Gray Pine - Bald Mountain Trail Loop

Looking back down Gray Pine Trail, from a distance it's sometimes hard to tell which areas burned and which didn't.
User: Austin Explorer - 4/1/2018

Location: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

Rating:
Difficulty:  Solitude:
Miles Hiked: 6.82 Miles  Elapsed Time: 4 hours, 43 minutes

Comments:

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.



Log Photos
Fire Break
Near the top
Looking back
Sonoma Valley
Napa Valley
Wildflowers
Lupine
Lower Bald Mountain Trail
More verdant
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