Coppertone and I returned to map out the Vista Trail segment, which we had only partially hiked in the past. We did a counterclockwise loop using the Meadow-Gray Pine-Vista-Bald Mtn.-Lower Bald Mtn.-Meadow trail segments. In a nutshell, what this meant was stairs going up and sloped trails coming back down. If you prefer stairs on the descent you'll want to reverse the direction of what we did today.
Along Meadow Trail we stopped to look whether there were any Blackberries on the brambles along the trail. There were a few available for picking, but not as much as during our previous visit. While doing this we could hear a number of California Quail chirping to each other to alert the group about our presense. We could never manage to catch a glimpse of them in the thicket.
We spotted numerous harvester ant mounds along the trail though most had settled in their homes with the temperature rising.
The climb up Gray Pine Trail and the first half of Vista Trail is strenuous. The stairmaster workout took its toll on us and demonstrated that we have yet to get back into decent trail shape. At least the tree cover over these steep sections provided ample shade for us to stop and catch our breath.
After about halfway through Vista Trail the path flattens out somewhat as the path largely follows the contour of the hillside. The word Vista in Vista Trail also becomes apparent at this point. At the waypoint Vista View the scene is extraordinary. It's practically a 360 degree panorama over the southern half of the park. The Robert Ferguson Observatory, a vineyard on the opposite side of the canyon, numerous peaks, some still fire scarred, some still verdant. This would be a spectacular spot to stop for lunch and soak in the views.
We also stopped briefly at Indian Rock, a spot we had visited in a previous hike on our way up to Bald Mountain. It boasts a nice view as well, but the Vista View point takes the cake. It's pretty much all downhill back to the trailhead from this point on, which was a welcome respite for our tired legs.
In the end the trail length, elevation gain and expected time to finish were reported to a remarkable level of accuracy in the park's official map, which we recommend you purchasing. It provides a great level of detail for this park as well as adjacent Hood Mountain Regional Park that's not found on the free (and quite adequite) maps handed out when entering the park.