Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day One: Into the Wilderness of the East Bay Hills

Under a blue sky, rolling hills are covered by yello dry grass with some patches of green oak trees.

This is what the East Bay (that is, the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay) looks like in summer. Even though Alameda county has a population of 1.6 million people, a lot of it is still like this.

This June, I hiked the entire length of the Ohlone Trail. I had several goals: 1) I did not distinctly remember staying overnight in Alameda County even though I know I’ve spent many nights there 2) I had just finished sewing my net-tent and I wanted to test it out before hiking a few hundred miles with it and 3) I wanted to prepare myself physically for hiking a few hundred miles.

I started hiking the Ohlone Trail near Mission Peak, which is a very popular place for day hikes, even in warm weather. That is why everyone and their parents were on the trail going up and down Mission Peak.

The “trail” (which is also a road) going up to Mission Peak.

Not only is Mission Peak relatively accessible from the parts of Alameda County where most people live, the peak features a great view of the southern half of San Francisco Bay. I had not hiked up to Mission Peak before, so this was my first time seeing the view. And actually, since the peak is not quite on the route of the Ohlone Trail, I did not go to the very top (I could have made a short detour, but I wanted to conserve my energy and water).

Some people rest while hiking up Mission Peak. In this photo, you can see the town of Fremont, the pond where they extract salt from the bay, the southern portion of San Francisco Bay, and on the other side of the water, the hills of San Mateo County.

People weren’t the only ones out on the trail. There were some cattle roving around too (I was surprised that they allow cattle grazing in an area with so many casual hikers). Many birds were active as well. There were a number of songbirds, as well as a flock of turkeys I have ever seen. The turkey population in the East Bay has been booming, and I now see wild turkeys even in the urban areas. (There is a small population of wild turkeys in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I’ve seen them. Golden Gate Park also has a growing coyote population, which is supposedly the reason why the San Francisco wild turkey population is not exploding. I don’t understand why coyotes can control the turkey population in San Francisco, but not in the East Bay).

Here are a few turkeys.

As soon as I passed the turnoff for Mission Peak, the people disappeared. The cattle did not disappear, in fact there were more of them. The climb up Mission Peak was more grueling than I expected, both in terms of steepness and heat, so it was nice to go downhill on the shady side with more trees.

A water source I found on the far side of Mission Peak.

The map only lists developed water sources, and I understand why they do that. But throughout my entire journey on the Ohlone Trail, I was pleased to find additional water sources, such as the flowing water in the picture above. I’m sure all of these water sources are contaminated by cattle, but that is why I carry a water filter. If this were the Pacific Crest Trail – especially in Southern California where one can go 40+ miles without a non-cached water source (and this year, due to the failure of two critical water sources, there was a 59 mile stretch without non-cached water sources), the type of water source shown in the photo above would definitely be listed in the maps. That is the difference between a trail near an urban area where the trail mappers don’t expect hikers to be able to handle contaminated water, and a trail where water sources are so scarce that the trail mappers will point out all quasi-reliable water sources, including the contaminated ones.

The downhill relatively shady stretch down into Sunol Park did not seem to last long. At Sunol Park there were various people, including a group of kids, but no developed water source (there was the creek).

A historic cabin in Sunol Park

Sunol Park isn’t really in the town center of Sunol. Sunol is the last really rural town in Alameda County. Its economy is centered around San Francisco’s water utility, agriculture, and a bit of tourism. Sunol Park is just off the Calaveras Road, which goes to the Calaveras Dam / Reservoir, which is part of San Francisco’s water supply. In fact, a portion of the Ohlone Trail goes through land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

A view of Calaveras Dam / Reservoir.

It was getting later in the afternoon, as warmer, and after Sunol Park I was going uphill again.

Here is a view of the hills that I was entering after departing Sunol Park.

It got to that point where I still had some appreciation for the scenery, yet I wanted to get to the campsite already and stop hiking.

A dead snake blocked my path.

The hike out of Sunol Park was a lot steeper and brutal than I was expecting. Yes, I had an elevation chart, but I had not really processed what the elevations meant? I mean, this was the Bay Area, not the Sierra Mountains, right? HA HA HA. I really ought to have known better based on my experiences in Taiwan that trails in coastal hills can be ass-kickers than high mountains trails depending on how they are constructed. The last stretch of the trail into the Sunol Backpacking Camp had a particularly tough grade.

A view from Sunol Backpacking Camp

But hey! I made it to the camp before sunset! And there was a functional water source! And it’s a beautiful campground!

My tarp with my net-tent nestled underneath.

This was my first time setting up my net-tent outdoors and using it in a real camp. As you can see in the photo, my net-tent in ~small~. I eventually got used to the small size, and even found it comfortable/cozy. But this was my first night ever with the net-tent, so my maneuvers were fairly awkward.

This is a picture of my right knee inside my net-tent at Sunol Backpacking Camp.

After setting up camp, I still had a little daylight left to relax before going to sleep. My muscles certainly appreciated the rest.

1 thought on “Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day One: Into the Wilderness of the East Bay Hills

  1. Pingback: Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day Two: Though I’m in the Bay Area, There Are No People | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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