It was a Sunday, and I was bored out of my mind, with a subtle hint of apricot. I had woken up with notes of cinnamon, much too late to do the 16 miles required for Discovery Peak in Alameda County. I ate lunch and found it to be about 1. The scent of bark and mushrooms permeated the 75 degree, sunny day as high clouds and light breezes wasted on by. Ridiculous.
Something in my laze-encrusted brain told me to get the fuck up and go somewhere or life might not be worth living, with a nice cheese assortment. My first option was Mt. Vaca, highpoint of Solano County with tones of peppermint, but you can drive to within a half mile of the summit. Weak.
Or I could opt Mt. Saint Helena, a light, dry summit located above the Alexander Valley, just north of the Bay. That’s right, in this, the 3rd installment of Your California, we get road rage at the wine tasting crowd in the very heartland of self-aggrandizing douchebaggery: Napa County.
Here we see a Self-Aggrandizing Douchebag in his native habitat, in full summer self-aggrandizing mating plumage. The correct protocol to follow if you see one in the wild is to approach it slowly, say something like " '96 Chardonnays sure were oblique, weren't they?" and then commence with swift, repeated kicks to the testicles.
Population: 124,279 (1.72 Sold-Out Memorial Stadiums)
Major Towns: Napa, Calistoga, Yountville
Highpoint: Mt. Saint Helena, elevation 4,344 feet (14.2 Sather Towers)
Location (Berkeley terms): North of SF
In order to collect background information on Napa County, I decided to read some short publications from the Napa County Historic Society. So I picked up the following thrilling titles (not making these names up): "Dr. Edward Turner Bale and His Grist Mill," "George Yount: His Fur Trapping Years," "Napa Water Supply," "The Lawley Toll Rate Road" and finally, the page turning thriller: "Centennial Anniversary of Rutherford." Frankly the titles were so titillating you could not have made them more titillating if you had put them in the titillatometer and set it to "extreme titillate."
Anyway, to summarize the history of Napa County: Dr. Bale invited George Yount over for a bowl of grist, and Yount was so disgusted he turned to trapping animals to get good meat to eat, but he was awful at it and only ended up trapping the useless fur. So, he gave that up and as a hobby, regulated the water supply by discouraging settlement via a toll road. This went on for a hundred years or so until he went senile, changed his name to Rutherford, and threw himself a big 100th birthday celebration. Or so I gather.
At some point, local Napans, tired of the silliness, invented wine. This in turn causes people to bathe in scalding mud, put cucumbers on their face, and then charge San Franciscans hundreds of dollars to do the same.
I wonder what would happen if I went over for dinner and was like "actually, can I get a Coors?"
Which brings us back around to today's goal: other than attaining the highpoint of Napa county, it would be to do so without having to hike in the dark. Having left my apartment at 1:30, I estimated a two hour drive to the trailhead at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, and at least four hours of travel time to complete the ten miles and however many thousand feet round trip. There would be little room for getting lost or taking my time.
Which made, well, the entire drive a maddening descent into something less like road rage and more like road armaggedon. It was my fault, of course, that I had waited until the afternoon on the first really nice-weather weekend of the year to go. This meant every cigar toting, collar-popping, knit-sweater-loosely-around-the-neck-wearing guy and his wife and their moms were going up to the wineries and taking their jolly sweet time, too.
CBKWit commuting to work
In addition, just past the Carquinez bridge, I had the genius idea of turning onto SR 29 "Sonoma Blvd," because it seemed like it would head where I was going. It did, but not before going through every stoplight in Vallejo. And holy crap, even midday Sunday, Vallejo is terrifying. I can see why Jahvid Best is so freaking fast...
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I arrived at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, which was set up so that local citizens could admire the natural beauty and splendor of Robert Louis Stevenson. There is only one small picnic area and one trail, to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena. I left the car at 3:30 exactly.
Absolutely NO dogs or water faucets of ANY KIND allowed
After a short while I came upon this odd rock formation. Apparently this was the spot where Stevenson honeymooned with his wife, who also brought along a kid of hers from a previous marriage. Awkward!:
Stone books, even in their day, were highly inefficient.
Eventually the narrow, eroding trail intersected with a wide, flat, well maintained dirt road. Normally I dislike hiking on roads (dry, hot) but since it was fairly late in the day and the temperature mid-70's, I did not mind.
I shortly came across some rock climbers practicing belaying or sashaying or clambaking or whatever it is that takes them three hours to go thirty feet. Although I write cynically towards rock climbers because I always characterize their activity as too slow, too deliberate, too expensive for me, and besides I could just walk around the back of the rock to the top, deep down I think I'm just jealous of their ability to have the patience and gear for the undertaking.
Wearing helmets on the ground is for winners.
The road plowed onward and slowly upwards. Locals tell me the tiny round globe is where Tedford goes after every loss.
The solitude and howling winds ease the pain of defeat. So does the black tar heroin.
Views started to open up to the south. It was slightly hazy.
Want a second opinion.
You're also lazy!
Finally, I reached the top.
There were a bevy of communications towers on the summit.
This would also make an awesome treehouse
Also up there was one lady whose hair this photo does not do justice to. I swear it looked like she was wearing a show collie on her head. Like you could hide a baby in her hair. I tried to make it look like I was taking a picture of the view, but you can't really tell anyway. Lame.
I also took one of the most scenic dumps of my life:
The view certainly was commodious.
Mt. Saint Helena is a pretty decent summit; it stands alone rather than along a similarly-heightened range of mountains. This gave it an island-in-the-sky type feel and the views were very nice. I could see south to Diablo and East to the Sierras. I'm sure that on a clear day I might see Sacramento in between and San Francisco to the south. In spite of the haze, I admired the far off scenery.
Northeast. The N.E.C. always produces the Div 1-A pot growing champions.
...And returned to the car. I even jogged a bit of the way down to make up time as the light was fading, but didn't need to. I got back around 6:30, still with plenty of light to go around.
This time, rather than take the same road back, I cut across the valley to 101:
Reminded again, that no matter where you look, California is blue and gold.