And, the falls mission was successful. The falls were going as strongly as I've ever seen it. I'm not sure I'll see them again before we move, so that was terrific.
I had lunch at the picnic area just beyond. As I continued further, I was very disappointed to discover the last mile of the trail is STILL blocked due to a landslide at least two years ago. So I backtracked once again, as I have previously when I hit that non-marked, non-detoured trail. Then went out to the road. Well, it's not as bad as right afterward when the trail was blocked and also the bridge on the road just beneath it, which literally took you miles out of your way.
Circling around I did ride the last half-mile or so of the Trail, past the bridge, and that drops you right off at the Valle Vista Staging Area, the southernmost EBMUD hiking area. I've previously hiked a lot of the accessible EBMUD trails in that area, from St. Mary's College to the Laguna Rancho Park, and from the Laguna Rancho Park to the newly opened Carr Ranch. Since this is the next entrance to trails in that area, it felt like a nice complement, so I decided to brace the post-rain mud afterall.
After accidentally looping around the short Riche Loop trail, I decided to walk the King's Canyon Loop Trail, which is about six and a half miles. It was magnificent. Much of it runs along the San Leandro Reservoir. At the bottom it's kind of marshy swamp land, as a local river runs into the reservoir, which is pretty unlike other geography you find in the hills. There was also a near deafening chorus of frogs there. From there, you head up, and it's all very nicely wooded areas, but you regularly see the Reservoir off to the right.
I saw some people the first mile or two, but from there, the trail was all mine.
At the southernmost part of the trail, you get a beautiful view of Kings Canyon, which leads off to the Upper Reservoir. I enjoyed that for a while, before continuing on.
Out at the furthest edge of the loop, I came on one of the fire roads leading down to Laguna Rancho, which I could vaguely make out in the distance (or rather, I could make out some of the ostentatious houses near it, which I remembered from my last trip there). But from there I headed back. As usual, the EBMUD signage was horrible. I have no idea how I would have managed the loop without a hiking guide I found online, but with that I was able to pretty easily follow the paths as they went this way and that.
The hike back was the hardest because it went straight over a steep hill. There were some horses up near the top, though they looked sadly neglected. One came over and said "hi" to me for a while before he got bored and wandered off.
From there I dropped straight back down to the Valle Vista Staging Area. Which was good, because it was getting dark. There was one last car leaving the parking lot as I got there.
Great hike, overall. A very pretty area.
And my hiking shoes seem to be back in usable condition. I took them back to the shoe repair and they stretched the collars back a bit and softened them. Then because the shoes have always been a slight bit loose, I put some inserts in the back. And between those, I don't think I gave myself any new blisters from the walk (and certainly not the horrible abrasions from walking less than a mile that I'm still healing from after my first time out with the repaired shoes).
Mind you, I still had bandaids on the backs of my ankles, so that might have helped too, but that just means I need to drop some bandaids in my backpack.
(And I did have extra shoes that I carried the whole way around the loop, in case I had problems. But I think I'll be more trusting next time.)
Getting back from the Moraga area after dark is always a challenge. The last few times I did it, I took the Lafayette-Moraga Trail back, and that's always unpleasant because there are people walking in the pitch black that you have to avoid hitting.
This time, I took Moraga Way back to Orinda, and that's not pleasant either, because it's a fast, busy road with poor lighting. There is a bike lane the whole way, though at several places it gets uncomfortably narrow. I never exactly felt unsafe, but it was exhausting staying on high alert the whole time, so I don't think I'll do Moraga Way in the dark again.
Still, a good ride up and then down into Orinda.
One thing I'd still like to do in that area: the Rampage Peak hike which climbs all the way up to Antony Chabot Park from one of these EBMUD staging areas. (I'm not sure which; their maps are horrible.) The trick Is figuring out how to do that without ending up with a bike being the opposite side of the hill from where I end up. (Possibilities: a Lyft out to the trail head or a an early enough hike that I can round-trip, or maybe a Lyft down from Chabot back to the trail head.)