HOOD MOUNTAIN (2,730') 5X, NORTH COAST, MT. ST. HELENA (4,343') 24X January 19-21, 2011

Needing some exercise and apprised of some great weather, I took off in mid morning to take Interstate 80 west to Highway 12 exit. I had some economy lodging reserved, and some old sights to see, with some new items to try to enjoy.

Arriving to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, I parked at the spartan trailhead to hike Hood Mountain by the Nattkemper Goodspeed trail. Chatting awhile with a few hikers, I leisurely hiked up the trail, and they have done trail work. There are now rock stairs and a new section rounding a ridge. I had a creek to cross, higher on the trail, still with no bridge, but then I came to a new, varnished, wood bench. From here, the trail gets steeper and rougher, but I continued, and topped out after over two hours.

Spending little time here on the flat and viewless summit, I quickly backtracked to the Gunsight overlook, a 5 minute side trail, and shot some telephotos. I could see the highrises of San Francisco. Stopping on my way down, I rested at the bench again, and then hiked back to my car.

It was through Santa Rosa, and then to U.S. 101 north. I had some food and drink in Cloverdale, then came to my lodging in Ukiah. Having a nice burger, I shortly retired and looked forward to a fine day ahead.

It was up early to take the Comptche Ukiah Road west, and I drove in the dark at first. Coming to Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve, I had to wait awhile for some light to dawn, and then hiked the short way to the redwood grove, using my camera flash to light up the subjects.

Motoring on west along this seldom traveled highway made for some new sights, and I came finally to the Coast Highway, CA 1. Headed north, I took the side road to the Mendocino Headlands State Park, and briefly hiked a very short way to check a trail out. I then walked the Mendocino Headlands proper, and the waves were nicely sized for some movie clips.

Going further north, I found that the hike that I had planned, the waterfall trail, was closed, at Russian Gulch State Park. Disappointed, I motored back into Mendocino for a breakfast, enjoying that well. At the museum, I found that MacKerricher State Park wasn't that far north. On the way, it was to the new Jug Handle State Reserve for some more light hiking and photos. After that, I did some more photos at MacKerricher State Park.

Returning south, I walked about Fort Bragg, and had some more snack and drink. Then, it was to Highway CA 20, back east, to Willits where I took some photos of the famous sign. South on 101 to Ukiah, I did a magic hour walk in the old part of town, then had a sandwich after coming back to my motel.

Getting drink and snack for an early start, the third day, I motored south on 101 almost to Santa Rosa, to take the road over to Calistoga. Passing the petrified forest park, it was gated closed, and I had little urge to also see the geyser as well. Having another nice breakfast in Calistoga, I motored up to the local highway summit for CA 29, and started my hike up Mt. St. Helena for my 24x. I tried my camera on the forest trail, and then it was to the summit dirt road. Two other hikers chatted with me briefly, and I plodded up alone with my usual pace to the top.

It was a clear day, and I took some pictures. Workmen were up there in their trucks, and all could enjoy the vistas reaching to Lassen Peak, the Northern Sierra, and the Pacific Ocean. Fog obscured some of the low valleys, but I was having a good time. It has been three years since my last double bag, with Fiske and Mt. St. Helena both in a day, but I was satisfied with how it was going, aside from my weight. I am slower, but with little gain done recently, I was pleased that I could still hike to the top of two peaks.

I carried little since I had no problem foreseen on such popular and easier hikes, and my plans were right. Down along the road, I shot a few more photos. Back to Calistoga, I wandered about the main street with a few photos, then beelined for home. Traffic was bad on Interstate 80, with Bay Area weekenders headed for the mountains or similar.

Hiking then about 20 miles with 4,500' gain, I captured some 1,180 image items and movie clips, driving then 468 miles. Using about 12 gallons of fuel, I spent then $120 cash, $35 of that for gas, with about $90 charged for my room.

The sun stayed out for the duration of the trip, and I wore mainly two light top layers, with a light layer under my jeans. No mud at all was to be seen on any trails, except for one slight spot on the Goodspeed Trail. Paying absolutely no park entry or hiking fees, I used my money for meals. I stayed connected and kept to the events and news, even running into a hiker with an iPhone. This was a medium hiking trip, and no challenge as far as wilderness, but that was the plan. I now hope to get more exercise, and continue to do some dieting, as it serves my hiking better.