GETTING OUT: A little rain means nothing to a bunch of hikers

Hikers brave the rainy weather and march along the Mayfair Ranch

New Year’s morning, I awoke to the tap, tap, tap of rain water
trickling its way through one of our down spouts, signaling that
another storm had arrived. Not exactly ideal weather for a group
hike at Rancho Ca
ñada del Oro. Look at the bright side; at least the rain water
is only trickling, and not racing, through the down spouts, and I
don’t hear a driving wind.
New Year’s morning, I awoke to the tap, tap, tap of rain water trickling its way through one of our down spouts, signaling that another storm had arrived. Not exactly ideal weather for a group hike at Rancho Cañada del Oro. Look at the bright side; at least the rain water is only trickling, and not racing, through the down spouts, and I don’t hear a driving wind.

I made a quick PB&J sandwich, threw it into my fanny pack with my camera and rain gear and headed out. Driving to the Rancho Cañada del Oro parking lot, I wondered how many souls would climb out of a nice warm bed and choose to take a walk in the rain. Pulling up the covers and rolling over is hard to resist when set against such an option.

Surprise, surprise. Cars began to fill the lot – it’s a small lot – and smiling energetic faces gleamed from behind closely drawn hoods. It’s good to be among your own kind: vigorous, adventurous and, by some standards, not all that bright.

We walked through a light but steady rain. It never let up, but neither did it grow worse. We climbed gently from the parking lot up the nicely graded Mayfair Ranch Trail twisting back and forth through manzanita and toyon bushes toward the crest of the ridge. As the trail began its run along the ridge crest, we walked through a dense forest of coast live oaks before breaking out into open grassland dotted with leafless valley oaks.

For all the rain takes away – views, warmth – it adds a sense of mystery and adventure. The twisting branches of the naked valley oaks looked like maps of a complex circulatory system and leaned steeply to the south, coaxed there by decades of summer’s prevailing winds. The puffs of clouds drifting through these monarchs created a perfect setting for an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

In other years, with a large amount of early rain as we have had this winter, wildflowers have appeared ahead of schedule. I expected to see milkmaids and blooming manzanita, the very first blossoms to appear each year, but there were virtually none. We have had enough rain but perhaps not enough warmth to coax them out. It leads one to believe things might be gangbusters in another month.

The same puffs of clouds that blew through the oaks alternately opened and closed views down each side of the ridge. We only saw occasional glimpses of the flank of Baldy Peak rising above us on the right. Likewise, on the left, the valley floor that carries a just-born Llagas Creek made rare and brief appearances. Views of El Toro, Loma Prieta, the Diablo Range? Not today.

On the far side of the ridge, Baldy Ryan Creek babbled politely but did not holler wildly like I expected after our wet season so far. Here was the trail junction and the moment of decision. Would we continue on and complete the long loop, another four miles, or head for the cars. Chris Weske toyed with the idea of continuing on, but he was a man among wimps, and we were able to snuff out any such ambitions. We may be adventurous, but we’re not stupid.

Thanks to all of you who braved the rain for fresh air and good company. I am proud to be a member of the same species as all of you.

Rosy cheeks and smiling faces adorned everyone back at the parking lot, and we all agreed that another hike or two later this spring, when the weather improved and the flowers were out, was a good idea. Stay tuned.

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