A fully-monstered two-carrot hike

I’ve been meaning to follow up on last Sunday’s monster hike at Ohlone Regional Wilderness (see the earlier post below). Somehow, sandwiched in between a series of wet and windy storms, we managed to find a most exquisitely bright and sunny Spring day that made for tremendously clear views of an immense spread of green hills, the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay, and Mt. Tamalpais. We even saw, albeit dimly, a range of snow-capped Sierra Peaks nearly 80 miles away to the east.

The upper part of Murietta Falls, flowing better than we've seen it previously.

The upper part of Murietta Falls, flowing better than we’ve seen it previously.

I was delightfully surprised by the sprightliness of our group of 9 intrepid hikers. Considering that this out-and-back hike to Murietta Falls is over 12 miles in length, and with 4300 feet of elevation gain, it can be one of the toughest hikes around. But we found ourselves back at the trailhead at 3:00 that afternoon, having taken only 5 hours to complete the hike, including time for lunch at the Falls.

Oh, the Falls! — the first carrot on the stick. This was my third time visiting the Falls, yet I previously had witnessed merely a trickle from tiny Murietta Creek. Not so this time! It was rushing fast and well, actually inhibiting conversation in the small cove at its bottom where we settled for lunch. With the sun gently radiating off the rocks below the Falls, and the sound of the Falls roaring in our ears, we were content to linger awhile and just soak it in.

The lower part of Murietta Falls. At the vernal pool below the falls, I couldn't fit all 100 feet of it in my viewfinder.

The lower part of Murietta Falls. At the vernal pool below the falls, I couldn’t fit all 100 feet of it in my viewfinder.

But with six tough miles to go, we knew we had to hitch up our courage despite protesting legs, shoulder our packs, and continue on. Easy enough to do, of course, when sudden talk of cold beer — Carrot #2 — quickens your step. That, and the fact that I spotted fresh cougar tracks in the mud, suggesting that the big cat was not far ahead of us.

A few steps back: the entirety of Murietta Falls.

A few steps back: the entirety of Murietta Falls.

If you haven’t yet seen Murietta Falls, and you have the stones to do this monstrous hike, the time is now, while the Falls are flowing so well. In the meantime, you might enjoy a few photos.

~winehiker

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Wave off the rescue ’copter

When it comes to search and rescue flybys, I don't expect to ever offer a frantic wave hello.

When it comes to search and rescue flybys, I don’t expect to ever offer a frantic wave hello.

This Sunday I plan to take a small group of intrepid hikers into the hills south of the Livermore Valley in search of an ephemeral gem: Murietta Falls, billed as the tallest waterfall in the San Francisco Bay Area. With roughly 100 feet of fall, Murietta Falls is much taller than the popular Berry Creek Falls at Big Basin State Park. Often by the end of March, the Falls dries up for the season, so right now is the time to discover this diabolical diamond in the rough.

Diabolical? Yup. Because if you’re not into the mild masochism (psychosis?) that results in anaerobic arrhythmia, leg of noodle, and collapsed lung, stay far, far away – this hike is brutal. It is both tortuous and torturous. Of all the hikes I’ve done in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d have to say this one is the most convoluted up-and-down can’t-ever-catch-your-breath rip-snorters; less than 10 percent of the hike occurs on level ground. The rest of the time, it’s either quad-killer climbs or knee-killer descents. The climbing starts immediately – you’ll climb almost 1500 feet in the first hour. And it’s going to take you all day. To climb, climb, climb, descend, descend, descend….

But when you finally do get to Murietta Falls, wave off the rescue ’copter, for you will behold not only the tallest, but the most remote waterfall in the Bay Area.

The Ohlone Wilderness always seems to beckon to the ardent Bay Area hiker.

The Ohlone Wilderness always seems to beckon to the ardent Bay Area hiker.

If you like to see waterfalls but feel that 12.2 miles and 4300 feet of elevation gain are too much for you, there are dozens of other waterfalls scattered around the San Francisco Bay Area, just beckoning you to feel their cool mists in Spring. If you like a good hike that’ll get you to your waterfall discoveries, no doubt you could visit three or four different Bay Area trails each weekend in the Spring and still not discover them all.

However, if you’re like me and appreciate waterfalls but are also a glutton for punishment, perhaps you’ll perversely enjoy Ohlone Trail to Murietta Falls. And when you’re done hiking, assuming you’re not starving for half a side of beef on a sesame seed bun, you’ve got plenty of great choices in the Livermore Valley for excellent wine tasting. Three of my favorite area wineries are Bent Creek, Murrietta’s Well, and Steven Kent.

See the exciting follow-up trip report titled A fully monstered two-carrot hike, complete with falls photos!

~winehiker