MT. ST. HELENA (4,343') 21X November 12, 2005

Gaining a partner from the local University, I received his phone call the night before. I was retiring at 9 p.m., still on Mountain Time and waking early from my road trip a week ago. I advised him to contact me the next morning. True to myself, I awoke at about 3:30 a.m., to work on my computer. I sent an e-mail for him to read when he woke up and checked his computer. I got a reply at about 7:30 a.m., and immediately phoned him. We agreed for me to pick him up at 9 a.m. He doesn't have a car, being something of a true enviro.

I was only too glad to help. I had met him earlier to treat for a fruit drink at a local cafe. He seemed O.K., but I would find out for sure today. By the local enviro outings chapter, you never know people.

We zoomed west on Interstate 80, to take CA 12 north to CA 29, and Calistoga, CA. The fall colors enroute were gorgeous! Because he occupied the passenger seat, I was unable to access my camera quickly, so passed many a photo op. It is pretty dangerous to stop and snap a photo on this busy thoroughfare. The light was nice, with some high clouds, but I had to wait till Calistoga, to park and snap away, then.

We eventually came to the primitive parking at the top of the grade, for Robert Louis Stevenson State Historic Park. Cars filled the areas on both sides of the road. Traffic comes up fast around blind curves or grades. I am very cautious, listening for oncoming cars. I managed to park, and then we readied for the hike.

The sign reads, "5 miles" to the top. A lovely trail through coast range forests leads to the historic marker. I led the way up the rough trail, and we came to the wide dirt road that goes to the top. Rock climbers were ascending Bubble Rock. This sport seems to be getting so popular. I snapped photos, and then we continued up the peak.

My new companion kept ahead of me, and we chatted for bits and pieces. I told him he could go ahead, but he graciously stayed with me. There are road junctions to decide upon, and although some are signed, one might easily go the wrong way.

We summited after about two hours, a good time. Many kids were atop the peak. Some were pretty tiny and young. That seems to be a good way to teach kids how stupid hiking is. To be dragged up by a parent or guardian is said to me to be the best reason that adults dislike hiking. Highly unpleasant memories as a kid!

I snapped photos of the view. Not too clear, with the Sierra in the haze. Lassen Peak was only discernable by some snow. I ate an apple, and drank my cola. No wind, off the top rocks. Sun. Nice.

I looked at the views, trying to be inspired. Same old everything. My partner wasn't awed, much. We started back at 2:30 p.m. About 25 hikers today.

We stopped to chat with the climbers back at Bubble Rock, and then I shuttered the late afternoon vista of the Napa Valley. Good fall colors.

Back to the car by about 4:30 p.m., we motored off quickly. I wanted to get to the upscale town of St. Helena for magic hour. We just made it, despite slight traffic delay. I parked for free on a side street, and we walked about the shops and restaurants. My partner didn't want to spend anything, and I wasn't that hungry, although by myself, I would have partaken of the finer cuisine, somewhere.

I got my night shots of the store fronts, and we shortly left. My dinner was at a fast food eatery in Napa, CA.

My partner was pretty ascetic, wearing only a T shirt all day, carrying a small duffle bag instead of a pack, and munching on nuts. High cost of living, I guess!

Back to the freeway, new for me (Trancas Street), I zoomed back to CA 12 where a slowdown ensued. I was delayed on the Interstate, but soon we were back to 65 mph and home.

We did the almost 5 miles each way, with the 2,400' gain. I shot over 200 images, and spent about $7 on food. I used a half tank of gas to drive the 200+ miles, round trip.

No ticks, mosquitoes, or other bugs. Never used sunscreen. Drank two liters of water, with my can of soda. I'd be up for another ascent this winter, with a good carpool. It is a lovely hike, and a good workout at a good pace.