By Stacy Poulos
Ok Here’s the thing, I got my ass kicked yesterday. The good part about every mountain, is it hides the next mountain and valley you must walk through. So, when you think you have concord an extraordinary feat in your life, to walk the miles you have, you come to another clearing where you have an even longer and harder distance to go. Shit! I was thinking about an analogy of what I went through yesterday, when I was driving over the San Mateo bridge and seen a tiny distant light across the bay to my left thinking, that is where I’m going… in my car. Yesterday, it was on foot, times 10. That light was like the people ahead of me near the bend of the trail. Really!!?? ….that’s where were going! Again!!! Shit! I kept thinking, obviously I have no concept what these maps mean, or what 6.6 miles is in people feet walking. I was just proud as a graphic artist, I was able to highlight the proposed trail on my map. (I think my guide, who has the body of Jack LaLanne, also has no concept what a 4 in difficulty, means on a scale of 1 to 10 to out of shape people), like what 4 beers is to someone 180 lbs, is a lot different to someone 110 lbs. I guess it’s all relative, and I really need to qualify the situation a little better, if I live. People who make up these numbers should consider the delusion of out of shape people, who think they can hike. He was just concerned that it was 94 degrees high noon heat in the thick of it. Humm. [Thats it! …in my own mind… You think only ‘heat’ is the issue here, as I pant, grasping my stomach wondering what Turkey Vultures gonna get me when I’m left behind. As people drop off in the shade to bring there huffing down to a point of manageable blood pressure after a hiking some horrendous incline at a 500 feet incline back out of Devils Hole.] “Only 200 zig zag feet in elevation to go, he says” but look theres a shady tree up ahead.] Deeeevvvviiiils Holeeee, That! Should have been my first clue when I read the map. [“Oh good, Devils Hole sounds mysterious, this is going to be a great adventure. Wooo hooo, here we gooooo.”] Now I know why they call it Devils Hole, sounds like fun, but to get there, and out of there, you will feel like you have gone to Hell and back.
So, all kidding aside (not), it was; beautiful scene, after beautiful scene. Amazing this is in the heart of the East Bay surrounded by rural areas and city life. You couldn’t see any homes once you got to the other side, but a lake (San Leandro reservoir) with lots of green trees and brush, a few mountainy rocks and 60 miles in the distance you could see San Francisco smaller than a inch.
I chronicled my trip in photos, so when they found me dead underneath a poison oak plant, they would know how far and why I had past out. Besides our fall back group having fun plotting out how we were going to hold down the leader and kick his ass, if we lived to see the end, who now looks like a dot, on yet another ridge we must conquer. I thought to myself, self, thankfully America has the foresite to preserve these areas. And even though I’ll never see Devils Hole again, unless it’s on a post card, in my nightmares, or from a helicopter. I want to figure out how I can support State Parks more. If we’re to stupid to not enjoy them, we should at least make sure they are their for those who do.
If you’re an in shape experienced hiker, you may like this hike. Our leader is a great guy and super nice. Maybe a little delusional about his numbers. I’d go to this kind of hike at any point …for a mile and that would be pushing it. Unfortunately you have to go to Devils Hole, to get to ‘Sycamore trail’ which is the best of all the trails. It was the most interesting to see, but the most treacherous elevation hike. It was under the most brush, which made the 94 degree weather not so bad for the hardest part.
For some one like me, I would take a trip like this if it was a 4 day hike. Hike camp. Hike, camp. Not all in one shot. We started with 47 people, all grouped up for the first quarter mile. Then our group spread out about a quarter mile apart in smaller groups. Me, taking up the tail with the fall back group, another couple who had a baby with them, and with another experienced woman hiker of this Trail with a old and slow dog. (My buddy). Who eventually split, before Devils Hole. (Our “Half Way point”). Obviously a wiser woman. ..another clue what was to come.
Being a mother Bear instinct myself, I was concerned for the momma and the baby, since I was huffing and puffing and had all my limbs to break a fall, she had to care for her daughter with one arm to protect her. There were a lot of situations where we had the luxury of two arms to get through some sticky situations and her only one.
So what else can I say? 24 ounces of water is not enough. I was out of water, when I got out of Hell. Once out of Hell, I would have paid $20.00 for a bottle of Ice cold gatorade. Luckily I had to new fallback people that were generous and well equipped that shared theres.
Before, I froze 3 mini 4 oz. collapsible containers, to keep my sandwich cool till lunch, great idea, BUT I think I miss read that to, it was more like concentrate, yuck. I thought of many inventions along the way, like a hat fan you clip on the brim of a baseball hat that is solar powered facing your face. Miniature handy wipe bags you can reseal.
