Crane Ridge P500

Mon, Apr 10, 2017

With: Jackie Burd
Sean Casserly
Asaka Takahashi

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Sean seems to have me dialed in. A short email pops up saying, "Hey, I'm going to do a hike to XXXX in Alameda County tomorrow night, are you interested?" Of course I'm interested. I know he's already checked to see that I haven't visited it, not hard if you know where to look. Crane Ridge has more than 700ft of prominence and the hike can be done in an hour. The only real downside is the driving distance which takes more time than the actual hike. His girlfriend Asaka is joining us tonight so I ask my daughter if she'd like to as well. Sean thinks it's a good idea because maybe Asaka will have another woman to talk to instead of these obsessive peakbagger types. Problem is, they're both on the shy side and don't talk all that much, almost nothing to each other. Still, it's more fun having four of us than just two.

We met up at the Park N Ride lot at Mission and Interstate 680, then carpooled together in Sean's SUV for the longish drive out to Mines Rd. We parked along this winding, paved road about a mile due south of our summit. Though not long, the hike climbs more than 1,000ft at a fairly consistent, steep gradient the whole way. There are few cars plying the road at this time but we are still nervous until we can get a few hundred feet up the slope. Sean picked out an excellent route that has an initial cover of oak trees. We ducked under the barbed-wire fence running along the road and upslope, pausing as first one car goes by underneath, then a second. It isn't quite dark when we started but soon grows so. There's really little danger of someone spotting us after those first few minutes as one has to keep an eye on the road while driving, with precious little time to let one's gaze wander upslope. A few hundred feet up the hill we come to what at first looks like an unguarded mineshaft, but turns out to be an open sinkhole in the slope. There were several such surprises we came to, showing the erosive forces of this season's rains. We would need to be watchful for such holes and eroded slopes on the descent when it was much darker. Though we had a full moon tonight, it was barely visible through a layer of high clouds, the forerunners of a weak storm moving in over the area. There would be little moon and no stars, leaving just enough light to navigate by without headlamps on the return. Jackie led the way upslope nearly the entire way, stopping to wait for us periodically and then again when she reached the crest of the ridge above and wasn't sure which way to turn. The highpoint was found just off a dirt road that runs along the ridgeline.

At the summit we had a fine view overlooking the scattered lights of the Central Valley, a somewhat busy-looking place around the Tracy area that seems to grow larger each year. A small herd of poor-sighted cattle near the summit became spooked at our presence and intially started moving in our direction before discovering us and veering off on another vector. We hung out at the top for about 15min which gave us time to grow chilled and ready to head down. It was much darker on the descent and it was necessary to watch our footing more carefully. The grass was knee-high and it was not usually possible to see exactly where one's feet were being planted. Lower down the slopes grew steeper as we encountered a few of the ravines with open, landslide sores. These could be treacherous to wander into or across as their bare surfaces afforded poor footing or none. Instead, we backtracked around them and headed for the more certain grass slopes to one side or the other. We landed back near the road at a different location that formed a small cliff where the road had been cut into the hillside. The result was a combination of tricky fence negotiation mixed with a short section of class 3 scrambling in near-darkness, all while hoping a car or truck didn't come driving by at our most vulnerable moment. None did, luckily, and we were able to hike back to our vehicle and start for home without anyone coming by during those ten minutes.

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