Off the beaten path

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Hiking is a lot like life; you know where you want to go but sometimes you’re  just not quite sure how to get there.  That was the case today as I made my way through the hills and valleys of Briones Regional Park in Martinez.  I knew I wanted to take a trip to Briones Peak, the highest point in the park, but getting there was going to be a challenge.

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The park spans a little more than 6,100 lined with hiking trails between groves of oak trees and open grassland.  Thistle and wildflowers dot the edge of the dirt and gravel trails that wind through valleys and canyons.  I haven’t been to this park very much so this would be an adventure off my normal list trails.  A little off the beaten path I thought.  My goal was Briones Peak at 1,485 feet.  My hike would start at the Alhambra Staging Area, follow the creek trail to pick up Old Briones Road Trail and then the Crest Trail.  The peak is behind a locked fence but it was enough to just circle the top and head down.  I had my route set and headed out under cloudy skies for the peak.

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The first thing I noticed about the trail were the trail markers.  There were very few trail markers along the route and more than once I came across a hiker or two scratching their head as they looked at the map trying to estimate their position.  I made one wrong turn on an unsigned trail and had to spend some careful time comparing trail intersections on the map with my progress to approximate my position.  I was surprised as most of the East Bay Park system trails are marked very.  But even with the occasional guess I made my successfully to Old Briones Crest Trail for a look at the view from the peak.

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While I was in the neighborhood of the peak I took a small out-and-back detour along the Table Top Trail.  It sounded like it would give some great views and i huffed and puffed my way along the steep sections of hillside.  I came across a small dirt spur I though was a lookout point but to my surprise it led to cliff with straight drop of 200-300 feet to the valley below.  I carefully snapped a few shots of the scene and edged my way back to the trail and back to the main road.

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The views of the surrounding area were spectacular with a thin layer of clouds hanging over the hills and valley below.  There wasn’t too much haze or smoke from the recent fires that I could see  and I had visibility to the bay area for miles.  I made my way down and looped the trail to Valley View where I could pick up Old Briones Road again and head back to the staging area.

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It was a short hike, just under 9 miles in about three hours but it was good to visit a new park and test my navigational skills.  I will have to come back to this park again and explore some of the nature trails it has to offer.