Playground Sierra Club Hike Fun Draws Big Crowd
By Robert Bernstein
New Year's resolutions bring a big crowd to the trails. The first weekend in January I led my favorite hike: The Playground. And 27 people showed up! 25 of those completed the entire hike.
Here are my many photos and several videos!
With so many people on this hike, it required a lot of patience and people helping each other. I was very pleased that even where everyone had to file through one at a time, everyone kept on smiling and helping out!
I always start this hike with a tight crawl and a tricky climb. Kind of like that sign at the amusement park that says "You must be this tall to go on this ride." I want to be sure everyone is comfortable with what lies ahead.
At that point I got most of the group to pose for a group photo:
This hike is always advertised with the bonus: "Always a new route!" That is because I never remember the exact route that I like. I just try to remember a few key waypoints and figure out how to navigate from one to the other. And I do like to encourage more adventuresome hikers to explore, as long as they meet us at the next waypoint.
Here is a video of the group descending from the first waypoint:
As usual we were greeted by Western Fence Lizards, often called Blue Belly Lizards because of the blue patches on their undersides. Here was one that posed for me:
The Playground is famous for many squeezes. Here Laura paused in a squeeze spot with some others behind her:
My friend and former co-worker Linda helped me hold up the "Atlas Rock" which is another must-do photo-op:
It is not easy to find the upper entrance to the multi-chambered cave. In fact, it took several rounds of hike leader Diane teaching me the way! Here you can see people enter this upper cave entrance:
This is the largest chamber in the cave complex; another group photo-op!
Exiting the cave the usual way takes another bit of squeezing and crawling. Here is a video of the experience for several in the group:
I always let people know there is an alternate route, but most people enjoy the experience and don't want to miss out!
The Narrows is perhaps the most famous feature of The Playground. In the winter there is usually water in The Narrows. It can be a bit tricky to step over the puddles in the tight space, but everyone did OK with this.
Most of the group opted to go the extra distance to The Bird's Nest which lies below The Narrows. A wonderful lunch spot!
Getting down there is easy. But it is a fairly long climb across an exposed area of rock to get back up to the main ridge of The Playground. Here several of the hikers posed atop and around the mushroom-shaped rock with a little cave that lies at the far end of that ridge. The sky was quite a dramatic backdrop.
Erina led the way behind me for the final climb up and out!
Check out our hikes and keep your New Year's Resolution to get out in nature and get plenty of exercise!