So what do you do when the days get short and the nights get cold? Do you stop hiking and curl up next to the fire with a nice warm hot chocolate like a sensible person? Of course you don’t you get creative and find new brave ‘opportunities’ to extend your hiking season. My S.O. had heard of people embarking on a moonlight trek to the top of Mission Peak in the summer time so we decided to make a go of it even in the cold weather just so we could get out of the house and away from our heater vents.
Mission Peak lies just east of Mission Blvd on the border of Fremont and Milpitas. It’s actually not the tallest peak in the immediate vicinity but it is the most prominent and it has a trail to the top so we must go. I made sure the GPS was charged and the track loaded so as to not lose the way in the dark. The GPS came in real handy near the top when the trail became harder to follow in the dark.
We started out around 7pm and it was quite brisk with the temperature somewhere in the low 40s (I was cursing the fact that I hadn’t put on a heavier wind resistant layer). The trail starts out quite wide but makes a steady progressive uphill march. It became quite clear why people do this at night in the summer as it looked like it would be unbearable in the summer heat. This time I was thankful for the extra exertion as it warmed my core up. Ran into a few other crazy folks who were on the way down but all seemed to wrapped up in themselves to acknowledge a friendly wave or hello (maybe only the crazy anti-social people hike at night?). About a 1/2 mile from the top you reach a fence and make a sharp right turn to the South and assault the peak. The trail becomes much narrower, rocky, and well just difficult to follow at night. A few checks of the GPS confirmed we were on the right track but the last 1/4 mile seemed to take forever. To make matters worse the wind really picked up and it felt much, much colder on the top.
We didn’t spend much time at the top other than to take a few quick pictures of the summit post and the surrounding scene. The view was a bit obstructed by the overcast skies but even in our limited view the scene was like one long lit up Christmas tree. Then it was a quick march back to the car and the relief of a heater.
Distance: 5.9 miles
Elevation: 2200 ft
Time: 2 hours and 33 minutes
Update (2013): The website for Mission Peak now indicates that the parking lot gates close at 10pm, making a moonlight hike more difficult now 🙁