Hiking this weekend killed my lower back, made my calves burn and the hubs and I felt pure exhaustion in the home stretch going uphill toward the parking lot. It was all worth it! Being part of the 52 Hike Challenge community you read about other people’s truly amazing accomplishments and everyone is so very encouraging of each other which makes it really difficult to complain or give up on our hikes. Most challengers are not experienced hikers, just have a love for the outdoors and want to make a difference in their lives and the lives around them. Love being in such an amazing community! Part of the 2016 Adventure Series we are asked to do 3 reflection hikes…here’s my first one.
It’s been a long time but 5ish years ago my back went out and I was barely able to walk around the block with the dogs let alone go on a hike. It’s hard to say what did it, the stress of raising a teenager, work stress, landscaping our yard and remodeling the house, or age. Probably all of it combined led to me barely being able to physically go to work while dealing with the pain. Two years of going to the chiropractor (2 times per week to start then once every 3 weeks) and a year of physical therapy along side our son making it through high school and graduating my back was better. Not like when I was 16 definitely better.
Then we moved to Santa Rosa, CA and with little extra spending money we took up exploring our local parks. We became trail walker volunteers, we assisted in trail clean up and maintenance days and every chance we got we were out on the trails getting dirty. Starting off at 2 miles, then thinking 4 miles on relatively flat ground was amazing. Now we have done 12 mile hikes with a couple thousand feet elevation gain. We “trained” for 8 months last year to hike Mount Saint Helena here in the Napa Valley. With that checked off our bucket list hikes we looked for another goal. In comes in the 52 Hike Challenge Adventure Series.
We track our progress on Instagram and cheer each other on. It’s not a competition, it’s a community. We love it!
So on to our hike that made me think to do the first of 3 reflection hikes.
Hood Mountain is a Sonoma County Park with crazy beautiful views of both Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley. There’s a few places along the ridges of the Mayacamas you have the ability to see both valleys. We’ve been along most of it! The first hike up to Hood Mountain’s Summit at 2,730 ft and down to Gunsight Rock was from Pythian Road (brutal!! The first 1/4 mile and last 1/4 mile up to the top are at extreme incline), then we climbed up from Sugarloaf Ridge State Park from Goodspeed Trail (gorgeous!!! and the hubs and I believe it is the easier of the 3 routes), we finally did the 3rd route this weekend.
The hubs and I have been doing sunrise hikes lately (see our Instagram posts of gorgeous sunrises). The light is so beautiful in the morning! We drove to the top of Los Alamos Road leaving the fog behind us and enjoying sunshine while everyone else down below was all snuggled in under the fog. The views were breathtaking.
Once in the parking lot we followed the fire road / Hood Mountain Trail as it followed Wildcat Creek down to the homestead meadow and crossing with Santa Rosa Creek. Amazing we still have water flowing even though we haven’t had rain in a while. The creeks merging were beautiful but it made for a difficult creek crossing. We walked down a little way and found two trees that seemed to fall perfectly across the creek so you could walk on one while holding on to the other for balance.
We chose to stay on Hood Mountain trail on the way up to the summit. No one else was on the trail so it was extra quiet with the fog and only a few birds around. Climbing up and then down and back up we went slipping a little as we hiked up a rocky road that would lead us to the summit. Being above the fog was a remarkable feeling. It was like we were the only ones in the park and everyone else was still sleeping while we were secretly enjoying the lovely rays of sunshine. We hiked down to Gunsight Rock to find it all for ourselves. The layer of fog was just getting ready to let go of it’s grip on the valley below…it seemed like you could just jump on top of the fluffy fog and take a much needed nap.
After a short break and snack we headed back up to the summit and to explore a new way back to the car. We finally started seeing other people on the trails. Back to civilization we went. We opted to take the Summit Trail back down. Highly recommend it! It’s way easier than the fire road. We were in more shade and had switchbacks instead of a straight down descent and full sun.
Winding along the trail were wildflowers, bees buzzing, a butterfly following us and a few more little streams flowing down the mountain. We had better views of the Napa Valley but the trail was definitely more rugged. Going downhill is usually harder on my back. Might be because of the impact of stepping down but I tend to take more breaks to stretch than when we go uphill. The stepping down on this rugged trail onto unstable rocks definitely contributed to the bit of pain I feel now. Every chance we get we take in the beauty around us which allows for some good stretching time!
Back down at the creek we enjoyed finding our route to cross the fallen trees, snapped a few more pics and made our way back up to the parking lot. Nothing super funny happened on this hike like some of our others. We just quietly enjoyed being out in the calm stillness of a lovely foggy morning hike. Everywhere in the park felt so happy. The electric green grass, the new growth showing on the trees, the wildflowers popping up everywhere and creatures big and small out and about. It was a beautiful day to be out on the trails…even though I am still feeling the pain it was all worth it and by next weekend we will be ready to do it all over again!
Sonoma County parks pass or $7/car, port o potty in the parking lot and pit toilets at the Azalea Creek picnic area, no potable water, 8.6 miles, approx 2,000 ft elevation gain, 50/50 shade and sun, strenuous due to elevation gain/loss, incredible views.
Stretch often, take your time uphill, enjoy the scenery and diverse trees, be patient…it’s really all worth it!
Interested in joining the 52 Hike Challenge? Check out their site here.
Linked to the WordPress weekly photo challenge, landscape. Check out fellow blogger posts here.