Hike 20: Howarth Park

This was a filler/catch-up one, I guess you could say – I felt like I was sorta falling off the pace of at least one a week, but didn’t have the time or inclination for a Destination hike. Fortunately Howarth Park, a Santa Rosa city park, allowed for a hike that felt like a hike, but was manageable time-wise and not far away.

I did a circumnavigation of Lake Ralphine, which included some wide, almost fire road sort of trail, as well as narrow single track path. Some of the route was new to me, which is always fun, and sorta surprising, considering how long I’ve been in Santa Rosa. But yeah, the not going on foot so much does bias what I see. Another pleasant experience was how nature-y most of it felt, despite the closeness of the busy roads of town.

A little girl – maybe 3ish? – and her father were also circumnavigating the lake, but the opposite direction, and it was cool to see them on either side. I also saw some goslings, and a duckling ball on the boat ramp, to complete the cute overload.

more pictures

5/15/21, 3.8 miles

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Hike 21: Weaver Lake

I had seen a Forest Service marker on a side road just before we got up to Weaver Lake, (the one in Nevada County), where we were camping for a couple nights. After dinner the first evening, we did go out for a little stroll, but did not make it to the one I had seen. We did see another one, which I hadn’t noticed on the way up (we were walking the opposite direction) right near the lake, but ended up not investigating it since it was a bit overgrown.

As we walked downhill, I was just starting to think I’d imagined the marker when we got to it. Funny how distance seems different on foot compared to on bicycle. It started out very much road like, then there was a log that would block the way for vehicles to pass, so it started to get overgrown. Still obviously a direction to follow, but pretty unused. And after a bit it petered out.

Eric had looked at the map for the area, and knew there were some small lakes (ponds? when does one become the other?) just over that-a-way. So we followed a stream bed that seemed like it might go that direction. There was some water in a few spots, and we did get up to a spot with a bit of a view, and a neat shale outcropping. No small lakes or ponds, but we’d had about half as much fun as we wanted, so headed back.

We retraced our path down the stream, and part way down the road, then did a bit more bushwhacking to get to the overgrown track that would take us back to right near the lake. Which, for much of it wasn’t actually quite so overgrown as it seemed at the lake end, although it would have been a bit of a squeeze for most vehicles. On foot it was not a problem to get through. And it was nice not to have to go back downhill and up again that we would have had with a full retrace, plus we got to see a bit of new territory.

The track came in at just over two miles, which maybe is a little short to call a hike… But hey, I’m making the rules! And this hike had the bushwhacking, plus we were at about 5700 feet elevation, which both count for some bonus points in my book. And yes, it’s totally out of order, but I finished the write up so I figured I may as well post it.

more pictures

6/2/2021, 2.2 miles

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Hike 10: Mount Burdell

Another after work jaunt, and new to me spot – Mount Burdell. The website blurb has this to say: “Marin County’s largest open space preserve, Mount Burdell rises to a 1500 feet summit with panoramic views.” AND! The world’s best bik’n buddy was visiting and had agreed to join in the on foot adventure. Woohoo!

The park has several trailheads, we only went to one, but they all look to be similar neighborhood access points, rather than a single large parking lot type of a deal. Easier/cheaper in some ways, and it’s cool to have open space so accessible – that people can just go out their front door and BOOM there they are! Although I always wonder how much folks actually take advantage, and hopefully there aren’t conflicts between people who live in the neighborhood and “outside” users. The spot we started at actually had several places to park that weren’t in front of someone’s house, which was nice.

I had looked around a bit online, but ended up just downloading the map from the Parks website and planning my own route. The usual criteria – loop, if possible, and covering as much trail as possible without repeating. Ohand favoring trail over fire roads.

We were quickly out of the neighborhood and gaining elevation, getting views to the south. The route wound over open hillsides and through more forested sections. We encountered grazing cattle, and in several spots had to go through gates.

In several places we saw large piles of rocks, indeed, the trail we took up to the top of the ridge was called Old Quarry. It was quite steep, giving me a sense of accomplishment and relief. It wasn’t a single definitive peak sort of experience, but there were nice views both to the south and out to the north west. We tried to figure out where some of the west county roads we’ve ridden on were in the landscape, but didn’t feel like we had much success with that.

We took a different way down, seeing a cyclist we’d seen earlier – doing loops of his own. As the sun sank toward the horizon we started to get the magic hour light, which then deepened to twilight. I didn’t read a trail sign right, or somehow missed a turn, so we didn’t do exactly what I’d looked at doing on the map, but we didn’t get lost, and got back to the van before it was completely dark. Super fun having company, and *woot woot* I’m to double digits on the count! We didn’t get to all of the park, so I’m open to the possibility of going back some time. And/or checking it out by bike.

more pictures

3/12/2021, 5.9 miles

 

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Hike 09: Annadel – Spring Creek, Live Oak, Orchard

This hike was back to my usual stomping grounds – Annadel! Through Spring Lake Park, and up Spring Creek Trail to Lake Ilsanjo. The morning sun sparkling through the trees was just splendid, and there were some surprising puddles. From the Lake I looped back around on Live Oak and Cobblestone Trails.

