Ramage Peak Trail
(Chabot Staging Area- Ramage Peak Trail)
(11.5 miles- but it seemed much longer!)
First, for the prurient amongst us-- yes, there were two very muddy ladies on the trail today. But there was no wrestling and no titillating pictures. Just to be clear about that.
A new trail today! It's been quite some time since I explored uncharted (for me) territory. This hike was characterized in David Weintraub's East Bay Trails as "one of the most adventurous hikes in the East Bay, combining beautiful scenery, rugged terrain, and a sense of isolation found in few other East Bay parks..." You can do this as a 10 mile point-to-point from the Chabot Staging Area (the EBMUD staging area, not from Lake Chabot) all the way to Las Trampas, but we only had one car today, and I was thinking I wanted to go a good deal longer than 10 miles. This was before I realized how much mud slows one's pace.
Weintraub is right though-- this trail is isolated. As we drove by Lake Chabot on our way to the trailhead, tons and tons of cars were spilling out of the parking lot. We were one of TWO cars in the parking lot at this trailhead-- and we never saw any other people the entire afternoon. For the accessibility of this trail (literally 10 minutes past Lake Chabot!), I find it truly amazing how easy it is to find spots in the Bay Area that take you away from the madding crowd with very little effort.
There is one possibility for the lack of people on the trail. They might have known how muddy the trail is, post-rainy weeks. Perhaps we would not have taken this trail today, had we known how much muddied our experience today would be. And it was-- very, very muddy.
Given all that, I think this is a gem of a trail that I can't wait to come back to in drier times. EBMUD trails are definitely less well-marked than East Bay Regional Parks trails, but it is beautiful scenery to run through. The trail starts out skirting a christmas tree farm and then a cow pasture (cows seem to be the main users of EBMUD land-- there were cow patties a-plenty!). The one reminder of civilization is the shooting range nearby-- for quite some time the bucolic landscape had a soundtrack punctuated by intermittent gunfire. How picturesque.
From there, the trail alternates between open hillsides, carpeted in brilliant green (one advantage of the recent rain) and gullies shaded by oak trees. Those gullies? Mud city. And the thing about this mud is that you can't just run through it-- it was bien slippery. Plus, this was some steep up-and-down. All this made for rather exhausting trekking, even though we weren't running the whole time at all. I felt like the times we were running were actually the least tiring moments of the whole run.
Then the trail climbs steeply up to Riley Ridge. From here, Ramage Peak is just a few steps away. This is also the point at which one could continue on to Las Trampas for a point-to-point, or a very long out-and-back run. (There is also a possibility of creating a loop in Las Trampas and then heading back on the Ramage Peak trail for probably a 17-18 mile run.)
The view from atop the ridge is, as seen in the first picture, quite beautiful. Everywhere we looked we could see green hills-- and no sign of civilization! We were menaced by a gang of cows though, who were not impressed by our presence whatsoever.
We also saw two groups of wild turkeys, but they flew away before we could capture them on film. Jen almost stepped on this little newt, who I suppose we might not have seen on drier trails, so perhaps there is some consolation for the hours spent slurping through the mud.
In the picture below, you can see the beauty of the feet (and legs) after a couple of hours on the trails. So very delicate, those trail runners!
Afterwards, we headed back to Oakland for a burrito and a beer-- and since I forgot to bring pants to change into, I ended up in the skirt I was running in-- and mud-covered legs to match! Yes, I got a couple of strange looks, but at that point, I was so hungry, I didn't care. (Actually, I don't think I ever care what people think of my fashion choices if food is involved.)
There was also a video of me taken today attempting to do a "Sound of Music" moment on a hillside (because really, what's a trail run without some silliness?). If I am technically advanced enough, I will try to post it here.
In summary: Ramage Peak? Worth doing in dry weather. Because it's EBMUD land, no dogs, no bikes and you should definitely get a permit. No one asked today, but when I ran Briones Reservoir last year, we were asked for a permit 4 minutes after we parked. Fear not, Ramage Peak trail-- I'll be back!