Friday, September 01, 2006

Climb Any Mountain

For the long Labor Day holiday (which I extended by two days pulling from my bank of 3.5 months of unused vacation days), I promised myself to do a few of those little things I've always said that I would do but have never gotten around to. One of those was to climb to the top of San Bruno Mountain. It has always been one of those very familiar places that I have passed countless times -- by car, by shuttle, by bus, by plane, by taxi and by other friends' cars. But I've never actually been on it. I've actually been at the base of it when shuttles have picked up people from condos in Brisbane and South San Francisco.

I don't know anyone who has ever been there, and it certainly lacks to romance of mounts Tam and Diablo. Yet it is such a familiar part of the landscape, that I wanted to see what was there. From the distance, and especially the air it looks so bland and bald, and I expected to encounter nothing but acres of hilly, treeless grasslands.

What I discovered was something completely different and a little surreal. It was a perfect day for an upward hike to the summit -- foggy and cool, so I didn't mind the trek. But the views I'd hoped for simply weren't there, and I couldn't see anything of the city and only the northern tip of SFO. The biggest surprise was how absolutely remote it felt and only 11 minutes away from my decidedly urban corner of the Misison. For a second I actually felt a bit spooked, realizing that if someone hit me over the head, I might not be discovered for years. But then, I don't think even homocidal maniacs take the time to discover this spot. During the course of a 2.5 hour hike, I never passed another human being -- or moving wildlife for that matter. Once I could hear an Asian family conversing in the distance, and I could see many mountain bikers on the other side of the park. But none of them ventured over to the summit. The signs at the entry bragging about the biodiversity proved to be true, and the abundance of wildflowers was a surprise that I certainly have never seen from the air or the 101.

When I came back to the parking lot -- which had only two other cars when I arrived at 9:30 a.m. and had about dozen at lunch time -- I walked for a bit on the "saddle trail" where I passed a dozen people in less than 30 minutes. The ground is much flatter there, but the views are less interesting.

I don't know that I'll make this a regular hiking spot, but I would like to come back on a clearer day and manage to capture the views from the summit when they yield something other than fog.


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