Hiking Mission Peak on the Longest Day of the Year
22 Jun 2008
Yesterday, on 21 June 2008, after over four years, I went for a hike, a solo effort to Mission Peak! Click here for a beautifully annotated Google satellite map of the trail! Incidentally, two days ago ( 20 June 2008 ) was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
From 1998 to 2001: Amit Mehrotra introduced me to hiking in 1998. My very first hike with him was to Half Dome in Yosemite, 16-mile round trip with 4800 feet elevation gain. The final 400 ft (122 m) ascent is steeply up the rock between two steel cables used as handholds. In contrast, the hike to Mission Peak in Fremont is only 6.4 miles round-trip and with 2100 feet elevation gain.
In 1998, when I was ten years younger, I was able to go up and down Mission Peak without stopping for rest, in 120-135 minutes round-trip. From 1998 to 2001, I also hiked up to Half Dome three or four times. One of these hikes was a solo effort in June 1999: I started at 4am and drove 200 miles in 4 hours from Santa Clara to Yosemite. At 8am, I started my ascent, taking 4 hours to reach the top. After relaxing for half an hour, I descended in 3.5 hours. At 4pm, I started driving back from Yosemite to reach Santa Clara by 8:30pm, reaching The Dhaba a popular Punjabi restaurant, for dinner.
Injuries: From 1998-2001, hiking injured my lower back and my right knee. The primary reason was descending too fast, even running downhill many times (for example, in 2000, I went up Mission Peak in 35 minutes and down in 25 minutes with a friend Dilip Kumar, who was far fitter than me; my lower back injury took almost an year to heal) -- running downhill is dangerous; very stressful for knees.
2001 to 2007: From 2001 to 2004, I probably went for seven to ten hikes at leisurely pace. For the next three years, I did not hike at all, as I went through the most stressful period of my life.
2008: I rejuvenated my interest in hiking five weeks ago, with a 5-mile hike in Shoreline Park on flat terrain. That hike brought me down with a heat-stroke of sorts; I should not have been walking around in searing heat at 3pm. Last week, I went for the same 5-mile hike, twice (on Saturday and Sunday), from 5pm--7pm. Yesterday, I decided to test myself with Mission Peak, starting the hike at 5pm. During the hike, I stopped at least 10 times and mid-way, I was not even sure if I would reach the top; it was quite hot. However, I persisted and made it! The entire effort took me almost three hours. And on my way back, I was rewarded with a meeting with one of my friends from undergraduate days (Gurjit Singh Saund) whom I had not met in almost seven years!
Lessons learnt: Reflecting upon my last ten years, I realize that I was attempting to outdo myself instead of taking it easy and limiting myself to physical activities that I could sustain in the long run. In doing so, I injured myself; these contributed to anger and frustration. These days, I have learnt to relax; I focus on my breath (and my right knee & leg) throughout my hike, having practiced meditation and breathing techniques over the last one year.
Summary: The Mission Peak hike has given me confidence. Reminds me of a saying by Lao Tzu: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.