On the morning of May 15, 1999, Bob Cowell and I, Dinesh Desai, said farewell to our supporters gathered at the Arguello Gate of the Presidio in San Francisco and began our hike around the entire planned 400 mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Our goal was to walk the completed Ridge Trail sections as well as the gaps between them. Our timetable called for us to walk six days a week and arrive at the Arguello Gate on June 20 after 32 walking days. After receiving hundreds of requests to showcase the pictures of our hike, I finally gave in. Here then are some pictures along with a brief text to help you get a feel for our experience. I suggest that you read the accompanying text before looking at the caption underneath the pictures.
But first a word from our sponsor. We wore our feet out to help the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, but you don't have to. You can just let your fingers do the walking, and write a check or use your credit card to become a Trail Council member or to "up" your membership level.
It was rather cool and breezy as we made our way through the Presidio and onto the Golden Gate Bridge. But as we started hiking through the Marin Headlands, we were soon basking in the wonderful sunshine of Marin. Later that day, we were stopped by two young women who inquired if we were the two guys walking the entire Bay Area Ridge Trail. I am sure our Ridge Trail T-shirts and buttons helped them single us out, but score one for our publicist, Dawn Stranne.
On day three, we came to our first gap in the Ridge Trail. However, thanks to the efforts of the Marin County Committee members, we had special permission to walk through Gary Giacomino Open Space Preserve. Or, did we walk through the Marin Municipal Water District lands? At the insistence of our lawyers, we hereby disclaim any responsibility for truth and accuracy.
What happened to that wonderful Marin weather? Starting day four, wind, fog and cold engulfed us. Furthermore, we weren't walking along a ridge. We were going across ridges with many large elevation gains and losses. Luckily, the Force was with us as we were passed through George Lucas's property. For me, the Force appeared in the form of Ruth who carried my heavy day-pack. She was trying to get in shape for an upcoming backpack trip and I was only too happy to help her.
We spent five days in Marin with no road walking. But the first day in Sonoma County required us to walk several miles on route 116, a busy, winding road with almost no shoulder. This slowed us down considerably. Earlier that day, we had one radio and two newspaper interviews in Petaluma which took about an hour. As a result, we had to stop walking several miles short of our goal for that day.
The next day being our rest day, we made up the lost ground by walking in the morning. We had barely checked into a motel in Sonoma when Dawn Stranne called to inform us that a TV station in Santa Rosa was interested in doing an interview that afternoon. By the time we talked to the TV crew and did our laundry, it was almost dinner time. It took over two hours to get our meal at a local Mexican restaurant due to a wedding party of 60 who arrived just before us. At 11 P.M., we were still up getting organized for the next week. We concluded that walking was easier than resting!
Maybe Dee Swanhuyser, the Trail Council's North Bay Coordinator, didn't like our talk about all the road walking in Sonoma, as she tried to spare us some road walking the next day. She led us out of Jack London State Historic Park on an exciting cross-country route on the northern flank of Sonoma Mountain. Hiking up and down steep canyons for several hours, we ended the day well past six o'clock. The next morning, Howard Moes, a Sonoma County volunteer, in the spirit of "do anything to get them off the road," led us through an Open Space Preserve south-west of Annadel State Park. This Preserve, not being open to the public yet, had a wild feel to it.
"Hey guys, watch out for a couple of big bulls in there, will you?", shouted a man across the street as we climbed the gate to the Open Space. In less than ten minutes, Bob spotted them sitting under a tree, about 100 yards away. They were two very large, black Angus bulls, almost four feet tall while still seated. Angus bulls are reputed to be very unpredictable; so, we made a quick detour and headed for a hill leading to a gate.
"Maybe we shouldn't be going uphill. I remember reading somewhere that bulls can run faster uphill than downhill. What do you think?" I asked Bob.
"I am not too worried."
"I can run faster than you and Howard."
Next time, I think I'll pair up with somebody slower than me.
Howard, reaching the gate first, opened it and immediately took a step back. There was a large rattlesnake close to the gate. We gingerly stepped over it, but two of us had to straddle back over it to close the gate. It started to stir a little, but luckily, we were already on our way over a faint, overgrown trail.
"Dinesh, you have a few ticks on you."
"Few? I think there are at least 20 on him." Bob announced.
Actually, we were all literally covered with ticks. Bob said that he has never had so many ticks on him before. We stopped every few minutes and cleaned ourselves of them.
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