There were some different wildflowers in bloom from what I had seen on the last couple of hikes, and some brand new green growth in the burned areas. In one of the meadow areas I saw movement – two animals running toward each other, then running together back to a third. I didn’t have binoculars, but they looked canine. Perhaps two pups and a mother? Later I heard vocalizations that sounded coyote-ish. Yay the natures!

a few more pictures

3/6/2021, 8.4 miles

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Hike 07: China Camp

This was an after work jaunt in Marin, starting from behind Dominican College. I kinda think of it as China Camp, although that park may actually only be on the east side of the ridge, but it schmears into some other park/open space that I’m not sure what the name(s) is/are.

Anyway, I started out up the fire road, but soon was intruiged by a trail that looked to also head toward the ridge. Probably not official, but quite well established. It wound around a bit and popped out at a somewhat abandoned looking antenna facility. My original plan had been to head northish on the ridge and make my way down the next knuckle coming off the ridge, but I ended up going the other direction, first on a fire road I’d not been on before, and then into a network of what are probably “social” trails. In spots they were quite narrow and steep – I was having a hard time imagining riding bikes on them, but I’m guessing people do. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any riders, as it could have been problematic to avoid occupying the same space.

So, the high alert made for some bonus excitement, along with the steepness, and not being entirely certain where I was – although the Google Maps did show the trails I was on. But, since it was pretty much all new to me I wasn’t exactly sure what the distance would be, well and the elevation of it took some time, so I was close to getting full darked on by the time I was back to my vehicle.

However, it was fun seeing new to me trails, and there were some wild flowers blooming, and then a flock of birds (maybe parrots? I’m not exactly sure why I say that, I didn’t actually see them, but they sounded possibly parrot-y) with settling down for the evening chortling as I passed through the last bit of trees before the parking lot. And, when I looked at the elevation profile for the hike, it was a capital M! How fun is that?!

more pictures

2/19/2021, 5.3 miles

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Hike 08: Big Rock Ridge

Doh! I’m out of order AGAIN! Yeah, yeah, that check my notes thing, but I was really thinking this was #7. Oh well, I’m going to go ahead and post it to have something to check off the list!

It was an after work jaunt up (and back down) Big Rock Ridge, north of San Rafael. The trail goes up from the north side of Lucas Valley Road. Much of it is exposed – so, for me anyway, not one to do mid-day in the middle of summer, but it was entirely pleasant when I did it. And, there are spots where it ducks through some trees. New growth was popping out, and the hillsides were pretty green. I also saw a shooting star! (the flower kind) The openness gives splendid views to Mount Tam, the Bay and San Francisco.

There were a few other folks out on foot, and some on bicycles as well. One cyclist seemed to be doing repeats, as I saw him several times – headed downhill then uphill then downhill… There was also a couple – couldn’t quite tell if it was a date ride. I caught up to them on the uphill when they were stopped to rest. I figured they would catch up to me, but they never came past me, so they must have decided they’d had half as much fun as they wanted to and headed back down the hill.

Near the ridgeline, the trail connects to a fire road. I was debating heading back down at that point, as it seemed a plausible turn around, but there were antenna towers a bit further along the ridge, and somehow that seemed like more of a destination, so I continued on. Which, I’m glad I did – after a bit of rollering along the ridge top, views to the north and east opened out before me! Wow! It looked like there were some ways to get down to Novato, although I’m not sure how many of them are actually legal to the general public. Looking at the map later, I did see that the fire road continued on to the east and one had several options for getting down into Marinwood or back to Lucas Valley Road. And, there was great cell signal, go figure!

As I was enjoying the view, a fellow motored up from the Marinwood side on an e-bike. I have mixed feelings about these. On the fire road there was more than enough space for both of us, but the assist to go faster does definitely smallerize the world.

Heading back downhill I noticed the wind more. In some spots it felt as if I leaned just right I’d be able to take flight… wouldn’t that be cool?! The sun sinking in the west brushed the sky with a warm glow, then twilight started to fall. With a little hustle I was able to get back to my car before full dark. And hey, the Big Rock has lights on it!

more pictures

2/23/2021, 7.2 miles

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Hike 05: Annadel – Cobblestone, Orchard

Whoops! I thought I’d written this one up, so went on and wrote up number 6, but see what happens when I rely on my memory and don’t check the notes… Anyway, yes, number 5 did happen, and here’s the report!

It was another Spring Lake-Annadel adventure. Going there is easy, and although it’s not really New To Me, I still haven’t covered everything in The Park on foot. I did mostly the usual way through Spring Lake from Summerfield Road, but then hooked around the swimming lagoon to check out the Nature Trail and head up to Annadel from there. I came out at a trail junction I’d seen when riding my bike in from Violetti Road – OH! that’s where that goes!!! Fun to fill in a bit of the map.

