First visit to the new park
Tolay Lake Regional Park
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Distance: 8.39 Miles
Duration: 4 hours, 14 minutes
Coppertone and I made our first visit to the new park after a slight dry spell hinted that we might not have to deal with too much mud. Our chief aim was to go directly to the Bay View Vista at the end of the Wsest Ridge Trail. With over 8 miles put in we managed to do that.
The park is wide open, with very little tree cover anywhere. That means sunscreen should be your word for the day. You will be exposed to the Sun. Expect it and prepare for it and you'll be fine.
From the top of the ridges that mark most of the parks boundaries one can see almost all of the park from almost every point. Other hikers might be a mile or more away but if you look carefully, you can see them. Does that inhibit a hike's solitude? Not necessarily.
We did encounter a few spots of muddy terrain that required a short detour around the tractor trails that make up the park's paths. Some of the larger puddles of water served the cows as watering holes just fine. Yes, there are cows everywhere and they are not separated from visitors by a fence. At one point we joked that we were being followed by a rather noisy cow but she was just headed towards a puddle she knew about for a quick drink.
Watch out for cow patties on the trail. Seriously.
The views from Bay View Vista and Petaluma Marsh Vista are grand. The one downside of Bay View Vista is the loud noises coming from Sonoma Raceway from the speeding cars.
Easy Stroll, Killer Whale ... and grocery shopping
West County Regional Trail
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Distance: 4.70 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Coppertone and I were eager to get a bit of mileage in and start building up our legs for more serious hiking when the weather turns nicer. After so much rain, the fact that the trail surface here was paved meant we didn't need to worry about getting mired in the muck.
This is mostly an old rail line, so the path is made up of large straight segments with little elevation gain. The first segment was heavily covered by trees and neighborhoods crowded in from both sides. We unexpectedly came across a Killer Whale adjacent to the trail. The fiberglass or plastic Orca head was a surprise to us. A child passing by with his mother obviously knew about it as he anxiously waited for it to come into view.
Once the trail ran into Highway 116 it became more of a sidewalk. Though the traffic here is a negative, there were now more open views into the orchards and other agricultural fields that started to dot the landscape.
Along the way we encountered Andy's Market, an open air produce supplier with a large grocery selection as well. We're both gluten free and their selection here of those items was excellent. We ended up stopping for lunch on the way back and then driving back after our walk to purchase groceries before heading home.
We turned around when the trail ran into Occidental Road. At this point the trail would have followed the road for over a half mile before turning into more of a proper trail.
Stroll before dinner
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Distance: 1.21 Miles
Duration: 34 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to do a bit of walking prior to eating at a Mexican Restaurant in Napa we like. Oxbow Preserve was on our not-yet-done list so we decided on it even though we know it would not be terribly long.
Just under a half mile of the trail was paved with the rest being easy to follow singletrack. We found a great discrepency between official preserve trail map and what's actually on the ground. The most glaring is the 90 degree error on where North lies. Some of the trail differences could be chalked up to rogue trails that have since been adopted as a main trail, but not all. I think the map may have been based on some original plans that were modified in some way during installation.
Zipping back and forth to try and get all of the main trail segments we still ended up under 1.25 miles, so this is not the place to go for a serious walk. But it may serve as a nice pre or post meal walk if eating at the nearby Oxbox Market.
Canyon and Pony Gate Trails Loop
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
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Distance: 2.93 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to hits the trails for the first time in months in part to see the falls here while the water levels were high. It just would not be the same in the fall when there might best be a trickle.
We walked past the park entrance gate along the road until we got to the Canyon Trail trailhead. The trail immediately begins a consistent descent towards Sonoma Creek below. The path all along this trail and mostly through Pony Gate Trail is heavily treed, providing some relief from the Sun.
Just prior to encountering the main falls on the trail there is a miniature but long, multi-step falls that of a seasonal stream that feeds into Sonoma Creek. It was worth a stop of its own. Compared to its larger companion nearby, the falls here provide but a whisper.
The main falls, which seems to have no official name, is a short distance beyond and at high flow levels provides a nice aquatic roar that drowns out most other sounds nearby. It was not crowded at the falls, but during our time at the spot there was always someone coming or going. It's obviously the highlight of the trail.
The trail continues on to the west this time ascending until it intersects with Adobe Canyon Road that leads into the park. We took a right for a short distance along the road to the Pony Gate Trail trailhead.
From here, it's more uphill hiking. The dense vegetation doesn't provide for much of a view but there are several additional streams, all easily fordable, bubbling and darting around their rocky beds.
Rather than continue on a small unhiked section of the Canyon Trail back to Adobe Canyon Road, we elected to go with the unnamed trail that heads more directly to the park entrance gate. This choice minimized the distance we would have to walk along the road to get back to our parking spot. It also turned out to be a fortuitous choice. The sky opened up as the trail gently descended down a grassy meadow with the peaks of Sugarloaf Ridge clearly visible in the distance. A fine way to end the hike.
We found that we are both woefully out of shape! This wasn't a particularly hard hike and the elevation gain was not that high, but we suffered far more than we should have - a sure sign that we need to make a point of hitting the trails more often.
Short walk to start the day
Bridalveil Falls Trail
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Distance: 1.00 Mile
Duration: 30 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to do a relatively flat hike on the valley floor today and the parking at the Bridalveil Falls trailhead looked like our best bet. Since we were here we might as well do this short hike to the falls, right?
The trail is paved all the way to the base of the falls. There is one small steep section, but overall it's a very easy hike. The viewing area at the base of the falls has only one way in and out and it can get crowded. Even on a fall day with school in session it was a bit packed. I can't imagine the logjam in the heat of summer.
Waterflow was low, but still a respectable amount crashed onto the rocks below. There are signs warning people of the dangers scrambling on the rocks to get closer to the water, which was ignored by many. In their defense though, the lower water flow meant no mist in the area to moisten the rocks so that they were even more dangerous. If you're going to pick a time of year to scramble, I guess now's the time.
From the falls we followed the trails onto the valley floor proper to start our hike on the Valley Floor Loop.