Briones Reservoir

I have to admit that I had never heard of “East Bay Mud” before last weekend. I would have guessed the term was some inside-Berkeley way of describing coffee, or something like that. Turns out it’s the slang term for the big water and sewer treatment district that handles the East Bay. And it’s on their property that I found myself huffing and puffing recently.

Along with a group of hardy colleagues, we met up at a parking lot that overlooks the Briones Reservoir. It’s in the town of Orinda, which is just east of Berkeley but feels much farther out. The reservoir is one of several in the East Bay Area, and this one happens to be the backdrop for some very scenic hiking.

There are about 80 miles of trails in the area that are on EBMUD property. Permits are needed, but like the LandPaths program up here in Sonoma County, anyone can get one if you go through the necessary steps. Anyway, here’s the info.

Our route was a healthy 14-mile trek around the entire water body. It goes through two trails – the Bear Creek and Oursan trails – and is a mix of covered paths, hilly ascents and fire roads. Much of it is exposed, which meant lots of direct sunlight and heat on Sunday, a day where the temperature neared 80. I don’t care what the calendar says. Summer’s a-coming.

The wildflowers have been blooming for a couple of months so the colors are still brilliant, but what was more apparent were the animals. Other than the vultures eating a freshly-dead carcass of a cow that we stumbled across (wow – every time I think I’ve forgotten what decaying flesh smells like on a hot day, I get to have a vivid reminder….), we encountered the usual assortment of hiking wildlife ranging from goats and deer to cats and dogs.

This was a new hike for me on several fronts. For one, the area was pretty much unexplored in my roster of hikes to date; for another, it was a new group of people. And this group puts an emphasis on speed. Not running, but at times, it was a brisk pace that was either invigorating or painful, depending on my state of mind at any given point. I have several friends who have joined up with many different hiking groups. I had been only hiking with one group of people, but given the vagaries of calendars, appointments, work and life conflicts and other issues, it does seem to make sense to keep an eye on a few different groups and then there’s always a hike to be had. The downside is that it may be a hike nearly outside my physical limits (14 miles is OK for me, 20 miles is not); the upside is that I got to meet some new folks and hear and share some new tales.
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