In Annadel I looped through the section that had been closed due to the Glass Fire – Cobblestone and Orchard Trails. There was visible impact, but also signs of regrowth. Rock piles from a former quarry were quite visible – although that also might have been due to the slower pace of being on foot.

It was another lovely, quiet morning!

more pictures

2/6/2021, 8.1 miles

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Hike 06: Cabin in the snow!

For these hikes, I was back up in the woods with Eric. And there was SNOW!!! So neither of them was super long, but with the snow bonus and combining them, I’m going to count it as a Hike. (Who’s making the rules here, anyway?!)

The first one was directly from the cabin, so mostly in unbroken snow (OK, OK, I was mostly following Eric) – so we were on snowshoes. Which, it’s just like walking, right?! So why was I getting a little winded? Well yeah, there’s some extra work to move the snowshoes, and get in and out if you squish down in the snow. And oh yeah a bit of altitude too.

The thing I noticed most was the noise. I’m used to walking being pretty quiet, and I was thinking it would be a nice peaceful walk through the snow covered stillness, but … not so much. Anyway, we rambled around the neighborhood – it was nice to be out, and the woods in the snow were quite lovely.

The second half was down on Graniteville and Moores Flat Roads. After some fresh snow had fallen Eric drove the road to keep his tracks passable. There were other vehicle tracks on the other roads, so we just walked in them, sans snowshoes, first down to the spring on Graniteville Road, and then until we felt like it was time to turn around on Moores Flat Road. We weren’t dealing with the resistance and noise of snowshoeing, which I had a new appreciation for, and we had the roads to ourselves, so it was quite pleasant.

2/12 and 2/14/2021 ~3 miles total

 

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Hike 04: Annadel – Lawndale/Schultz

For this hike I decided to go a little further afield, and visit Sugarloaf Park, where I’ve cycled, and visited the Observatory, but not yet hiked. Oh, or maybe I have hiked, but long enough ago and I don’t quite remember, so it would be pretty much new to me.

Alas, I was running a little late – meaning to be there at what I thought was the opening time of 0700, but arriving about 15 minutes later. However, the gate was not open. And the parking area before the gate was blocked off, as that area of the park is still closed from last year’s fires. I waited a few minutes, but as more cars arrived and the gate still did not open I decided to redirect, and went over to the Lawndale trailhead of Trione-Annadel State Park.

Even on a bike, Lawndale feels like “the other side” of the Park, and a bit of a commitment to get to, so I figured that it would probably be pretty quiet at this time of the morning. There was one other vehicle in the parking lot, with several mountain bikers that seemed like they were getting ready for a ride. I kept expecting them to come past me, but they never did.

In fact the entire time I was in the Park, all the way up Lawndale, past Ledson Marsh, and back down Schultz Trail, I did not see anyone else!!! It was super duper amazing, and totally made me forget my disappointment and slight annoyance at not getting in at Sugarloaf.

Besides having the trails to myself, noteworthy on this hike were dramatical skies, passing through areas burned in the 2017 fires, fungi and other delightful trailside nature details. Most excellent!

more pictures

1/30/2021, 7.0 miles

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Hike 03: Shiloh Ranch

Besides expanding my outdoor activity type portfolio, I also want to check out new to me and/or revisit places to recreate that I haven’t been to in a while. The first new to me place I got to was Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, north of Santa Rosa. Although I’d ridden by the park entrances on Faught Road, I’d never been inside. Well, not past the bathroom at the main parking lot anyway.

For this hike I actually parked at the smaller, undeveloped south access. The opener was uphill, with the initial stretch being quite wide – maybe even enough for two cars across – and smooth gravel. Whoa! This is Some Park! However, the surface soon reverted to more like native soil, although it did seem somewhat improved, and the width also reduced to about a single vehicle width fire road type feeling.

There were beautiful oaks, manzanita in bloom, and, as I gained elevation, views over the Santa Rosa plain, which was still partially shrouded with bits of morning mist. Beautiful!

According to the park’s website, it is 850 acres with 8 miles of trails. “A looped trail system offers moderately difficult hiking on unpaved trails and allows hikers to create routes of varying lengths and intensity.” However, I could not devise a route to cover all of the trails without what started to seem like a slightly silly amount of retracing. So I settled on one that covered most of the park, with most of the spots where I reused trails going the opposite direction.

As the day progressed I saw more folks on the trails, and others making their own loops, as I saw them more than once. For the most part people were masked, and considerate about passing, but I’m glad I got an early start.

Besides the views, I particularly enjoyed the Canyon and Creekside trails, which are actually singletrack trails. It’s still a directed experience, in that you are following an established trail, but it feels a little closer to nature. The wider fire road trails felt very mediated – “Nature Lite” – but it’s great that it’s still open space, and that it is getting used. There seemed to be a pretty good variety of people out enjoying the day.

more pictures

1/23/2021, 9.5 miles

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