Oat Hill Mine Trail, Calistoga

Uh oh. This one was billed as 16 miles. That’s nothing for my fellow hikers but remember, I’m a newbie to this hiking thing, plus I’m no spring chicken and I enjoy the kind of food I shouldn’t. Still, how hard can it be? Verdict: Difficult, very difficult, but not impossible by any stretch. I had never been to Calistoga and we got to town early, so SLB and I could check out a coffee shop downtown and see the town for a moment. Cute little place. The hike started at literally some random corner in town across the street from nowhere. It could not have been more nondescript. Nice too to start a 16-mile trek with a killer ascent. After a mile, I was nearly beat. But then it smoothed out a little bit, and I felt fine and even had some pep at the end to finish strong. This was a really beautiful hikes with the views of cliffs, old caves and even what seemed to be some odd rock formations that might have been volcanic a zillion years ago. I’m not all that familiar with the Palisades and this was my first exposure to that area. I can see how I could spend a lot of time trying different routes and checking out new areas, all within that one mountain range. Our trail had a few choices in the middle but we headed over to a place called Aetna Springs, which turned out to be a trailhead as well. I prefer loops, but this 8-mile-in and 8-mile-back along the same route was OK. I was so tired near the end the scenery by that point was lost on me. One of our hikers’ shoes fell apart, and wouldn’t you know it, another hiker brought an extra pair of hiking boots. Very California-y. In all, the 16 hours took us about 8 hours, which wasn’t bad considering we had several long breaks to eat, sightsee, and hang out. Hit the Calistoga Brewing Co. afterwards for beer and burgers, or more accurately, beers and burger.