About time I got some actual hiking done around here. After a four-week break (the longest in four years) I decided Sunol Regional Wilderness would be an excellent re-entry point. Sunol is my default venue if I’m too lazy to come up with a new place to go. Mind you, all the trails at Sunol go either straight up or straight down, so lassitude is promptly punished.

I decided to take it easy after such a long break and did what must qualify as one of one of the best 4.5-mile hikes in the East Bay: Indian Joe Trail to the Cave Rocks Road to Flag Hill Trail and back where I started from. Just enough climb to get in a bit of a workout, shady on the first third, sunny and exposed the rest of the way, excellent scenery throughout.

If you’ve never taken this route, be advised: the descent on Flag Hill Trail is steep and rocky in places; if your knees hate downhills, you might want to go the opposite way, starting up Flag Hill Trail and returning via Indian Joe Trail.

Have to recount one wildlife moment that happened far too fast to catch on camera: I’m heading up to Flag Hill and I hear the distinctive “cheep cheep cheep” alarm of ground squirrels. Big dark wings come tearing down like a fighter pilot on a strafing run. Seconds later the raptor is soaring into the sun, fighting off a stiff breeze. Couldn’t tell if it caught anything, but it sure got the rodents in an uproar.

Must’ve been been an adult golden eagle — it had huge wingspan, but was missing the white spots on the underside of its wings that young golden eagles have. I thought it was a turkey vulture at first, but vultures never swoop in like that, except perhaps when there’s fresh roadkill.

Back at the Sunol visitors center, it was feeding time for a California king snake, which was trying to get its jaws around a mouse about four times the snake’s circumference. “He’ll take care of that in no time,” the guy minding the center said. Tendons in the snake’s jaws are like rubber bands, he explained. I left before much of the mouse was in the snake. I was willing to take his word for it.

With those wildlife moments out of the way, please check out this week’s video:

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