Closer to Home

posted Feb 21, 2011, 1:34 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Mar 9, 2011, 10:48 AM ]
We had plans to get up to the Sierra this weekend.  Honest we did.  But a combination of terrible weather conditions (our friend's house in Twain Harte had no power...nor even plowed road for some of the weekend) and some commitments here at home derailed those plans.
 
But all was not lost.  We decided to take a hike anyway, and drove up to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park at the north end of the Napa Valley.  We edged into a narrow parking space in the snow...and then hiked the five miles up to the top of Mt. St. Helena.  At over 4,000 feet, it's a real mountain, even if it wouldn't seem that way in Tuolumne County.  And there was enough snow (and downed trees) to make it all quite and adventure.
 
The first mile and a half are on a trail, and between the snow, the downed trees, and the ice on the rocks, it was a real knee knocker. 
 
Then the trail reaches the access road ( there are electrical installations on top of the mountain, so they have to maintain both them and the road to them.)  At that point the hike got a lot easier, and we timed it just right---the snow plow had reached the summit about 15 minutes before we did.
 
The only drawback was that the clouds that had slowly built over the course of the morning now pretty much obliterated 270 degrees of the view from the summit.  This was too bad, because the air was sparkling clear after the storm...and we've seen as far as Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak from here in years past. 
 
Oh well.  We got a chance to try out our new smaller packs (purchased for the Machu Piccho hike--the one with porters carrying the heavy stuff!). and took that opportunity to pack lots of warm clothes and a substantial lunch. 
 
The hike back down was equally beautiful--except the really icy sections near the bottom were even icier and had pools of ice water in the deepest troughs.  Our toes were hurtin' for certain!
 
In the end, the hike was great, the views spectacular, and the drive home a lot shorter than it would have been from Yosemite or Dodge Ridge.
 
if you're interested, the rest of the photos are here:
 
 
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