with pals Linda and Terry, enticed by the prospect of exploring the 6,859-acre wilderness, with more than 25 miles of trail. As I take my hiking poles out of the car, Terry gently teases me about my "canes". I tell him that, while the trail looks gentle enough at the outset, we'll soon be boulder-hopping and grateful for the support provided by the poles.

We trek up the Canyon View Trail, that crosses Alameda Creek and enter a forest of alder, willow, and sycamore. Coast live oaks dot the hillsides, along with valley and blue oak. In the bushes and trees, we spot acorn woodpecker, black phoebe, and titmouse. Overhead, lots of turkey vultures soar; and I keep my eyes peeled for the golden eagle, said to be commonly sighted in this part of the Diablo range.

Soon, we reach the weathered serpentine and sandstone outcrop that marks the entrance to Little Yosemite (there's a picnic table opposite the side trail going down into the gorge). We hop and crawl over massive boulders that give this spot its name. Deep pools reflect yellow and crimson leaves from overhanging trees, and a small waterfall cascades over the lip of a giant blue-green serpentine cliff. It's a magnificent, peaceful place. We pause and spread our small picnic over a flat rock, sharing our cheeses and apples. And on the climb out, I share one of my hiking poles with Linda (and yes, Terry has stopped kidding me about my "canes").

Details: Fall and spring are the best times to hike here, when summer's blast-furnace heat has abated, the grassy hills have colored up, and there's water in the creek. Parking Fee
$5/seasonal, weekends and holidays. The park is at 1895 Geary Road, Sunol, 925/ 862-2218,
925-862-2244 or 925-862-2601. Toll Free: 888-EBPARKS (888-327-2757), option 3, extension 4559.
Park directions: From the Oakland/Berkeley area:
Drive east on I-580 to the junction with I-680 in Pleasanton. At the junction, go south on I-680 and exit at Calaveras Road/Highway 84 just south of the town of Pleasanton. Turn left onto Calaveras Road and proceed to Geary Road, which leads directly into the park.

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