I saw the little black angus calf wandering about, baying for its mom, about 100 yards down the trail. I wondered where mom was because the only time a cow will trouble itself to stop grazing is if you block her view of her baby. Not seeing baby can cause cows to identify the nearest hiker in the vicinity, assign blame, then charge. If you were as dumb as the droppings you leave all over the trails, you’d do the same.

So I wander past the baby and sure enough, just down the trail is Mom. And a friend. A large black head with big bulbous eyes arises from just beyond her tail region and gives the universal “Dude, would you mind?” look known to all guys who stumble into another guy’s amorous action.

So, this is why Mom isn’t milking the brat. Some bull has his nose so far up her fanny she’s getting, well, distracted. The loving couple decided to make their way down the trail in the general direction of the wayward calf. I didn’t wait around for any Discovery Channel moments.

Just another day in the East Bay hills. If the cattle are humping, I’m happy, because it means they aren’t a) pooping everywhere, b) chewing up the hillsides; or c) leaving mud bogs in moist sections of trails.

So what was I doing at Ed Levin County Park, which I once declared one of the worst hiking parks in the Bay Area? Well, I had a vacation day and wanted to try out my new daypack, but didn’t want to drive far. Bovine annoyances notwithstanding, Ed Levin has two things hikers crave: high hills and great vistas.

It also has a mystery — rock walls of unknown vintage — among its hilltops fascinating enough to make the bulls and the butt-burning Jeep roads posing as trails worth the trouble. I paid the walls another visit; I’ll get to that part in a minute.

The hilltops were fogged in for the first hour and a half, but after that the the skies opened and a lovely hiking day ensued. I hiked about five and a half hours; I’m guessing total mileage was about 9 or so.

The only go-to hiking locale at Ed Levin is Monument Peak — 2,000 feet of climb in four miles; not quite as steep as Mission Peak, but promising the added pleasure of an extra mile and a half of climbing. It’s a great a workout. Foggy mornings with clear afternoons in the forecast are among the best times to go, because you’re cool on the way up and warm on the way down, and you experience being on the hill when the fog burns off. Little bit of nature’s wonder in action.

Let’s see some pictures. Here’s a Flickr slide show if you’d rather skip the commentary:

Wild turkeys

The only thing as dumb as a cow and yet curiously smart enough to stay alive is a wild turkey. They’ll walk right past if you stand still enough.

Bucks in the mist

Young bucks about 50 yards distant in the fog.

All Year Spring

Calera Creek is about two miles from the trailhead next to the dog park at Ed Levin. It’s fed by a spring that runs all year, which is good to know if you’re foolish enough to hike here in the summer.

Break in the Fog

An opening in the fog emerges as I near Monument Peak.

Transmission tower at Monument Peak

One of the transmission towers.

Looking up from the tower base

You can always find cool angles to photograph the tower.

Northward toward Mission Peak

I paused for lunch near the section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that goes over to Mission Peak. It’s about two miles from here. An out-and-back to Mission Peak from Ed Levin is a tough 12-miler.

View of the bay

Unbeatable view from the Monument Peak summit.

Rock walls

One of the mysterious stone walls near the Monument Peak. Some say these walls were built by Amish farmers in the late 1800s. I find that hard to believe — these seem to be built much more deliberately and systematically than I’d expect farmers to bother with.

Huge boulders in the walls

And check out these huge boulders: I cannot imagine a farmer moving rocks this large.

On the walls go

Note the consistent height of this section. The stones are generally flat, for easy stacking; they don’t appear to have been piled up from random stones you might find lying in a field. The structure seems architectural, and in places it melds with existing rock formations.

Stone walls like this appeared in the journals of the first European explorers to arrive in the Bay Area. Obviously the walls were not tall enough to keep out any invaders, so they must have been symbolic — perhaps geographical (borders between rival bands) or mystical (burial grounds or religious shrines). I wonder what a core sample would reveal about their age. I can’t help suspecting they’re very old, like Stonehenge or Central American pyramids old. One hole in this theory: why didn’t earthquakes knock them all down?

OK, enough amateur anthropology. A few more pictures and I’ll call it a day.

Lonesome picnic table

This lone picnic table is one of my favorite places at Ed Levin. It’s along the Sierra Trail, about a half mile from Monument Peak summit.

Another turkey crossing

Saw a few more turkeys on the way back down.

Calf in the woods

And this little calf in full cuteness mode.

Fall colors

A few fall colors endure.

Nice view

Looking back toward the peaks. So that about does it. I always come home from Ed Levin with a fresh slew of complaints, but I always end up with pretty good pictures and stories to relate. I’ve met a host of interesting folks on the trails at Ed Levin. Maybe the park’s inherent issues keep the wannabes away, leaving only the True Hikers. I’m sticking with that theory till next time.

Oh, and about the new daypack: works great. It has a hole for a hydration hose that I didn’t notice the first time I was going over it. Lengthening the straps enough to let the bottom edge rest against the hips makes water bottles accessible with only minor arm gyrations.

Ed Levin links:

Google map to get you there.

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