I joined a congenial group of hikers for a challenging trek through the El Cerrito Hills. It was my first, eye-opening, exploration of the California city’s rugged terrain and dense brush.
Prior to this rustic romp, my sidewalk sauntering took me up Contra Costa Drive and Potrero, huffing and puffing my way to the peak.
It was worth the laborious, cardio-driven ascent. A breathtaking view of the Bay was my reward, providing a pinnacle moment to end all.
An adult piano student brought me down to earth when she e-mailed me about a “Moonlight” walk into the “real” Hills.
To that point, I had deceived myself into believing that my jaunts amidst cars and pedestrian-friendly stops, were nature journeys. At least I could pretend to inhabit the surrounding landscape if I used my imagination. The flowers and foliage along the way had me pleasantly drugged by their aroma.
On one occasion, a wild turkey had even crossed my path, making me think the wilds were within my reach. I would stretch my walk up the slope to permeate the Hills, but a NO Trespassing sign deterred me.
An announcement from the El Cerrito Trekkers provided a new opportunity to break all previous barriers.
“Friends of Five Creeks and El Cerrito Trail Trekkers present: A Moonlight Walk through the Hillside Nature Area.
“Join this spectacular walk with magnificent sunset views and a full moon in mysterious oak forests — or maybe ghostly fog. It’s July, after all! Bring flashlight and walking sticks if desired. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and long pants and sleeves, and be prepared for nighttime chill!
“Meet at the west end of King Court, north of Moeser Lane on Monday, July 2, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
With an extra warm, over-sized sweatshirt donated by my friend, I was off on an enticing nature excursion.
Immediately, the woodsy embrace of trees, wild flowers and berries were intoxicants amidst a wind that swept hikers along.
Here and there, I nearly slid down an embankment making the need for walking sticks more than a showy display of honor on the trails.
We had been warned about slippery points on the “walk,” not to mention a possible mountain lion encounter. A deer carcass had been proof that the wild ones lurked.
Such an awareness made me shiver in fear. Each step of the way was draped in mystery and adventure.
The gathering of nature-lovers around an ambrosian table mid-point on the trail, was a wonderful interlude. One of our guides had prepared a white bean spread, homemade breads, a parsely-garlic garnish in the company of ripe apricots and scrumptious carrot sticks. These were delectable treats to energize a second wind for the turnaround, and eventual return to our cars.
As evening wound its way along the scenic route, the moon gave the Bay view a sparkling effect against the Hills. I caught the vista with my minicam and took the footage back to my music studio.
Upon review, it provided the perfect backdrop for Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata which made the Hills come alive with the Sound of Music. It couldn’t get any better.