What's the difference between a 'walk' and a 'hike'?

My beloved wife, Leonora, knows the answer to this question. A 'walk' is what she usually prefers to do to relax and to have a little leisure time for deep thoughts and reflection. A 'hike' is what happens when she invites
to go for a 'walk' with her. Lists of peaks appear in my head and before she knows it, her 'walk' has been hijacked and turned into one of my peakbagging ventures. Sorry about that. I know that I'm very selfish. Fortunately, she's usually a good sport about it. She's even been known to have fun on some of these altered trips.

Such was the case when she asked me if I wanted to take a walk with her in nearby Coyote Hills Regional Park. At first I balked. We've been going there for more than 20 years and have done all the trails and peaks except... Then I remembered that there is a significant hill within the park that I'd yet to visit.

At the southern-most end of Coyote Hills is a peak that once was home to a Cold War era Nike missile site communications center. This hill is plainly visible from the toll plaza area of the Dumbarton Bridge as the com tower topped mass just north of the freeway. The topographic map shows three summits- each with an equal number of contours- separated from each other by very shallow connecting saddles. Alas, the peak that was once furthest to the east no longer exists. It had been all but completely quarried away for use as local roadbed material. Of the surviving two peaks, the southern highpoint is designated as “S Red Hill” and has a spot elevation of 285 feet above sea level. The northern summit is the one with the com towers and the old Nike bunker complex- all encircled by a barbed wire topped chain link fence. The latter appears higher than the former and I later found that my GPS measured a 3 foot difference between the two summits.

“Sure, hon, but only if we can park at Don Edwards and hike in from there.”
“Okay, but why?”
“There's a peak I'd like to hike up from there.”
“I knew it!” She gave me the usual complaints about how we can never simply “just take a walk.” “Why does there always have to be a 'peak to tag'?” She's learned a little 'peakbagger lingo' over the years. The important thing here is that for all the complaints, she didn't say 'no' or that she 'wasn't interested'. Soon we were on the road traveling the short 4 mile drive from our house to the Don Edwards - San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The weather was perfect as we began our hike from the unusually busy parking lot. A small section of road is followed a short distance to where a paved trail leads to a pedestrian bridge over the freeway at the Dumbarton Bridge toll plaza. Our goal was visible just ahead. The views of the Bay were already impressive.

But, before we got to the bridge, Nora stopped to play with her phone and... Ah hah! It seemed that she had her own motive for this 'walk'.
My wife is a 'FitBit' user (thanks to a Christmas gift I gave her). These are wristwatch-like gizmos that have GPS and health monitor capabilities. Beyond that, she can link up with other Fitbit users via Bluetooth and her phone for competitive purposes. Nora's friends from work were also out walking at the same time as we were, so she was actually involved in a competition for the most number of steps for the day. She would on occasion announce to me how she was doing in relation to her friends. It turned out that she won this little competition probably thanks to my peakbagging contribution. You're welcome, hon! ;-)

For now, as we crossed the pedestrian bridge into Coyote Hills Regional Park, Nora wasn't all that happy when I pointed out the steep use trail that we would be using the access the summit area of S Red Hill. She was even less happy when I explained that this little venture might be a bit less than legal as we climbed over a small gate to access the above mentioned use trail. There were no signs posted, so I didn't think that we would turn up on “America's Most Wanted” that night.

The hike up the use trail was easier than it looked, and after only about 30 minutes from leaving the car, we were on the top of S Red Hill. The views were very nice especially out over the Bay to the west. The murky but calm bay water reflecting a high layer of clouds that were floating overhead. Looking in the opposite direction from the Bay, were the southern East Bay cities of Union City, Fremont, and our home city, Newark. Beyond these densely populated areas rose the higher East Bay hills including Mission Ridge, Sunol Peak and Walpert Ridge. Far to the east rose Rocky Ridge and Mount Diablo.

We had some photo sessions and then began hiking around the barbed wire topped perimeter fence looking for the actual high point of this massif. Nora was having fun at this point and was happy to humor her demented husband as he pursued his silly hobby. We found the highest reachable point next to the fence on the east side of the facility. The actual highest point was perhaps only but a few inches higher and was just inside the fence. Sorry, but not worth the risk of initiating a response from the Alameda County Sheriffs as promised by various signs (spelling skills, apparently,
not a prerequisite for law enforcement) on the fence. I found out later that the com towers at the summit are the actual transmitters used by the Alameda County Sheriffs Department itself.

We continued following the perimeter on a good use trail until we finally came to the paved access road that comes up from the north. We continued our hike by following this road down past a fence enclosed water storage facility and shooting range often used by the county sheriffs. The last time I was here a year or so earlier, I rode up on my bike and had planned to visit the inside of the Nike site, but was thoroughly deterred by the sight of dozens of sheriffs deputies conducting shooting exercises within this facility. Nora and I now found it quite deserted as we hiked up and around to the west side to tag another minor high point- Point 271. (Not reachable without climbing the fence, it turned out. Oh, well. Nice views were still had.)

We continued down to the trail junction at the foot of the road. Nora asked if we could visit the nearby campground. A little out of our way, but how could I refuse considering what she had just done to indulge me in my illogical pursuits. Our son, Matt, and his Boy Scout troop had plans to camp there in the near future, so she wanted to check it out. It turned out that there was presently a Scout troop camping there as we took a quick look from the road. It looked a little too 'busy' for my tastes, but I'm sure the boys will have fun.

Nora stopped once again to check her Fitbit progress in her contest with her friends. I offered that we should continue on to the range high point- Red Hill Top to
leave them in the dust, but she wouldn't bite. That's okay, we'd been there a few time before, but I wasn't feeling very satisfied with the small amount of hiking we'd accomplished so far. She seemed happy with the lead she had over her friends, so it was decided to head back the the trailhead.

We decided to return via the 1.3 mile Apay Trail that follows the shorelines of several salt evaporators along the east side of the Bay. These smelly ponds were at one time part of the Morton Salt Company's salt manufacturing process. They now provided a habitat for an amazing variety of birds, reptiles, and other small mammals and amphibians. We've always considered ourselves extremely lucky to live so close to this refuge.

The views included S Red Hill and the ridge we'd just followed. Everything was delightfully green after all the drought weakening rain we've experienced recently. In a few short weeks, the region will become an explosion of color when the wildflowers bloom in mid April.

Soon (too soon, as far as I was concerned), we reached the pedestrian bridge over Highway 84 and crossed back into The Don Edwards Refuge. Less than 10 minutes later, we arrived back at the truck. The entire hike took only a little more than 2 hours. Maybe this
be considered a 'walk' rather than a 'hike' after all- with just touch of peakbagging thrown it. :-)
Coyote Hills Nike Hike
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