Day Four - Tuesday, Oct. 28 - Mt Diablo Regional Trail
Thanks, Gina, for acting as my blog agent while I was out. Very good stuff, indeed. Especially the chicken!
First note - Monday was a revalation. After starting the Highland Ridge portion of this trail and the inevitable long hill that tags along with it, I began that day in the dark, and loved it. All the creepy Hallowe'en stories came to mind - especially being watched as I moved backwards up the first part of the trail.
The long hill was followed by a series of long, swoopy downhill runs, during which I rested while gravity did what gravity does. After what felt like hours, I reached the boundary of Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, and entered Mt. Diablo State Park. I can't fully describe that feeling - almost as if the worst was over, I could cruise through Mt. Diablo and relax in camp by the late afternoon. Unfortunately, there was still a long way to go.
And it would get more difficult. In the State Park, the trail turns into one of the nastiest overgrown single tracks I've ever seen as a piece of such a prominent trail as the Diablo Regional Trail. My thought would be that a long regional route would have a built in standard trail width or something. No such luck - but these are the challenges every hiker faces.
Nor was there an alternate route, other than to take the long slog up Riggs Canyon, climb the fence (with my packed 60 lb wheelchair) cross the private property without prior permission to do so, then climb out over the gate on the west side. Neither option was good this day. I called home, Gina got me and brought me into the State Park once more tothe campground. Later, I back - rolled part of the route leading to the private property, on Knobcone Point Rd. At least I got a section in!
Later that afternoon I met with Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle, who interviewed me for the story. He got out of the campground just before they locked up the park, thankfully. I stayed at Live Oak campground, serenaded by owls and rudely awakened early Tuesday morning by a roving Coon Gang, bent on turning over all the garbage cans. I left the tent to chase them off before they decided my tent held some tasty stuff....there must have been a dozen of them. I got back to sleep around 2:30 AM, and slept until a great horned owl's hooting woke me up.
I expected to get up a bit later Tuesday morning. The route would take me almost all downhill, and I'd be back at Diablo Foothills by noon. The last morning of packing went smoothly, and I was packed and loaded by 8:30 AM. And then, like the best laid plans.....
I put my neoprene hiking gloves on. This was the 2nd pair, as I'd completely shredded the first coming up Miwok on Sunday. It was my only back up, and...both thumbs were in various stages of pulling off. I grabbed a roll of climbing tape I kept for just this kind of thing, but it was no use. Even the slightest push pulled the thumb further from where it was supposed ot be. I was angry - to come all this way with a specific plan...and the last day's work was trail with which I was very familiar, that's why I knew it would be a fine morning. Suddenly, all those easy miles had to be rethought. I got the map out and began looking for an alternate route that would get me back to cilvilization faster. Just off the campground was the Green Valley Trail, and it descended rather rapidly into the town of Diablo, a well - to - do enclave whose homes I drool over...oh, to win a Lottery!
I set off down this alternate route. The early descent was quite gradual, but it got rockier and steeper as I went along. My fingers, now unshielded, risked cuts from the rocks and sticks normally deflected by the gloves. So I hung on as I bounced off the rock shelves and sharp pieces of granite. It was a fun ride but I'd have appreciated it more had I intended to go this way.
Finally, the Green Valley Trail dropped into a paved cul de sac, and I continued the descent through nice, quiet streets and surrounded by beautiful homes and very nice people. Here's a guy in a wheelchair with a huge backpack, 4 day's worth of beard stubble and a dusty dirt cloud following him, like Pigpen from "Peanuts." It must have been unsettling ot some of Diablo's residents, but they were nothing if not very friendly.
The gloves were shot. There was no way to use them anymore. And I was unhappy, almost in tears as I sat in Diablo Road while cars whizzed past. I called Gina, and she came to pick me up. We drove to Diablo Foothills because I wasn't sure whether the Chronicle people would be there - Mike had expressed a desire to photograph me coming off the mountain. I was glad, when I called him, to hear he had other assignments that day and wouldn't be out.
But still, I got 22 miles in over the four days. I'm quite sure I was the first wheelchair pilot to get this far, even though I am itching to get back and do it right! I'll make some suggestions to those who manage this trail - perhaps another BP camp, maybe better maintenence of the narrow piece I had to work around, or propose a hiker's easement on the private property though Riggs Canyon, gates to be funded by the trail managers.
I had one heck of a time, though, I don't want it to sound bad. I'd be out there tomorrow if I didn't have to work! And may I suggest a night at the Round Valley Camp or the Morgan Backpack Camp? It's a bargain, and the payoff in peace of mind and relaxation will be immediately apparent.
Please e - mail me at email@example.com if you'd like to chat about this trail. It has the potential to be the finest suburban / backcountry interface in the country.