Some of you might be saying to yourselves, “Tom, why do you keep going back to the same ol’ places.”

Laziness, mostly, but there are times when knowing the terrain like the back of one’s hand (though, come to think of it, how well do we know the backs of our hands, anyway?) come in handy.

Times like when, for instance, you’re not quite sure where the trail is because you’ve wandered a half-mile off course and you’re standing in pea soup fog and it’s an hour before dark and you have no gear for an overnighter and you’re not sure how much good your little headlamp will be when all it’ll do is reflect off the fog anyway.

This was the plan: I had goofed off most of Saturday but it got to be about 3:30 and, lacking anything better to do, I thought, here’s my chance to do that Mission Peak-at-Sunset hike I’d been thinking about getting around to for, oh, about the last 18 months. Weather forecast said we had 90 percent cloud cover at the time but called for gradual clearing as the afternoon went on. This told me that with any luck I might get to the peak during a break in the clouds that produces excellent sunset imagery. My estimate was only off by about 20 minutes but it might as well have been three days, because the peak was socked in when I got up there. Cold, windy and damp, not the place anybody wants to be upon realizing “wow, this could start to suck real soon if I don’t find where the hell that trail went.”

I was so proud of myself for deciding to get a hike in that I raced over to the trailhead just in time to realize I had three hours to get to the top, a jaunt that usually takes 90 minutes max. With plenty of time to kill, I took the long way up the so-called Horse Heaven Trail, presumably heavenly on horseback because somebody else is doing the climbing up those steep-ass trails and it’s much easier to intimidate testy cattle on horseback and the horse gets to step in all the cow shit. (Obviously, the horses did not name this trail).

Though I didn’t get my sunset shots, the afternoon light did afford a few interesting images.

Shimmering grass

For instance, the grass was positively shimmering for a few minutes when the sun broke through the clouds. Makes you wanna sing that “Green, Green Grass of home,” song, don’t it?

Shimmering bay

Some famous photographer whose name escapes me took some totally cool pictures of clouds gathering over the San Francisco Bay that looked all foreboding and moody, kinda like this except he knew what he was doing, had a real camera, used a tripod and snapped off hundreds of frames hoping one would have that perfect images. Me, I point, click and hope.

Some leaves, some sky

Gimme leaves, a bit of blue sky and some clouds and I’m happy.

Gotta love that sky

The bottom of this one is unremarkable but the silver-blue color of the sky at the top is a shade I’m not sure I’ve ever captured in a picture before. Mostly because I never hike at this time of day and never take pictures in this light.

Trees, clouds, bay

Dead tree against the sky is familiar territory for me, but different, again, because of the evening light.

Clouds attack the peak

Looked like the clouds were attacking the peak in this one.


It’s shaping up to be a good wildflower season — saw lots o’ lupines blooming as I trudged up the hill — they start showing up at about 1800 feet or so.

Young angus

More cows. This young angus looks like somebody took a down payment, via his ear, on his future status as somebody’s cheeseburger.

Snag in the fog

A snag in the pea-soup region I mentioned earlier. Turned out I was able to follow some old barb-wire fences back to the trail I had wandered away from.

Once I got back on the right trail I headed toward the peak, fogged in all the way, realizing that a nice sunset was probably transpiring down the trail, below the clouds hovering over the heights. There’ll be another time, though.

No sunset to report

Alas, the sunset’s already behind the mountain range on the other side of the valley.

Interestingly, I saw at least a dozen teenagers heading up the trail just as I was finishing in almost total darkness. I’m sure whatever they had in mind was legal, moral and age-appropriate.