Mon, Apr 14, 2014
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The trail starts off through a dense redwood understory, climbing steeply up a switchbacking trail augmented with wooden steps to lessen erosion. Though the moon was only slightly obscured by thin clouds at this time, it was too dark to see safely without a headlamp until I reached the top of the trail in about 10 minutes. In contrast to the Diablo hills I'd been in recently, the area here is lush with ferns and many varieties of flowering plants. Fog is almost as good as rain, maybe better. At the junction with the Alta Trail, a dirt road that traverses along the ridge, I turned left to continue on a few more minutes. This led to the intersection with the top of Wolfback Ridge Rd and the access road to Richardson. Five minutes up this gravel road brought me to the summit and its collection of communications towers. There was a rather beefy fence around the top with signs indicating possible death by electromagnetic radiation awaiting on the other side. As with most security fences, the weakness is found at the gate where breeching is easiest. I found the highest point amid a collection of brush with a small, lonely antennae in the heart of it. I walked around the tower area, finding the best nighttime views to the southeast overlooking the Bay, the GG and Bay bridges, and the lights of San Francisco. To the west were just a few lights towards the Pacific, overlooking the Marin Headlands, the moon barely able to provide enough light to illuminate the soft features of these rolling hills. After a quick visit at the breezy and quite chilly summit, I headed back via the same route.
I slipped through an aging fence to start up a steep, grass slope at the top of which I intersected a ranch road I had identified previously. The road climbs about 1,300ft over two miles to the summit, crossing two property boundaries. Fog was coming in thicker now, obscuring the upper slopes and bringing damp, chilly air over the landscape. Frogs on the lower slopes kept up a noisy chorus as I hiked up the road, watching the few lights of Nicasio dim and then fade as I rose higher into the fog layer. In the thickest part of the fog I crossed onto a vineyard property, whose vines were had just recently begun to sprout new shoots. Even with the route marked on my GPS, I managed to wander off the wrong side of the mountain before realizing my error and correcting it. After exiting the vineyard property some minutes later, I continued along the more easily followed road that continues rising more gently up the south side of the ridge. Eventually the moon came back into hazy view and then I broke above the fog layer with several hundred feet of elevation still remaining to the summit. This made for some rather sublime nighttime scenery with the Bay Area lights glowing up through the fog in the distance. The one picture I took of Mt. Tamalpais to the south hardly did justice to this wonderful scene. Above, the eclipse had started as the earth's shadow could just be noticed on the left edge of the moon. Sadly, the fog would make enjoying the full extent of the eclipse impossible.
The road bypasses the actual summit of Shroyer, necessitating some cross-country travel through pine forest understory, heavy with duff and carpeted with patches of poison oak disguised as ground cover. I danced around this stuff in a meandering route that led to the very uninteresting summit heavily covered in trees and devoid of any view. I found the highest point around a medium-sized tree and satisfied, beat a retreat. Back on the road, I reversed my route, looking up at the moon periodically to watch the eclipse until I was once again back in the fog and the accompanying chill. Jogging much of the route, I was back down in little more than 30 minutes.
Back at the van, I pulled a jug of hot water from the cooler I had kept it in during the night (it did an excellent job of maintaining the heat, btw) and took a quick rinse with the chilly breeze cooling me almost as quickly as the water would warm me. Under such motivation, it takes only about 90 seconds to shower, dry and dress. I drove to Novato where I parked in a quiet neighborhood for the night, spending what remained of it comfortably ensconced in my sleeping bag in the back of the van. Overall, not a bad way to spend a Monday night...
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