At first I think, ‘what are these people doing bringing ‘back packs’, were going for a ‘walk’. Then I was jealous of all the amenities they had. Like our leader had an inflatable seat cushion to sit on. It was handy when we were in Hell lingering around having lunch, looking at Heaven. In light of wanting to sit along the hike, I thought an inflatable pair of shorts would be handy. Also the babies momma could have used a unit to keep her baby on her chest like she did, but not with such thick material and something to keep them cool and secure. One gal brought crackers and espresso beans to share, since I missed my espresso in the morning I indulged. She said she froze them so they wouldn’t melt. She’s not the only one who froze something, one man who supplied me with water after I ran out in Hell, froze his gatorade the night before. We ended up having more people join our fall back team who were welcomed with open arms. Especially with extra supplies!
And for the record, if your going down and not in the direction of your car, your gonna to have to go up. In our case, up, and up, and up and up! If your wondering what those skinny unmarked lines that connect in circles from large to small around the trail you are on, they are mountains, the smallest circle is the tip. So, in conclusion, when you see several small circles on your trail, they will be the mountains in your way you will have to hike on, down, up and around. “W” means water incase your from Europe and think “W” means Water Hole as in bathroom. Ironically what seamed to be a little trail of Heaven on our last stretch, a easy paved road that seam to go straight to the parking lot, was the hardest stretch. Because of the steep decline put a lot of awkward pressure on your knees and jams your toes to the tip of your shoes. Even though I knew none of the 47 people I started out with, it was probably better that my friends bailed on me, they would have kicked my ass. I’m sure in a few days I’ll think I had fun, and forget I was paralyzed from the pain the next day and walked like a penguin with a stick up my butt for a week.
But you know, I wanted my ass kicked really, I deserved it for letting myself get so out of shape in so many ways, when I’m a born athlete. I’m not going to be my true potential God intended me to be, if I let myself go so much as I had. I’m just not someone who can go to a gym and breathe the air of others sweat, focused on just the workout. If God intended us to keep our bodies in shape at a gym,he wouldn’t have created the great out doors. So in a way, my leader was a Saint that took us in and out of Hell. The Hell we live for not getting out and seeing the world and respecting our bodies. Days like these, you think about who your are, and how you pollute yourself with unnecessary crap. (Maybe 6.6 was a little dramatic for my first day out) rubbing the skin off the back of my feet, jamming my toes and knees. Straining every muscle I have, especially the one between my ears trying to find a way out, a kebab I can jump on to kebab down the hill instead of walking it. A helicopter to pick me up and take me home to my mommy.
“All ails fails, read the directions” is our family motto. As I go back to review the website to see where I may have missed something, I read the the leaders profile for the 1st time. He says: “My experience level with hiking is very advanced – numerous hikes more than 12 miles, many with many, many thousands of feet of elevation change. …and am always pushing my hiking further – literally. That being said, I love to introduce new people to the sport, and can enjoy anything from very mild to ugh! level hikes. Between hiking, treadmill, and trail running my goal is to get in at least 20 miles a week of cardio, shooting for 25+ though!..” Well. Sigh! There you go. I followed a psycho hiker. Thank you!! I now have a Callus on my foot named after you.
Then I read The Sierra Clubs description “About this Trail… This is a 6.3 mile long loop hike to Devil’s Hole over Rocky Ridge. Enjoy lung-busting climbs to rocky ridges offering breathtaking 360 degree views of Ramage Peak at 1401 feet, Mt. Diablo at 3849 feet, the Ohlone Ridge out beyond Livermore, and Grizzly and Volvon Peaks dominating the Berkeley Hills horizon. Enjoy the wild life, eagles, hawks, and buzzing buzzards (turkey vultures, cousin to the more glamorous California Condor) patrolling the deep blue skies, bobcats and mountain lions skulking about or sleeping nearby in the sandstone cave outcroppings.” Blah, blah, blah.. “Change in Elevation: 1200, Elevation at trailhead: 1080, Highest Elevation: 1960 (Why my knees and butt-tox hurt) Lowest Elevation: 1080” .. eeeexxxxaaaccctttly!!
Thank you my fearless leader for taking the brunt of our commiserating I loved every minute of it. I think all the new comers miss judged the ‘4’ in difficulty and probably didn’t read your personal profile. Then again they were probably like me, wanted the inspiration of a group to go on a journey. No matter how difficult. If I go with this group again, it will be on a ‘1’ difficulty for a mile. His next trip is to be a 10 mile hike… Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve… I’m out! ‘But there’s a cave… ‘nope, I’m out!