Sightings on Pleasanton Ridge

long ridge view of valley 2
View of Mount Diablo from the Valley View Trail

Know Where You’re Going!

Planning a hike? Know the trails you plan to take. If the park you start out in abuts another, be aware of your route (otherwise, you may find yourself doubling, even tripling the miles you plan to cover).

Wednesday morning’s hike started around 9:00 a.m. I planned to do a four and a half mile loop, starting and ending at Golden Eagle Way. I should be home by noon.

Up Golden Eagle Trail to Pleasanton Ridge I went, stopping by a bench overlooking the valley. Here is where Golden Eagle and Valley View Trails intersect. Mount Diablo is visible in the distance. The East Bay/Tri-Valley hills are in the foreground.

long ridge view of valley
View of Pleasanton from Long Ridge Trail

Summer Sights

The trails are dusty, making it easy to spot the tell tale tracks of wild turkeys. They have three toes forward and one back. Lizards scurry along at the edge of the ravine. Golden grass and yellow thistle cover the open fields.

Down by the turtle pond an Anna’s Hummingbird is frolicking in the water. Overhead an acorn woodpecker tap tap taps, moving from cavity to cavity. Is he removing or hiding acorns? My hummingbird is gone now. In her place, are blue damselflies. How pretty.

turtle pond at end of long ridge
turtle pond at end of long ridge trail

Thermalito Trail and Beyond

I decide to take a different route back and eventually end up on the Thermalito Trail. Am I still in Augustin Bernal Park or am I in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park? I don’t know. Up hill, downhill, on mountain bike trails, past several dried up watering holes. Something tawny colored and quite large darts out of the bushes, directly across my path. It is an adult or sub-adult mountain lion. I’ve only ever encountered one once before. (S)he stops on a hilly overlook a short distance away. She stares curiously, unwavering. My naturalist’s training kicks in: I stop walking; I make myself look big (I raise my hands up above my head and do so a few times); I keep eye contact, remembering never to look away; I begin talking loudly to myself for there is no one else around. She isn’t budging and neither am I. Finally, she loses interest in the crazy lady talking to herself and saunters off. This is an amazing encouner and according to what I’ve learned in my training, I ought not to have been alone.

This hike ends up taking all day. I do not exit the second park until 4:30 p.m. and I still have to walk another two miles back to where I parked my car. Worse of all, half of it is up a steep hill. I have covered the entire Thermalito Trail and most of Oak Hill Trail too. I’ve hiked about eighteen miles and I am exhausted. This is my second mountain lion sighting and it has made my day.

Oh, you know I didn’t take these photographs. I was too busy keeping my eyes on my new found friend.

Mountain lion photos, credit: U.C. Santa Cruz, California; and Mountain Lion Foundation.

Literature Lovers’ Hike: Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House

eugene oneill

Where: Danville, CA (approximately 31 miles east of San Francisco)

Note: This property can only be accessed on foot or by a National Park Service shuttle.

•          •          •         •          •          •          •

Take a leisurely hike through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Follow either the Williams or Madrone Trail to where they junction at a fire road leading to the back of Eugene O’Neill’s old property. Enter the gate and walk past the final resting place of Blemie, O’Neill’s elderly Dalmatian.

The residence, Tao House, sits on a one-hundred-and-fifty-eight acre property that was once part of the Rancho San Ramon Mexican land grant. Many of the almond and walnut trees that Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill planted are still here. Except for Saturdays, entrance to this National Historic Site is by reservation only.

A black gate (pictured above) leading to the courtyard is decorated with four Taoist characters, Dao, Da, Bie, and Shu. Navigate the zigzag path directly beyond to arrive at the house’s main entryway. Inside the first floor guest room are two wall murals titled, The Mountains of Mist. Although they are representative of the Chinese countryside, they also remind me of the California mountains — Las Trampas Ridge and Mount Diablo — both visible from either side of the property.

ACTIVITIES: Hike, Art (Literature)

REGION: East Bay

HOURS: Varies: depends on whether you are doing a guided or self-guided tour. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/hours.htm

COST: Free

LOCATION/VENUE: National Park Service, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, 1000 Kuss Road, Danville, CA 94526 Phone: (925) 838-0249

DIRECTIONS: Hiking: 5.9 miles (moderate, 3 hour hike) through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Start your hike at the west end of Hemme Avenue in Danville. Take the Ringtail Cat and Madrone Trails to Tao House. Enter through the back gate near the barn.

Shuttle: The National Park Service’s  shuttle picks visitors up at The Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/directions.htm

TIP: If you visit in the late spring – early to mid-May – be sure to catch one of the plays being hosted in The Old Barn/Playwrights’ Theatre. The 2012 lineup included a recently discovered one-act play, Exorcism, that was thought to have been destroyed by the author in 1920. It is based on O’Neill’s 1913 suicide attempt. Don’t forget to get a first hand look at the replica of O’Neill’s 1936 Nobel Prize before you leave. It is the only Nobel Prize to have been awarded to an American playwright. See the National Park Service’s Web site, http://www.nps.gov/euon, for more information on arranging a visit to Tao House, the home where O’Neill penned his final plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Additional: Here is a short video about Tao House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMheCcsBYb0

A slightly different version of this hike appeared in my Bay Area Adventures Summer 2012 blog post.

I’m Late! I’m Late!

Mini Ghirl, up at Russian Ridge

Day Hikes

Mini Ghirl doesn’t handle right: She needs new tires. We’ve done twenty-one thousand miles in twenty months, mostly up and down the Northern California mountains and coastal areas.

From East Bay to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, i.e.), to Santa Cruz (and places in between), to Yosemite (Aah, Yosemite, I’m coming back to you soon), to Mount Diablo in Clayton and Mount Tam in Marin (Don’t get jealous of Yosemite, Mount Tam! I’m going to check out one of your pancake breakfasts next spring and your play in the woods next summer), to Point Reyes Seashore, to San Rafael. It’s no wonder my poor little birdie has worn out her threads!

Then there were trips up and down Alpine and Page Mill Road, Skyline Boulevard and Highway 17, into lots and lots of lovely Open Spaces (mostly the MROSD’s). That’s a whole lot of miles and plenty more to go!

Skyline Ridge (looking towards La Honda)

Thanks to my friends over at Petrol Blog, I’ve learned about the Michelin Super Saver+ tyre. But why can’t I find it here in the United States? Michelin is an American company, isn’t it? And we here in the Bay Area try to be environmentally (i) friendly, (ii) conservative, and (iii) aware. All the better, when you save money by reducing gas (petrol) consumption.

So Michelin! Why the lower level/standard energy savers in America??? I want my American resident Mini Ghirl to have what her European cousins have: super saver, energy saver tires. Do something about it, Micheline Man!!! I’m late! I’m late! My Mini wants only the same things you offer to Europe — the best energy saver tires/tyres that Michelin makes. And just so you know, mountains and coasts up Mendicino way and beyond, and as far afield as Oregon and Washington states are calling meeeee! (There is the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon Coast, for example, just waiting, waiting for me and Mini Ghirl!!)

Oh, the places I have been

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