Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Mazing Disgrace

October 7
In college we used the term apple-berry-pear to describe anything bordering on perfection.  The adjective derives from an unusually tasty beverage manufactured by Tropicana at the time.  The target of the phrase was usually an exceptional lovely lassie, as men in their late teens and early twenties are somewhat prone to horniness. 
I feel apple-berry-bear is spot on as a description of the greatness of the San Francisco Bay I am currently entering, easily the best area for shipping on the Pacific coast.  Despite the area’s obvious attraction as a safe harbor, Europeans were slow to settle the region.  Either a dangerous slog over the Rockies and Sierras or an equally perilous voyage around the deadly Cape Horn were required.    Few thought the riches worth the reward.  The first permanent settlement did not come until the time of the American Revolution, when Juan Bautista de Anza set out with a smaller group of priests and soldiers.  He explored more of the Bay Area than any European had previously, establishing future sites for the Presidio and the Mission de Asis in the process.
I followed in the Spaniards footsteps on the De Anza trail.  The path was paved for bikes, taking an arrow straight route through the neighborhoods of Antioch. Hardly an echo of what De Anza and his compatriots experienced.  When I entered Contra Loma Park, however, the degree of difficulty increased exponentially.
The trail was easy to find at first, the Contra Loma Reservoir providing a well-defined landmark in case of confusion.  A host of ADT signs sucked me into the maze, providing a false sense of security.  I climbed into golden hills, the tall grass looking more like wheat ready for threshing.  Five miles in the trap swung shut.  A fork in the road left me perplexed, the arrow not definitively pointing in any of the four possible directions.  Murphy must have been a hiker.  I chose poorly.
Contra Loma Reservoir
The punishment was delayed thirty minutes, until the easy downhill glide took me to a locked gate marked, “No Trespassing, Private.”  This subtle clue led me to believe I had gone wrong.  Getting here had been no problem, returning to the fork was a wee bit harder.  The Bay Area is famous for steep hills and I’d put this one up against any.  I would have spent a lot more energy cursing myself on the return trip, had there been an excess to give.  I met a hiker familiar with the Park at the top, who referred to the trail I’d just climbed as “The Wall.”  An apt title, I feel.
I now had three remaining tines to choose from and miracle of miracles the second guess was a winner   - at least for half a mile, when I missed another turn.  Mercifully I noticed the error rather quickly and corrected course.  Passing Somerville cemetery, the burial ground of early 20th century Welsh miners, I encountered another of Frost’s dilemmas.  The ADT sign demanded a left turn, which seemed to take me back in the wrong direction.  I took a leap of faith and obeyed, regretting every step for some time afterward. 
I proceeded in a worried fashion for an hour, assured only somewhat when the trail bent in a more reasonable direction.  Three Latino bicyclists leapfrogged me and I went by them in turn as they rested.  On my next break they pedaled past once more.  They returned shortly and asked me where I was headed. 
“Clayton,” I responded.   
“We have to turn back.  We are going the wrong way,” the leader said, and they were off.  
Was I included in “we”?  Confused and demoralized I carried on nonetheless, waiting for confirmation of failure.  Instead I was surprised by redemption, in the form of another ADT sticker.  The homes of Clayton dotted the hills on the horizon.
I made my triumphant procession into town, visiting the library to research possible sleeping arrangements.  I found a Day’s Inn situated between Clayton, Concord, and Ygnacio Valley.  Which city was I in?  Who cares, I’m pretty used to not knowing where the hell I am. 
17 miles/4027 total miles     

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