We decided to do a local trip to see what kind of backpacking shape we were all in. Leo, Dan, Jenn, Zakk and I went on this, very green, Ohlone WIlderness Trail trip to Eagle Springs backpacking camp. We were supposed to have Eric as well, sadly he was unable to make it this time (we missed you Eric). We picked this spot because it was local and for a local trip it is pretty sweet. Eagle Springs Backpack Camp can be reached using the Ohlone Wilderness trail from either Sunol Regional Wilderness or Mission Peak Regional Preserve. Heading in from the Mission Peak side makes for a significantly shorter hike, but much steeper. You would head in from the Stanford Ave staging area if you pack in from this side (I am told there is no overnight parking at the staging area). I have yet to hike this short section of trail but will someday. We decided to use our usual route, the Sunol side. If you want to see this trip in fall 2011 click here, spring 2009 click here, 2005 click here. Park at the equestrian area for the closest parking to the trailhead. You must call ahead for reservations as Sunol backpacking is popular. Prices were $5 a person per night and an $8 reservation fee over the phone. Reservations can be made by calling 888-327-2757 but for questions about conditions or recommendations call the local ranger at 925-862-2244. They actually give you a parking permit now when you reserve online now, so if you don't find a ranger when you arrive it is no big deal. There are 4 sites available at Eagle Springs. All four sites have picnic tables and flat areas for at least a tent or two. Water is available but the recommendation from rangers is to treat it (many cows out here). There is also a pretty nice outhouse and trash cans. Site #4 has the largest tree, and the only real shade. If you are doing this trip in the summer/heat pick site #4. Hiking in from this side is around 4.3 ish miles and 1700 feet up. The grade is mild but don't take my word for it, see the map and profile below. You can do a quick 20 minute day hike from the backpacking area to the top of Mission Peak. We camped on a Saturday night and saw a bigger group at the top of the peak. I have gone midweek and it is much less crowded. There is enough space on the trail up to the peak that you can spread out. This picture shows the trail on the way in, everything was nice and green.
Here I am taking a picture at the Sunol Regional Wilderness equestrian area parking lot. There is an outhouse and horse water. So plan ahead and have water with you for the trip in, unless you drink from troughs. The ranger also says to treat water at camp. There is water at camp, and we watched people drink from it all day, untreated. It is probably fine to just drink it straight unless posted otherwise. I treated or boiled mine, as did the rest of our group. I didn't want to be the one to prove there was a reason to treat it! The trail starts past the two people in this shot (see gate between them and the picnic table). I was hiking alone on the way in (late start for me, the rest of the group hiked in earlier in the day). In case you are concerned, I made it to camp just fine :-)
The cloud cover was an excellent backdrop for the trees today. I am honestly surprised I didn't walk into a cow pie on this trip, since I was looking everywhere but down for most of the hike in. So you start in what seems like the wrong direction at first, but the trail quickly starts to head the right way. Many portions of this trail follow fire road, but there is a mix of cover and open fields that keep it interesting. The views along the way are also great, so turn around occasionally and take it all in.
Here is a shot looking backwards on the way in of the Calaveras Road Crossing. You cross the road (on the left of the picture), then across the grass, then up the hill on the fire road. Trails are well marked and easy to follow. There are many cow trails, but those look like cow trails, not the wide Ohlone trail.
One of my looking up breaks. This picture makes me smile for some reason.
After the semi-covered sections of fire road it really opens up, this section is really warm (and really brown) in the summer.
This rather deep dry creek bed was a sharp contrast to the green terrain. It looked like a giant ground squirrel hole to me, you can see all of the normal size ones around it. I waited a bit, but never did see the inhabitant to the big hole...
This is one of my favorite pictures of the trip. I used to read water meters and I saw one of these birds on my route and had a heck of a time trying to figure out what kind of bird it was. It turns out it was a yellow-billed magpie. I haven't seen one in 10 years, glad they seem to still be around. This is a male (on the left) and a female (on the right). They are about the size of a crow but have a bright blue patch on the wings and on the tail.
This is the back of the male, this one was chatting it up with the female (hopefully she was interested, so there are more of these guys around the next time I am out here). Their yellow bill really makes them stand out.
Here is a shot looking backwards from where the trail dips down into the ravine and the Laurel Canyon Trail junction.
I made it to camp, here is a shot from site #4. All sites have this same view. You can see Sunol/Pleasanton Ridge on left and Mount Diablo in the distance. At night you can see I-680, but can't hear it.
We decided to hike up to Mission Peak before dinner. Here is Jenn communicating with the cows. It looks like she is setting up her tripod (only those are really trekking poles).
Another shot of Mount Diablo on our way up Mission Peak. We had some clouds blowing in now.
Here we are on Mission Peak on a Saturday night. Yes, there are a lot of people up on the peak. We decided to stay closer to "our side" of the peak and watch the sunset. On a clear day this would be a spectacular view, today it was good too.
Here is the last glimpse of the sun that day.
We hung out another 10 minutes or so, but were motivated to get out of the wind (did I mention it was really getting windy) and get some dinner back at camp. That night we were able to have some of the wind blocked by "the tree", but it was going to be windy all night. Those of us in tents would have some tent noise to try to sleep through.
My BIg Agnes Scout UL2 performed well in the wind. I had it guyed out tight and it moved some but never seemed to be in danger of failing. The main problem with this tent in the wind is the vent that runs under the eaves. When the wind come through the vent it inflates the tent some before escaping out the vent on the other side. I probably should have had my tent face into the wind, but it wasn't windy when I set it up (and I was too tired to consider flipping it around at bedtime). Here is the view in the morning from my tent.
We decided to take a quick group picture after breakfast before heading out.
Here we are leaving the fence enclosed Eagle Springs campsites. The water is past the signboard and the bathroom and trash cans are inside on the left.
The good part about all the up the day before was all the down on the way back. Here is Leo looking at what lies ahead.
This fence needed its picture taken.
Here is the last good shot I took on the way out. We are close to the trailhead at this point. Another great trip close to home. Eagle Springs is a great trip if you are looking to get in a quick trip without a long drive. Do make a reservation ahead of time. I recommend that you consider hiking the whole Ohlone Wilderness Trail sometime, it really is worth doing. See some of my other descriptions for backpacking camps in Sunol Regional Wilderness and Del Valle Regional Park here to see what mileage options there are.