Gray Pine - Bald Mountain Trail Loop
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
[View Log Page]
Distance: 6.82 Miles
Duration: 4 hours, 43 minutes
Coppertone and I returned the the scene of our last failed hike here. In February we went on a Bill and Dave's hike here but had to turn back due to Coppertone's blisters. With a new set of trail shoes she decided now was the time to recreate the scene of the crime. Thankfully her new shoes worked out great and we were able to complete what we think was the original hike's route.
The 1,500 feet of elevation gain and our reaction to it indicates that we are still not into true trail form. We took our time ascending up the mountain via Gray Pine Trail and rested frequently to observe the wildflowers that are in bloom and the regenerative processes at work as the park and the surrounding area recovers from the devastating 2017 wine country wildfires.
There are parts of the park that look like the aftermath of a war zone. But even in those charcoal back colored areas the monotony of the color is starting to break as more and more green pops up from the inky black. Trees and brush that were burned to a crisp are resprouting from whatever place possible, even if that is only from the base of their ruined trunk. Bald Mountain and Lower Bald Mountain seem to have larger swaths of decimated terrain that is just starting to come back. Gray Pine also has pockets of destroyed foliage, but they tend to be a bit more spotty and miraculously untouched stands of trees punctuate the area more frequently. As we have learned, fire is a capricious beast.
One of the upsides of recent fire activity is the expectation that this year's wildflower season should be above average. Right below Bald Mountain this is borne out by large fields of wildflowers that blanket the steep hillsides. Blue lupine are abundant as are a white flower I couldn't identify. A couple of guys set a bad example for all by trampling right over some of the flowers so they could get a selfie against the backdrop of flowers they didn't happen to ruin. There are plenty of angles for getting a shot of these flowers. Stay on the trails and do everyone else a favor by ensuring the flowers will be healthy for them as well.
As is typical, the top of Bald Mountain was windy. This felt fairly good after the tiring clime to the top. There's a new beanch and set of signs that have been put in place since the fire. From this high point one can clearly see into both Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley. With the aid of the handy signs we were also able to pick out distant peaks such as Mount Tamalpais in Marin County and Mount Diablo on Contra Costa County.
We took the easy way down via Bald Mountain Trail. A good portion of this trail is paved and presented the shortest route back to the car.
Jack London State Historic Park
[View Log Page]
Distance: 7.38 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 47 minutes
Coppertone and I had decided to revisit Jack London State Park earlier Saturday when the forecast was for no rain for the next week. Saturday night it rained, but we didn't change our plans. So we encountered some fairly muddy trails in certain parts of the park. Coppertone indicated that it's "always" muddy when we visit. It wasn't until later I logged onto hikingtrailhead.com and saw that our two previous hiking visits here were in January of different years. Not exactly the best time to avoid rain and mud!
We ventured into the park's SE corner to hike some of the trails near Fern Lake and the historic orchards. Our preferred path there, Vineyard Trail, was closed for the "season". We're not sure what the season is, but I would guess it has something to do with winter and it's rains. We doubled back and went down Quarry, which bypassed the closed segment.
We did a loop around Fern Lake, leaving the park property for a brief period of time. When we looped back into the park we had intended to circumnavigate the lake on Inner Fern Lake Trail. However, the trail from Orchard Road seemed to be a bit overgrown and had some brush piled up on it, something that's often done when park managers don't want people walking down trails.
We had another option in Red Hill Road (it's a jeep trail maybe, not a real road) that we took to SDC's Camp Via. A large tree had recently fallen across the trail that we had to skirt under, but it didn't provide too much of an obstacle.
From Camp Via we we stopped by to visit the nearby Ancient Redwood. A kiosk as we approached seemed to highlight a nice, but scarcely impression grove of Redwoods that gave Coppertone a bit of a letdown. But we continued down the path and were rewarded with a suitably impressive giant that clearly lorded over the young upstarts we had spotted a bit earlier. This old giant has apparently seen 2,000 years of history. Very impressive.
We completed a loop around the edges of the orchards, crossed over South Asbury Creek and used the Fallen Bridge trails to get back to Mountain Trail for the main (and somewhat less muddy) path back to the trailhead.
A bit of everything
[View Log Page]
Distance: 3.06 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Coppertone and I were looking for something not too long or difficult today. We had hiked at the adjacent Spring Lake Regional Park in the past but had never crossed the boundary into this park so we figured we'd give it a shot.
Howarth is one of those parks that seems to have something for everyone. In addition to trails there are playfields, playscapes and even a miniature train. The hiking is not a destination activity for those who live far away, but there is a surprising variety of terrain from completely flat paved surfaces to rocky hard packed dirt with a little bit of elevation gain.
You won't find a lot of solitude here, particularly on the easier trails near the center of activity in the park. But as is typical, the farther away from a trailhead you venture the smaller the number of people you'll encounter.
The Spur 6 Trail had piles of rough rocks that resembled those we've seen in quarries elsewhere. I need to do some research to see whether or not that was the case here.
When hiking down the Eagle Scout Trail on the north shore of Lake Ralphine we were able to see a young boy catch his first fish along the shore. Unfortunately, the fish got loose right at the edge of the lake and got away, much to the young angler's disgust. He threw his pole down and mother and and father were trying to encourage him and keep him motivated.
Sears Point out and back
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
[View Log Page]
Distance: 5.71 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 53 minutes
For our second visit to San Pablo Bay NWR Coppertone and I headed to the flat and straight Sear Point area to hike along a section of trail that was relatively recently opened to the public. Termed the "Eliot Trail" on some maps produced by the refuge the path we chose today sat atop a levee that paralleled the railroad tracks that run through the area. To the north some fields continue to worked but mostly for hay production these days I believe.
To the south are the wetlands that have been recreated on what used to be acres of productive farmland. Now water, marshes and small dots of dry land sprinkled about provide shelter and feeding grounds for a large number of birds, the wildlife refuge's main customer. From a hiking standpoint there's nothing here that's particularly gripping. The trail is very flat and straight. There are a few views of far off mountains such as Mount Tam and Mount Diablo is the weather permits. But the reason for the refuge to begin with and the added interest for hiking here are the birds.
We're not birders by nature but we spotted Seagulls, Canada Geese, Egrets, Hawks, Red Wing Blackbirds, Plovers, Ducks, Terns. The list would be longer if we had enough knowledge to differentiate the ducks and others from each other. Suffice to say, if you like birding, you'll like hiking here.
Despite there being numerous signs indicating that dogs are not allowed on the unpaved trails in the refuge, about half of the people we encountered had dogs. One dog in particular had gotten quite muddy and wet by launching itself into the shallow muddy flats reconstructed to serve as shore bird habitat, not a doggy playground. I'm sure the refuge personnel are stretched given current funding issues, but some enforcement of the rules is called for here.