Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day Two: Though I’m in the Bay Area, There Are No People

In Part One, I embarked on my hike of the Ohlone Trail in Alameda County, and reached Sunol Backpacking Camp. In this part, I describe my hike from there to Boyd Camp.

When I woke up at camp, I got to see a lot of fog in the Sunol Valley.

I was surprised when I looked out at the Sunol Valley in the morning. Fog! And the forest below the camp looked almost lush.

I don’t remember the name of this valley, but I know somewhere in there is a place called ‘Little Yosemite’.

I knew I was going to start with one steep little push out of the camp before a comparatively gentle section of the trail.

I proceeded to walk through some more land owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Hills covered with yellow dry grass with some hills in the background with some green oak trees.

Way in the back, you can see some fog over San Francisco bay and the hills of San Mateo county.

Around midday, I reached Rose Peak, which I learned is the highest point in Alameda County which is publicly accessible (apparently there is one place in Alameda county which is slightly higher on private land with no public access). It’s almost as high as Mt. Diablo, one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area. However, whereas Mt. Diablo is very prominent, Rose Peak is surrounded by ridges so a) Rose Peak does not pop out the way Mt. Diablo does and b) Rose Peak doesn’t have views as expansive as Mt. Diablo. Still, it was pretty go to go to the second highest point in Alameda County.

I think I took this photo on Rose Peak, but I’m not sure.

Though I never quite reached any place in the hike where it was possible to see both San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley, I thought it was cool that, even though this trail is less than 30 miles long, there are some points where one can see the bay, and other points where one can see the Central Valley. It turns out the maps are right, the bay and the central valley are not that far apart.

Wild Pigs

Shortly after I left Rose Peak, I walked through this forest which had a herd of wild pigs. I have seen some wild boars in Taiwan, but never saw any kind of wild pig in North America before.

It’s wasn’t just the wild pigs – I saw a lot of wild animals during this hike. Birds, deer, etc. There was this one place where there were tons of red blurs in the air. At first I had no idea what the red blurs were, but then I found that there were ladybugs crawling all over me. I figured I had walked into a swarm of ladybugs. I’ve seen many ladybugs in San Francisco, but never so many ladybugs in the same place at the same time.

The animal I didn’t see during this hike was ‘homo sapiens’. At one point, when I was crossing a fire road, some woman in a vehicle (probably a ranger) passed by and said ‘hi’. She was literally the only human I saw all day. It was weird to have so little human contact when I was still in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A lot of people think that the Pacific Crest Trail is remote and devoid of people. That used to be true. But now there are so many people hiking the PCT that, even during the off-season, I have never spent a full day on the PCT without seeing at least one other human. And on the 100+ days I’ve spent on the PCT, there was only one day when I saw only 1 other person. (there was another day where I only saw 2 other people). Yet the Ohlone Trail, in ~summer~, managed to have way less people than the PCT does in any non-snowbound-season (and even during the edge of the snowbound seasons, the PCT will still have way more people than this).

When I told my mother about the abundance of wild animals and the absence of humans, she commented this was probably not a coincidence. There are probably so many non-human animals roaming around the Ohlone trail precisely because of the lack of humans.

There’s Johnny’s Pond, and the herd of cattle I walked through.

In the afternoon, I had to walk through a herd of cattle. I had seen cattle throughout the day, but they had not blocked my path. As a child, I had an experience where I came close to being attacked by a bull, so this was nervewracking for me, especially since I was certain some of these cattle were bulls. I tried to approach in a slow, nonthreatening way, but they still felt threatened. However, I managed to get through and past where they were hanging out, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

So, why are there cattle in this ‘wilderness’ area anyway? The official reason is that they eat vegetation which reduces risk of wildfires. I did a little research on this and, well, it’s controversial. It’s clear that herbivores eating lots of grass can reduce fuel loads and reduce wildfire risks, but that does not mean cattle are the right herbivore for the job. First of all, cattle spread cheatgrass, which is much more flammable than native grasses (when I read one op-ed saying that they needed to expand cattle ranching on public land in order to prevent cheatgrass-fires, I groaned – if you don’t want a CHEATGRASS FIRE, then maybe one shouldn’t DO THE THING WHICH PROMOTES THE GROWTH OF CHEATGRASS). Also, the group which most heavily promotes cattle-ranching-to-prevent-wildfires are cattle ranchers, not the most objective group in the world. And then the horse advocates say that cattle don’t reduce the risk of wildfire and spread horrible cheatgrass, that land should be given over to horses instead. Of course the horse advocates aren’t objective either, though based on my limited research it does seem that horses at least don’t spread cheatgrass the way cattle do.

I admit that there is a lot I don’t know, and I’m not objective either as a vegan who is opposed to cattle ranching and a hiker who is nervous around cattle and doesn’t want cattle anywhere near hiking trails (not just because of the nervousness – cattle degrade trails too). At least I don’t have an economic conflict of interest in the matter, unlike the cattle ranchers. Based on what I know, it would be better to support the native deer populations and let them eat the vegetation to reduce wildfire risk since the native herbivores are much less likely to spread cheatgrass or otherwise upset the ecosystem. (Even if cattle are effective at reducing wildfires, they also cause a lot of ecological damage, and that is worth considering).

My theory is that the real reason Mr. Trump threatened to pull funding for dealing with wildfires because of ‘mismanagement’ is a) he’s wants to increase financial pressure on the Forest Service so they will lease out more public land to logging companies and/or ranchers and b) give political cover to logging companies and ranchers who want to take over public land to reduce wildfire risk through cutting trees and cattle ranching (even though their real motive is profit, not preventing wildfires).

Methinks the real reason cattle ranching is permitted in the Ohlone Wilderness is that someone with decisionmaking power has an economic or political stake in cattle ranching.

Enough of the soapbox, I’m getting off.

In the distance is the Livermore Valley, and down there is Del Valle Reservoir.

I went through the section of the trail known as the ‘Big Burn’ because it’s the steepest part of the Ohlone Trail (though I went down, not up, the steepest part). It is definitely a much steeper trail than any part of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s legitimately tough.

Quite a bit of the Ohlone Trail consists of fire roads. Some of them are really shitty fire roads which are tougher to walk on than an ordinary trail. There was this one road which was really steep and gravelly and it was hard to walk without slipping. This helps me appreciate just how high-quality the Pacific Crest Trail is.

I had no idea before I started that the Ohlone Trail was so physically demanded. I know that people occasionally use the Ohlone Trail to train for the Pacific Crest Trail (actually, I was doing that too, since I was using this hike to help me prep for a Long-Ass-Section-Hike on the PCT). If that’s you, let me tell you this: the Ohlone Trail is physically much harder than the PCT. It’s much shorter, but you will work harder for each mile on the Ohlone Trail. If you can physically handle the Ohlone Trail, you are definitely physically prepared for the PCT.

My tarp and net-tent in Boyd Camp.

In the late afternoon, I reached Boyd Camp, and my body finally got a well-earned rest. I used my net-tent for the second time ever.

Here is a photo of my stretching my leg inside the net-tent.

1 thought on “Hiking the Ohlone Trail in June, Day Two: Though I’m in the Bay Area, There Are No People

  1. Pingback: Aloneness & (In)Security | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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