Christmas is a time for all sorts of traditions: Trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, steaming tamales.
And for a group of Silicon Valley friends, there’s hiking 2,500 feet up to the tippy top of Mission Peak in Fremont – all with a 30-pound Christmas tree in tow. The end goal? A selfie on top and the exhilaration of doing something cool and adventurous when much of the world is shopping for presents or sipping egg nog.
“It feels like we’ve started a Bay Area tradition,” said Brian Peters, 24, an Apple software employee, who along with Sushil Nedyavila, started the Christmas trek four years ago. “People now recognize us on the mountain as the “tree people.” It’s super exciting. I look forward to it every year. ”
Peters and Nedyavila, a data science associate at Ravel Law, have been buddies since attending Fremont High School in Sunnyvale about a decade ago. They used to hike Mission Peak almost every weekend, while also exploring other great California outdoor favorites, such as Big Sur and Mount Diablo.
Peters can’t remember exactly how the two came up with the idea of buying a tree at Home Depot, super gluing on ornaments and then schlepping the pine up the mountain in 2013. (They carry it together, and the pine tree adds an hour to their normally one-hour hike. If friends are with them, they rotate who carries it.)
But now, the annual rite of passage is etched into their personal history. This year, they brought Peters’ two sisters, a boyfriend, and three of Nedyavila’s friends. Peters’ dad also joined them last year.
When they finally summit, the friends zip-tie the trunk of the tree to a post already embedded in the mountain and strap it down with red tape to look nice. After New Year’s, the two go back up to carry the tree down the mountain and compost it.
The two want their tree be shared with all who hike up to the peak.
Peters and Nedyavila are asking everyone who takes a picture in front of the tree to use the hashtag #XmasOnThePeak to show how many people are enjoying their efforts. To date, more than 600 people have posted with that hashtag on Instagram. But others have used either #missionpeak or geo tags, so Peters estimates that “well over 1,000” people have hiked to Mission Peak over the last four years to take pictures with their tree.
This year, there are photos of a woman in full yoga gear standing on top of a red post, higher than the tree, and another person wearing a "naughty" Santa hat with the beautiful valley behind her. Mission Peak has long been a Bay Area selfie magnet, so much so that it's created parking woes for residents who live nearby, once even highlighted in the New York Times.
Which raises this question: Did Peters and his pals get a green light to plant a tree on top of the peak from the East Bay Regional Park District, which oversees the mountain?
“Um, we did not get permission, “ Peters said, “and we wondered what would happen if we ran into them, it was super terrifying.”
But this year, Peters said his group ran into a park ranger. “We saw the truck zooming up the mountain. My sister flashed a smile. We ended up taking a picture with him. He was totally cool with it.”