Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caldecott Wildlife Corridor - perfect PCT training hike

From our house in the Oakland East bay hills, we walk up past Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, where we join the Bay Area Ridge Trail/East Bay Skyline Trail and walk to the Train Station in Tilden Regional Park. The round trip is about 10 miles for us, about 7 miles if you start from Sibley. You are walking through the Caldecott Wildlife Corridor for most of the way, and a relatively untraveled, pristine trail for much of its length. The trail elevation profile is quite similar to what you find on the PCT. Do this with a 25 lb backpack from Sibley and you will feel it. Start at the Pinehurst Road - Skyline intersection, just a mile or so south on the Ridge Trail, and it will kick your butt if you do it round trip. I saw a mountain lion on this section south of Sibley when I did it earlier this year.

Over the course of a year, we do on the order of 200 miles on this trail. I've made some attempts at trail maintenance with varying success. There is a fair amount of poison oak, and this time of year it is starting to reach over the trail in spots. Quite avoidable, but you have to pay attention. One year I took a long pair of pruning shears, and pruned back the poison oak, of course taking precautions to avoid touching it. Worst case of poison oak I've ever had, so I don't do that any more. If a branch is totally unavoidable, I will search around and find a stick so I can poke it back in the shrubbery. Most of the time though, you can edge sideways by it, or duck and scoot under. I leave it alone, with a little feeling of satisfaction that the occasional rogue mountain biker will at least pay a small price for his disregard of the No Bikes signs.

Another attempt was to whack the heads off all the purple thistles that were crowding the trail, and zapping my ankles. One year I was doing it 3 or 4 times a week and pretty much had the whole length of the trail free of thistle heads for a while. Well, you knock the head off, it grows back shorter, with 5 times as many heads. This year they are thicker than ever, and I'm probably responsible.

I have found some success controlling the stinging nettles. I wasn't really aware of them for a number of years. If a shrub wasn't poison oak, I just plowed through it, no problem. One year this branch hanging down brushed across my face and it felt like I had been burned. I look back and up, and there is this huge plant - a single stalk, about 9 feet tall, and alternating pairs of leaves, gray green and fuzzy, with the typical wedge shape of a rattlesnake's head, only with a pointy nose.

Ever since, every nettle I see gets whacked with the hiking stick. They come back year after year, but don't seem to be spreading, and it takes them a long time to get big enough to be a hazard, once they've been whacked.

Back to the topic, more or less. Even with a pack, you can avoid the poison oak. You will see few if any people after the first mile. Initially you see some dog walkers, and maybe a runner or two, but after Old Tunnel Road, the trail is pretty much yours. the grades are like the pct, right now the wildflowers are all over, as they are on the Pacific Crest Trail. If you can do 20 miles on this trail, that is, 2 yo-yos from Pinehurst to the train station, and do that 3 days in a row, you are ready. Be sure to take a snack break in am and pm to boost your electrolytes. We take a PopTart. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009

5/20/09 - just walked this again, with Susan starting at Sibley. She says I'm crazy to suggest 2 yoyos from Pinehurst as training. It might scare off someone who would do just fine on the PCT. You really should work up to the 2 yoyos. They represent a long hard pct day. Start training by a yoyo from Sibley. That is about 7 miles. Then a yoyo from Pinehurst. That's about 10 miles. Then you might go beyond the train station about 3 miles to Nimitz Point. and do yoyos to Nimitz Point and extend your training that way. I just prefer the section between Pinehurst and the train station, and think it is the most pct like.

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