On a windy ridge line, I could faintly make out Mount Tam, Mount Diablo and even the Sierras.  Some days, the view up high on a hike around here can be fog-shrouded and spotty, but not Saturday, a day that was picture-perfect. Blue sky everywhere, bright sun and around 70 degrees. (In my hometown, it is 7 degrees today and probably feels a lot worse, so it was a weekend to appreciate California’s natural bounty – and to forget the depressing economic malaise.)

But it was a difficult vista to admire for long, given that at the top of the ridge, the wind was gusting, close to 30 miles per hour at its peak, which isn’t hurricane-like, but if you’re standing unadorned on a mountaintop with no trees or sheltering rocks, you’re going to get blown around, which happened to our group a bit. To hike on and off a hillside ridge means a bit of a jarring experience, as one minute you’re buffeted by gale-force windows and the next you may be in perfect stillness. Hard to layer your clothing for that kind of hike, but as long as it’s not pouring rain or blistering heat, it’s all good.

Once again, I was hiking in the East Bay, this time at the Las Trampas Wilderness Area, a 5,000-plus acre part of the East Bay Regional Parks District in San Ramon. I had been here once before, staying on the northern edge of the property, and stopping over at Eugene O’Neill’s homestead. This was a different experience altogether, as our stalwart group headed south and detoured off the main trails to find some amazing rock and cave formations. You can glance through some of the photos below to see the evidence of the volcanic shifts from yesteryear. There’s a major fault formation underneath the area, adding to the intriguing structures. Perfect for rock-climbing or just ducking your head into cavernous pockets.

We did a large clockwise loop, stretching 8.2 miles and climbing 2,600 feet, including one slightly arduous stretch, but generally Las Trampas is an easy place to check out for a day hike. From the large parking area (outhouses, maps, kiosks, etc.), you can head into a few different directions and within about 10 minutes, get to the top of a hill to either watch the sun rise, or descend. Another plus of this park is that there is a choice of terrain, with veteran hikers heading on the single-track and grass routes, along with the grazing cattle, while there are some fire roads and wide trails for those who need more space.

This pertains to the small-world category, but at the local San Ramon pizza place where we gathered post-hike for pizza and beer, we shared the joint with a spirited group from Petaluma, representing Petaluma United’s youth soccer team, who were climbing their own mountain this weekend. Congrats to them on their big weekend victories. Click here to read more about that feat.

[nggallery id=37]