Taking a cue from the Boy Scouts motto, “Be Prepared,” I loaded my backpack the night before the hike with enough provisions and first aid supplies to put a survivalist to shame. Besides the obvious UPF 50 sun hat, SPF 80 sunscreen, and SPF 50 lip balm, I squirreled away two bottles of water, four Kashi granola bars, one banana, a baggie of almonds, a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer, antiseptic spray, bandages of varying sizes, a snake bite kit, and an empty ballpoint pen casing in case I needed an emergency tracheotomy.
Despite not being much of an outdoors person, I joined a local seniors hiking group a couple of years back, thinking it would provide a fun, easy way to get a little exercise and take in the beauty of the valley. Leader, Nido Paras, assured me that the group was welcoming, and the hikes geared for all fitness levels. “We never leave anyone behind,” Paras promised.
According to Paras’ email, on this morning, we would be hiking from “Old Ranch Park in San Ramon, along various paved inter-connecting trails of the Bent Creek/Alamo Creek Trail to Dublin, including the packed dirt trail to the top of Dougherty Hills Park and the ridge line east of Alamo Creek in Dublin.” He estimated the distance to be about 4 miles round trip.
I met up with the group at the appointed time. The first thing I noticed was that no one else had the foresight to bring a well-stocked backpack. Bet they were glad to see me!
Given my limited knowledge of local trails, I could only hope that I wouldn’t get separated from the pack, lest I languish for days, wandering the foothills of the greater Tri-Valley in search of a cell tower ping to provide searchers with coordinates to my location.
As Nido and his wife, Patty, led the group off down the path, Brenda, a fellow retiree, was kind enough to walk with me at the back of the pack. She kept me entertained with stories about her former stressful work life, jetting back and forth weekly across the country, and how much she enjoys retirement and babysitting her 2-year-old granddaughter. I didn’t quite catch her granddaughter’s name over my panting.
Before long we were headed back up through the neighborhood and the entrance to Old Ranch Park where we started.
I looked into the faces of the other hikers, red-cheeked and smiling. They talked about the euphoria they experience after the hikes. One mentioned a feeling of exhilaration. I came up with a different word – exhaustion.
Then Collette announced that, according to her iPhone app, we had traveled 3.76 miles. Thank goodness! I don’t think I could have made it four miles!
As we split off to our cars, Brenda followed me to mine. “So will you be joining us again?” she asked.
I thought about all the reasons that had kept me from making it until today – too hot, too cold, unfavorable horoscope, woke up with a kink in my neck … then what a sense of accomplishment I experienced at the end; how proud – OK, exhilarated – I felt.
“You know, Brenda? I think I will,” I said.
But next time, I might rethink the backpack.
For more information about the San Ramon Trailblazers, contact Nido Paras at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was previously printed on San Ramon Patch