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Back-country camps in Alameda County?

Back-country camps in Alameda County?

Bay Area backpackers anxious to put their endurance to the test need look no farther than their own back yard. Back-country camps established last year along the Ohlone Wilderness Trail in Alameda County open up that rugged 29-mile route to more than marathon day-hikes. Now, before late-spring wildflowers wither in the blazing summer heat, is a good time to hit the trail.

Don't let the lazily grazing cattle or the absence of soaring granite peaks fool you: hiking the Ohlone trail is no Sunday stroll. Its elevation ranges from 400 to 3,800 feet, with pampering switchbacks in short supply. But impressive vistas and abundant wildlife will compensate generously for your hill-climbing labor.

It's a rare day that you won't spot a deer, coyote, or bobcat crossing an open ridge, or a golden eagle circling majestically overhead. You might also see some of the feral goats and pigs that have taken up residence in these hills.

Four new camps . . . three for hikers, one for equestrians

Following well-marked ranch roads through oak woodlands and occasional stands of Digger pines, the Ohlone trail strings together four East Bay regional parks in the Diablo Range. The three new camps for backpackers and one for equestrians, all with running spring water and toilets, are in the remote Ohlone Regional Wilderness, accessible only by the Ohlone trail. They complement an existing backpack camp in Sunol Regional Wilderness.

The ends of the trail are in Mission Peak Regional Preserve and Del Valle Regional Park, but you can shave off 8 1/2 miles and a clim up 2,517-foot Mission Peak by starting or ending your trek at Sunol Wilderness. If you don't want to backtrack, you'll need to leave cars at both ends of your route. Or arrange with friends to hike from opposite directions, meet at a camp, and swap car keys.

Some cautions: Campfires are not allowed at the back-country camps, so bring a stove. Also, be sure to close the numerous gates you'll pass through to prevent cattle from straying.

If you can't schedule an outing this spring, wait until next fall; it's no fun trudging up steep hills with little shade, when the mercury is pushing 100|

Permits and reservations

Before setting off, pick up an Ohlone Wilderness Trail permit, available for $1 at the Sunol or Del Valle entrance kiosks. The permit folds out to a large topographic map showing camps and natural landmarks. It also bears a detailed description of each segment of the trail. (To get one in advance for trip planning, send $1.50 to Ohlone Regional Wilderness, Box 82, Sunol 94586.)

To reserve campsites, call (415) 531-9043. Cost per night is $4 for backpackers, $6 for horsepackers.

Currently, guided horse trips along the Ohlone Trail are not available. At our press time, however, plans for a horse stable in Sunol were being considered; ask the visotr center (862-2244) about its progress.

Photo: Trailside posts mark each site in camping areas; you can select an open site with view, or one well sheltered by oaks

Photo: Leaving civilization below, backpackers scale hills outh of Livermore

Photo: Ohlone trail links about 20,000 acres of parklands. Triangles mark locations of back-country camps; squares mark trailheads

Photo: Hikers cool heels in rain-fed pool near Stewart's Camp
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Date:May 1, 1988
Previous Article:Planning a trip to Alaska's wilderness parks.
Next Article:Mountain men and muzzle-loaders, trail towns and tepees.

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