We decided to revisit Sugarloaf Ridge State Park to map out the Brushy Peaks Trail in the park's northeast corner. We parked at the Observatory and when we first drove up we wondered what might be going on as the lot was full of cars. A large group of familes were camping. We're not sure what group they might have been with and they had all completely cleared out by the time we finished our hike.
Starting off from the Observatory, the Meadow Trail was nice and easy with gently rolling hills. We've passed through here many times in the past. We stopped a few times along the way to check out the thick blackberry brambles. Though most berries were still red we were able to find a few ripe specimens which we sampled.
The climbing started in earnest at the junction with the Brushy Peaks Trail. Unlike the more open Meadow Trail, there is ample tree cover at the start of the trail here, which was a relief given that the morning's cloud cover was already beginning to burn off. The creek that the trail follows here was already dry.
We stopped at several spots along the trail leading up to Brushy Peaks. Wonderful canyon views were augmented by a vineyard across the chasm. We're in Sonoma, so what else would you expect? The view marked Picnic on the track file has a great picnic bench where one can stop for lunch. The vineyards are closer here though the solar panels in the distance look a little out of place.
Once topping out at Brushy Peaks one might think that the climbing is over and it's all downhill from there, but that's not the case. The trail turns to the west and heads towards Gray Pine Trail. While doing so the trail undulates up and down several prominences. So be prepared for continual elevation changes throughout the trail.
One thing we did enjoy on the upper reachs of Brushy Peaks Trail was the peeling bark of the many Manzanita trees here.
We turn south when coming to thein Gray Pine Trail. At this point it is almost completely downhill back to the trailhead. That presents some of its own problems as some pitches are quite steep and the small pebbles on the surface don't do much to provide extra traction. We had a couple of close calls on the way down but managed to avoid any falls.
With the elevation gain and mileage we might have taken this on a bit too soon as we have worked to get our hiking legs back. But the views were great and it felt really great to get out in the hills again. It's comforting to see continued recovery from the 2017 fires, though it remains a work in progress.