El Toro summit view

Yesterday we were walking back to the car, admiring our certificates for completing the 2008 El Toro Hike of Morgan Hill, when Rebecca noted the 1,420-foot elevation and said “hey, all you’d have to do is add one digit and you’d have an actual mountain, like 14,200.” At that point a couple of us sort of chimed in “hey, it’s a Fourteener!”

We got a chuckle out of that, which inspired me to tap out The Fourteener of Morgan Hill, spoofing the heavy-breathing style of adventure magazine article writing. The hike itself wasn’t exactly spoofworthy: the local Historical Society organized it and very nice, friendly people got up early on a Saturday morning, put out hot coffee and cupcakes, sold a few T-shirts to benefit the society and sent several hundred of us on our way up the hill. Local Boy Scouts put up ropes to help get us up and down the really steep parts. Dissing such public-spirited activities practically begs the forces of Karma to supply a flat tire in the middle of the Mojave when the spare is flat and the cellphone battery has just gone dead.

(Getting straight to the point is for sissies and newsmen on the clock, OK?)

So, bullet points from the hike, if you missed it this year and might go next:

  • It’s over way too soon. It’s only a mile and a half to the top; you can do the whole thing in two hours and have plenty of time to soak up the view from on top.
  • It’s really steep for that last quarter-mile, and it’s harder than you might suspect. I burned too much energy at the beginning trying to keep up with David, Rebecca and Russ, then had to give up, then had to keep up with the general pace of people around me on the steep steps near the top, then finally had to step aside, plop my fanny in the dirt and rest up for five minutes while I caught my breath.
  • There’s lots of poison oak along the narrow part on the way up.
  • Getting back down is trickier than getting up. Don’t imagine you can just trot back down that slope, it’s more like picking your way down, holding onto the rope and hoping for the best. Shoe with lots of tread are recommended.
  • It’s not a hike in the classic sense. It’s a communal gathering, sort of a county fair that happens to be going up a very steep hill. The view from the El Toro Summit is nice, but if you’ve hiked six times in the Bay Area you’ve probably seen five panoramic vistas of equal or better quality. It’s a mass of humanity, which we hike to get away from most of the time.
  • It’s just difficult enough to give everybody a shared sense of accomplishment, creating a “we’re all in this together” vibe that people manage to get when they come together to cope with the complications life throws at us. Like Midwesterners digging out after a blizzard.

Worth doing again? Sure. Originally, the only thing I cared about was crossing that peak off my life list, but now it just seems like a cool way to kill a few hours on a Saturday morning in the springtime with a bunch of people out having a good time. Hard to pick any nits with that.

(Calipidder’s pictures here).

(David’s pictures here, write-up here … his house is apparently right on the route, next year it’s beers at his place! )

(Ann’s pictures here; review at Yelp.com here. )

(Wine Hiker Russ’s write-up here)