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

by Dinesh Desai

N to Q: The Global Warming is here!

As luck would have it, our walk on the first day of the heat wave was along New Brighton State Beach. It was likely that the temperature there would be 10°F to 15°F cooler than inland. And it was. And nobody appreciated it more than our friend Patrick Thornley, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was snowing when he had boarded the plane! Though we had a pleasant walk, there were casualties. Joy walked barefoot and the top of her feet, normally covered with boots, got burned. Patrick T. somehow neglected to apply sunscreen and paid a price for it too.


(Information below is based mostly on an article in Consumer Reports)

When you rub sunscreen on, you assume you're guarding against sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkles. But research indicates that consumers might be getting less than half the sunburn protection shown on labels because they don't apply enough. Moreover, tests of 19 sunscreens found that some provide minimal protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which can cause skin cancer and wrinkles. UVA is not considered in the sun-protection factor (SPF), which refers to protection against UVB radiation, a different wavelength that can also cause skin cancer, plus sunburn.

We tested the SPF of all the sunscreens 15 minutes after application. What we found: All products came within 10 percent of meeting their claimed SPF. In theory, an SPF 30 sunscreen lets you stay in the sun, unburned by UVB, up to 30 times longer than without it. But people typically apply about 25 to 75 percent less sunscreen than the amount used in most sunscreen tests. And in our UVA tests, several products scored fair or poor, even if they met their SPF claim. As a result, we've weighted UVA scores most heavily in the Ratings.

What to do: Choose a sunscreen with maximum protection against both UVA and UVB rays -- preferably one labeled very water resistant or waterproof, with an SPF of at least 30. Two fine choices: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 45 (pricey but excellent) and No-Ad Sunblock Lotion Maximum SPF 45, a Best Buy.

The Ohlone hike was going to be our test. It is usually hotter in the Diablo Range than elsewhere in the Bay Area. And, today was no exception. It was 86°F as we gathered around the trailhead at 8:30 AM. Our only break would be the fact that we would be climbing most of the 3,000 feet uphill in the morning. Both Patricks were a little worried, but none of us had any real choice. We did use our umbrellas and it helped. Once again though, lady luck was with us. As we were trudging up from Sunol towards Mission Peak, we were cooled by a strong wind from behind. Normally, the winds blow in the opposite direction.

two hikers in short grasses on a ridge top

Are we in Alaskan tundra? Where are the trees?
Mission Peak in the background

After climbing Mission Peak, we dropped to the saddle and had lunch at the top of Allison Peak. We had to sit in the open as there were no trees near the top. But, once again, the winds came to the rescue. On the way back, we doused ourselves with water from a well near Eagle Backpack Camp.

a commercial antenna tower on Allison Peak

Top of Allison Peak
Mister, is the view that much better from up there?

Our lucky streak continued. Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve had an abundance of tall redwoods. Quarry Lakes Regional Park is not too far from the Bay, and a gentle breeze helped us on the level trails in and near the park.