Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mount St. Helena Hike

Mount St. Helena, just north of Calistoga, CA, is the highest peak in northern California. Saturday was a beautiful day to hike it, with sunshine, temps in the upper 60's and clear blue sky. Several times different people told me it was a moderate five mile hike to the top. Great...I can do five miles of walking, sometimes even uphill.

Climbing over rocks and boulders, up a fairly steep rocky path at times and then over more boulders...my legs about gave up after the first .8 miles. This was the moderate hike? More like a lesson in climbing over a rocky path.
Yes...not even one of the five miles down and more to go. Just when my legs were protesting we came to a road. A wide gravel road.

Guess they forgot about the "forest service road" that winds gently up the mountain. Oh well. What's a hike without climbing over rocks?

This view of the valley floor, vineyards, and trees is about 1/4 of the way up. Leaves are changing colors on the grape vines, creating a patchwork of greens, golds, and reds.

Along the way one giant rocky wall provides practice and great sport for rock climbers. The natural "holes" offer hand holds for the climbers, although they are not always in the right spots, I'm told.

This face is a climb of 5.9, or so the climbers explained to me.

Stretched to their limits, literally, these guys made it to the top in just minutes. Very impressive to watch them get ready and then climb.

Aahhh...the reward of coming back down the five miles. A picnic in the forest...complete with chicken, couscous, apple tart, raspberry brownies, spring rolls, potato salad, white wine, red wine and champagne. Pavlov had nothing over on us.

Trees covered in moss stood guard over our picnic tables. Sort of made us think we were somewhere other than California.

At the top. In case you're wondering...I did not make it to the top. But it was worth the effort to get as far as I did.

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