Over the pandemic my partner and I got sick of being stuck inside all day. A few months in we made a pact. We would go on at least one outdoor hike every weekend, and aim to not repeat the same hike if we could help it. Before the pandemic started we would explore the outdoors every once in a while, but would mostly stick to walks close to our home. It was time for us to turn a new leaf.
Growing up my family went on one hike and one hike only - Mission Peak. Every six months we would get a big group together, drive down to Fremont, and take a picture at the iconic wooden post at the top of the peak. For whatever reason we never deviated from this one hike, and never really explored any of the other areas the bay had to offer.
My partner on the other hand had explored much of what Pleasanton, Sunol, and Livermore had to offer. So we started there. Over the first few months we hiked the Pleasanton Ridge, the Sunol Regional Wilderness Park, Sycamore Grove, and a more secluded trail right behind Wente Vineyards.
Like many of us, the onset of the pandemic ended in-person hang outs with our closest friends. We kept the magic going with weekly trivia nights and virtual get togethers, but it wasn’t the same. Even though I would win every week at trivia, there was still this feeling of emptiness that existed. After the first couple months, we started inviting friends to hike with us.
Hiking outdoors with friends gave us a chance to stay connected and get a good workout in. Eventually we got a nice little group together. We would throw on our masks, pick coordinates for a hike that weekend, and be off.
Even though we started in the Tri-Valley, we quickly branched out to the rest of Alameda County and beyond. We worked our way up from Sunol to the Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. The trails there were filled with lush redwood trees that made you feel like you were somewhere on the California / Oregon border.
Afterwards we explored the many paths in Tilden Regional Park, moved upward to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, then east to Briones Regional Park. It was during these hikes that we learned that the Bay Area did indeed have seasons. We made the big mistake of going to Briones national park in the summer when all the hills had dried out. We took a shortcut which somehow made the hike longer and I felt like I was the kid from Blood Meridian aimlessly lost in a desert.
We came to the conclusion that the Berkeley and Oakland hills are amazing places in the spring and summer as they have lots of shaded areas to walk around in. Temperatures are also generally a bit cooler in Oakland and Berkeley than in the Tri-Valley. The more exposed open areas further north and east into the Tri-Valley were great places to go during the fall and winter. The cooler weather helps you relax and focus on the vast open spaces that surround the area.
After these explorations around the Bay we were inspired to explore California even further. We branched further out into the South Bay and were blown away by the hikes casually available around Woodside and the Los Altos Hills.
Our families saw us going out every weekend and wanted in on the action, so we planned a trip down to Pescadero and watched chubby elephant seals run into each other. Finally, we were on such a roll we didn’t even let our honeymoon stop us. We went glamping along the coast in Big Sur and went on hikes where we watched surfers alongside schools of dolphins.
Growing up I was a homebody into reading and dreaded the times my dad would drag me out for our semi-annual trek. Although I got better about spending more time outdoors, I never really prioritized going out and exploring what the region had to offer. A small silver lining of the pandemic is that it pushed me to take a hike and appreciate the natural beauty we are all surrounded by.