Black Mountain Brouhaha:
Much Ado About Nothing

Day 7, Saturday, with Zeke (70-79 years)

To approach Black Mountain from its southeast side, we needed to start at the far end of Waterwheel Creek Trail. The only problem was that there was no place to park near the trailhead. Parking is not allowed anywhere on the road leading up to it. One option was to park illegally. I wasn't going to be deterred by a possible $40 fine, but I wanted to find a legitimate solution if I could. About a mile down the road from the trailhead is the home of Ridge Vineyards. It is open on weekends for wine tasting, and that's where we parked our car to begin our hike. There isn't much traffic beyond the winery, and though uphill, the walking was very pleasant. Lo and behold, what did we see near the trailhead but an illegally-parked car with a ticket.

Zeke and I bond well together because we both enjoy hiking and bluegrass music, but more importantly, we love geography facts and trivia. Last year, when Zeke came back from visiting Northwest Angle, he bought me a special gift: the local newspaper. If you are wondering what or where the heck is Northwest Angle, you are not alone. It's the northernmost part of Minnesota and an anomaly. If you want to drive there, you have to go through Canada. Northwest Angle is the result of 18th-century ignorance of geography. Logically, it should belong to Canada, but an error in determining the source of the Mississippi River caused it to become part of the United States.

Geographical Facts

  • Los Angeles County has more people than 42 U.S. states. It has almost 10 million people.
  • Loving County, Texas has just 62 people in its 673 sq. miles.
  • San Bernardino County is the largest county in the U.S. Its land area of 20,000 sq. miles is almost as large as the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.
  • Though most people think all of California has a very moderate climate -- obviously convinced from watching too many episodes of 'Baywatch' -- the facts prove otherwise:
    • The highest and lowest recorded temperatures are 134 degrees F and -45 degrees F respectively.
    • Camp Six, in Del Norte County, received 255 inches of rain in 1982. At the other extreme, the town of Bagdad, in San Bernardino County, once had no rain for over two years.
    • California holds the national record for maximum snowfall in a month, 390 inches or 32.5 feet, and for greatest snow depth, 451 inches or 37.5 feet.
  • The Caspian Sea, a great salt lake, is the world's largest inland body of water. It is as large as the State of California.
  • Lake Baikal, in Southern Siberia, holds as much water as the five great lakes combined, more than 20% of the world's fresh water supply.

Since the winery doesn't open for tasting until 11 A.M., we had a late start and it was about 2 P.M. when we returned. As we were talking and walking towards the tasting room to do a little tasting ourselves, we heard a man's voice calling.

"Is that you, Dinesh?"

I walked towards the couple sitting on a picnic bench nearby and said, "Yes, it is me. But, how did you know it was me?" I was somewhat perplexed as they were sited in such a way that they couldn't have seen me.

"I recognized your voice."

"John, that's amazing considering that we haven't talked for years."

"You have a distinctive voice." (Sure, how about just calling it an accent.)

It was John Flinn and his wife. John and I both belonged to a local peak climbing club about ten years ago. When he became the travel editor for The San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner, he relocated from Mountain View and we didn't see or talk to each other.

"John, so what are you doing here?"

"I am working."

"Working my foot. It looks like you and Geri are having a picnic."

"Well, yes. I am working on an article on South Bay wineries."

John used to be an excellent climber. He once climbed the 3,000 foot wall of El Capitan, but doing all that research on the wineries and such, he had gotten heavier and out of shape. By his own admission, he now wasn't in any shape to do any real climbing. I guess there is a price to be paid for everything.

We shared some wine, cheese and bread with them. The view from the picnic area is breathtaking, and it's a great place to picnic on a good, warm day. Ridge Vineyards is located at 17100 Monte Bello Road in Cupertino.

John Flinn and companions at a picnic table, tasting a bottle of wine

A travel editor hard at work