Monday, November 25, 2013

El Toro

Morgan Hill is a "bedroom community" (whatever that means) just south of San Jose.  If you extended the Santa Cruz mountain range down south and the Diablo Range down south, the valley that is formed between the two coastal mountain ranges contains San Jose, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy, and maybe some other cities I'm not thinking of.  The prominent high ground of Morgan Hill is a sight called "El Toro".  It is a symmetrical cone shaped peak that presents some really nice views from the top.  Toshi wanted to visit the peak and since he established my flexibility with regard to my views on land ownership rights and the sort, he invited me to go along on a stroll through various fields (under/over various fences) until we reached the summit.
The prominent high point of Morgan Hill
Toshi is too weak to climb this mountain, so he uses a rope...

These flowers melted.

I told Toshi I would buy him a burger, but he had different ideas.

This was right before Toshi led me through a thicket of unknown plants which I assumed to be poison oak.  He always tells me: Nah, there was no poison oak...  Yeah right!

Some off trail adventures.
Yet another Bay Area peak in the bag.  Keep em coming...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Running an Eldrith and some stealth peak bagging

The Quadruple Dipsea race is coming up.  Not running it this year, but I recommend it big time.  Lots of fun.  There are a lot of runners from the club running though, so Toshi set up a training run to get some "on course" rehearsal.  I tagged along because, well, it's fun.

Yoshi is glad we are almost to the top!
 The "Quad", as I have described in this blog before, repeats the dipsea trail from Mill Valley on the bay to Stinson Beach on the pacific ocean and back a couple of times - quad entailing the length of the dipsea trail being run times four (to make it an ultra-marathon).  It requires some specific preparation because of the 1000s of stairs you end up traversing.  The Quad is like most every trail ultra-marathon that I know of -  follow the course, no cutting of switchbacks, etc.  But if you are familiar with the original dipsea race, you will know that you are not required to follow the official course.  If you can figure out a more efficient way to traverse the land between the two towns, you have a better shot.  Therefore, many shortcuts have been established.  Most of the locals know most of the shortcuts and thereby receive a significant advantage on race day.  Toshi was showing some of the shortcuts on this run, and while they did make less mileage between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach, they did add some poison oak exposure and many scratches from wild blackberry bushes.  Still a lot of fun.

Pretty nice day out there.
 This event was organized by Toshi as a training run for any interested Quicksilver runner who was running, so we had a great turnout- about 11 runners.  There was a whole range of paces that people were comfortable with and you just settle in with some others that run your pace.  It is a great way to get a worthwhile workout and some great socialization with like-minded individuals...

Toshi, Yoshi, and I had run together before, so we felt comfortable setting the pace.  Generally we would progress to a landmark, such as cardiac hill (the high-point, about half-way between the two towns), and then catch a breather, take some pics, and regroup with the other runners as they would come in.

So we had our "man" thing going on, and then Amy Burton decided to break up the fun and show us how it was really done!  She was sticking with us all the way down from Cardiac through all of the shortcuts, thorns, and whatever, and looked like she was having a blast.  I have a feeling she is totally primed for a big time race this year...

Amy is soaking in the views...
An "Eldrith" by the way, is a flavor of Quad training run whereby one traverses from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, then back up the Cardiac Hill, back down to Stinson, and then back to Mill Valley.  Eldrith Gosney is 72 years old and is a perennial finisher of the Quadruple Dipsea (as well as other assorted ultra marathons).  She says the toughest part for her is the "backside" of the race (the stretch from Cardiac to Sinson).  Therefore she prepares with twenty mile training runs in the format that I describe above.  It just so happened that we passed Eldrith on the way up to cardiac from Mill Valley today.  I had no idea who she was, but I was out running an "Eldrith" today, and there she was, a small nice looking grandma type lady trucking up the mountain...

Toshi had confided in me a secret to handling the stairs at the Quad, and since nobody reads this blog I feel comfortable pasting a video of his "skillz":

And then, the big payoff for all of the running:  Food!  We all met up at a cafe in Mill Valley and got some good calorie replenishment going.  Great day.

But if that wasn't enough, Toshi had something else in store for some brave individuals who he knew cared not for their personal safety or for the intricacies of the law:

Stealth Peakbagging: Lover's Leap and Pacheco Peak

Some locals might be familiar with highway 152 that is the gateway between the bay area at 101 and I5 of the central valley.  All that stands between is something called the "Diablo Range", some combination of tectonic plates that have yielded some confusing geology including various rock formations and old volcanos.  Pacheco Pass is what allowed a pretty nice highway to be constructed to connect the two great valleys.  As you approach the pass, there is a noticeable formation called "Lover's Leap", apparently some indian gal back in the day jumped off a cliff because she couldn't boogie with the next tribe's stud.  A couple of miles inland from Lovers Leap is the highpoint of the area, a prominent cone shaped mountain called "Pacheco Peak".  One of my favorite dudes from back in the day, Henry Brewer, was chronicling his adventures of the California geological survey and one of his guys (Charles Hoffman) sketched out something that he called "Hollenbeck's Rock", now known as "Lover's Leap":

So the plan was to park on the side of 152 and "bag" Lovers Leap and Pacheco Peak.  At night.  No worries though.  Just maybe some class 3 scrambling.  But we had a full moon.  So really, no worries.  Actually it was a ton of fun and really surreal.  It would be worth it to go into some more details, but I don't have the google earth images I wanted to share and might actually be too lazy to follow through with this blog post otherwise, so it is what it is...

One bummer was that it was cloudy at the top of Pacheco Peak, which totally ruined the promised night lights of the central valley as well as the cities visible from our own side of the range.  Hiking in full moonlight, in the middle of nowhere, with your fiends - it can't be beat!