I frequently complain about living in California but there is one thing for certain, we are very fortunate to live in an area which provides us with an abundance of opportunities to play outdoors. I've lived all over the valley, in this specific area for about ten years, and yet I'm still uncovering new places to explore.

Two weekends ago, I trekked up to the top of Mission Peak with some new friends. I'd been eyeing that hill for quite some time since there's a trail system closer to my house leading up that way. After exploring the top last weekend, I decided to connect the pieces. Using Google, I mapped the points and it claimed it was 14.4 miles one direction. 28 miles round trip is about what I had in mind -- it seemed perfect.

I arrived at the park at 8am, coincidentally the time they open gates. Also coincidental -- I mentioned to the park ranger that I was interested in exploring Mission Peak which is when I discovered an additional permit was needed. A whopping $2. for a permit that will last me a year. Seems like a sweet deal considering I will get my money's worth in the upcoming weeks.

I parked the car at the trailhead, gathered my gear and started my run.

Within the first mile, I passed a couple and they were the only people I spotted for the next hour.

I had no idea as to the terrain or the water situation so the plan was to get to Mission Peak or get as far as I felt safe with my water supply. The first four plus miles were consistently uphill and I was starting to question whether or not I could get to the top. Fortunately, I didn't need to make any tough choices. A little less than 5 miles in, I found a camping area with cold water. I topped off my bottle and continued onward.

As I approached the nearest ridge, I saw people on top. I decided to head up in that direction and then I recognized a familiar sign -- it was the 'caution steep terrain' sign from last week but I was confused. How could that be? I'm only 5 miles in and I'm not supposed to arrive at Mission Peak for another 9 miles.

[Getting back in front of a computer, I double checked the route through Google and it's including some random roads which aren't part of the route.]

After hanging out at the top of Mission Peak for a minute or two, I retraced my steps back to the car.

I felt cheated. I expected 14 miles but I only got 5 miles.

When I got back to the park, I topped off my water and I started running on another trail, hoping I could get on top of the opposing ridge.

It was unclear as to whether or not it was possible. If nothing else, I would just keep following trails, seeing more sights and piecing together the park.  This part of the park provided better scenery and I started taking lots of photos.

Fortunately, I found a trail that got me on top and I had this brilliant idea of dangling my head off the edge while taking a selfie. Yeah, that's what I'm going to do -- it's going to be cool. That's what I kept thinking. But that changed once I got up on top. And then it seemed like an idiotic idea. As a backup plan, I got close enough (read: 4' from the edge) and took some pics.  Nothing worthy of posting though -- too much sun exposure into the lens.

It's hard to imagine that once upon a time, I was a rock climber. And yes, I was scared of heights back then as well.

Looking down at my Garmin, I was still short on time but noticed the trail heading further and I followed it. More of the same -- great views and hardly anyone on the trail.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered a new song on my ipod which I'd been skipping for weeks because its intro sounds exactly like the intro to another song. It was like I had discovered gold and I played it over and over a few times because it seemed to fit my mood.

In a month, everything will be brown but as it is right now, everything is green, flowers are blooming and these blue flowers are everywhere.  :D

Continuing down the trail, I saw a sign for Welsh Creek which is a familiar area. By bicycle, the road has a really steep climb and I figured the trail would be no different. As I made my way down the trail, it descended quickly -- definitely something I'd have to climb back out but that's kind of what I wanted.

I kept the camera out and kept thinking -- if I take enough pictures, something will look artistic.

Getting closer to the ground...

And another...

Needless to say, I won't be quitting my day job.

Arriving at the road, I was hoping for a way to continue on but it was just a narrow road, barely enough room for two cars. I didn't like my chances so I flipped back around, got back on the trail and I started my return.

What seemed steep going down seemed even more steep going up. Making my way back to the ridgeline, I took a quick detour down another trail but it was a dead end. Feeling somewhat fatigued by now, I decided it was time to make my way back to the car. I wasn't ready to call it quits but I could feel my form was getting sloppy. Best to be safe and not push my luck, I thought.

When I got back to the car, I wasn't ready to quit. There were other trails to explore but I resisted the urge and I'll be saving them for my next visit.