One of the excellent rewards of hiking every weekend is seeing the seasons change. Most of the trees in the Bay Area are evergreens so we don’t get New England-style, knock-your-socks-off autumn colors, though we do get a few splashes here and there. You know what happens with fall colors: the trees get gorgeous and stay that way till the first strong rain, which knocks all the leaves off and leaves barren branches till spring. Last year’s autumn was so rainy that I don’t recall seeing any color to speak of. With that memory in mind I’ve been thankful for whatever bits of brightness I happen across.

So Sunday’s outing was to the ever-popular Sunol Regional Wilderness, which has great hills, great trails, great trees, great rocks and a few great examples of soon-to-fall leaves on this mid-autumn day. I met Mike and Kathy’s hiking group at the park headquarters, where we kept having to tell these young-hot-singles-hiker types, "no, we’re not the Bay Area Link-up hike." It was of course flattering for them to mistake us for young-hot-singles hikers, though I would imagine them taking one gaze at the likes of yours truly and thinking "I gave up good music and margaritas in the city for him?" I’m sure those warm breezes I was feeling were the collective sighs of relief from hot-young-singles hikers noticing my wedding band.

Anyway, on to the hike. Here we go in the Indian Joe Trail, which hasn’t been renamed to avoid insult to the indigenous peoples of North America. Perhaps it would’ve been until it was realized what a great bit of brand placement this is for the state’s many tribal-run casinos.

Blue, green and brown were the only colors all I was expecting to see.

Stopping to discuss our various medical procedures. Hilarity ensues during a discussion of "so, how big was the needle they poked you with?"

Hey, there’s some colors that aren’t green.

Dave and Chris at the Singing Gate. One time when we were up here, the wind blowing through this gate made a strange howling sound.

Kathy and Peggy admire the Maguire Peaks. I was obliged to admit with no small amount of pride-bordering-on-hubris that I had climbed to the top of them. Of course there is nothing special about the Maguire Peaks up close; they’re not much higher than where we were standing here, at about 1,400 feet. (Mike brought his GPS along so we always knew how high we were; once you outgrow illegal controlled substances, these devices become a handy means of measuring the highs and lows.)

The moment we hiked 3.5 miles and climbed 1,200 feet for: Lunch!

We set off on the Eagle View Trail, which is dug into an extremely steep hillside. There’s a sign warning bike and horse riders to stay away. The trail isn’t really all that dangerous, truth be told, but if you were to fall down the hillside you’d stop rolling about where that pond is down there.

Another for the Cool Trees of California file.

We appreciate the stunning scenic vista, and the fact that it’s all downhill from here.

We meet a couple equestrians coming up the trail. Earlier in her ride, this woman told us, a rowdy group of young backpackers put a scare into her steed, who decided the best course of action upon meeting our group was to come right up to Chris and breathe heavily a few inches from her face. How close was this encounter? Well, Chris now knows all she needs to know about alfalfa breath.

Another vivid splash o’ color.

They call this park a "Wilderness" because it’s so much sexier than calling it "somebody’s cattle ranch rented to the county to keep people from wearing out the highways."

Dave and Chris think, in the lingo of the Old West, "much obliged, pardner, for kicking dust all over our overpriced hiking apparel."