A to Z:
Hiking the Alphabet Soup of Parks
in the San Francisco Bay Area

by Dinesh Desai

I to M: Finally, a respite

The Iron Horse Trail was born in 1890 as the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way thru the Diablo and San Ramon Valleys. It served the many rich farming and ranching communities of Walnut Creek, San Ramon and Concord, to name just a few. The railroad was abandoned in 1976 and the concept for a regional trail was born soon after. As it happens, this turned out to be one of the most popular trails. It provides both recreation and alternative transport. As we were finishing our walk around 3:30 PM, we saw scores of children walking and biking from school to home. We crossed several streets during our walk and were very impressed that, each time, all the cars would stop to let us cross. The last time I had witnessed such civil behavior from motorists was in 1961 in Los Angeles. Twice, Wilshire Blvd.'s six lanes of traffic came to a halt as I stepped off the curb at a crosswalk between the intersections.

Though the trail provided relief for our overworked muscles, it was still not a walk in the park. We found the walking monotonous and somewhat harder on our feet. One of the reasons may have been the fact that we normally do not walk long distances on level trails. Joy was really not looking forward to walking 14 miles on a paved trail. She already had some blisters, mostly on her toes. Several years ago, Don Lundell, a friend of ours, who had run a race in Death Valley in summer, had told us about using Micropore Tape to prevent blisters. It is a paper tape made by the 3M Company under the Nexcare label and is available in various widths. I have seen hikers use other brands, though I have no personal experience with them. Joy could continue walking thanks to the tape. I gave Patrick a roll and he too was quite pleased with the results. The trail was paved, but it had dirt shoulders. Many of us prefer to walk on the uneven dirt; it is a lot easier on our feet and our joints. The right-of-way was quite wide and that did make walking the trail more pleasant. Interestingly, this was the first day that the three of us were not accompanied by anyone else.

sign warning of rough trail leading to smoothly-paved trail

Sure, just like roughing it in Hyatt Regency

a large white dome next to the trail

PG&E Technology Center, San Ramon

We had two of our out-of-town friends join us for the next two days: Shael, from Aspen, Colorado, and Bob, from Evergreen, Colorado. We welcomed them by making their first day's hike in Joseph D. Grant Ranch Park somewhat longer and harder. I missed a trail junction and we wound up hiking 17 miles and climbing over 3,200 feet. We also had the company of the youngest participant that day: six-month-old Lia.

The next three days had plenty of hills. But by now, we were used to such terrain and we had no problem on any of those three days. We felt confident that we would finish the remaining hikes. But, lo and behold, there was a heat wave predicted with highs in the upper nineties.