Sonoma Trifecta Complete
Montini Open Space Preserve
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Distance: 2.06 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 8 minutes
In doing this hike Coppertone and I completed a Sonoma Trifecta of three of the best hikes in Sonoma, CA. Hikes at Bartholomew Park and Sonoma Overlook preceded this one.
We parked at the Field of Dreams parking lot adjacent to the Sonoma Police Station. We took the Spotted Fawn Trail uphill before it joined up with the Valley of the Moon Trail leading up to Two Goat Point.
We had only been here once before and it was something of a revelation since we could more easily compare and contrast it with other trails in the area since we'd just hiked them as well. Montini doesn't get nearly the same amount of mindshare as the adjacent Sonoma Overlook, but maybe it should. The trails are well maintained and some of the views to be found along its length compare quite favorably.
Bartholomew Park's trails are a bit more difficult and the tree cover, despite the recent fires, is more dense. Montini boasts ample patches of trees, typically oaks. But it also boasts numerous pocket prairies that provide openings for far seeing vistas. Sonoma, Sonoma Valley, San Pablo Bay and beyond can be spied on clear days.
We spent a bit of time building up rock cairns at the Red Quarry site. Such a pastime seems to have been popular with other trail users in the past as well.
As we try to do more frequent trails outings closer to home we'll make sure to keep Montini in mind.
Overcast day, but surprisingly clear views
Sonoma Overlook Trail
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Distance: 2.72 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Coppertone and I chose Sonoma Overlook this weekend. The overcast weather would seem to indicate that the Overlook part of Sonoma Overlook would be somewhat wasted today given the grey skies. But we were looking to get some hiking miles in today even if we failed to be able to see much beyond an arm's length.
Knowing this trail is not terribly long we went light today and did not bother packing our normal backpacks with water bladders. We hope that having some nearby quick hikes that we can hit without much fuss and without taking much of a day would encourage us to get out more often.
We luckily snagged the last open parking space at the main trailhead and started our way uphill. Given the full parking spots there was a fair number of people on the trail but all were spread out enough such that there were ample moments of solitude and quiet to be had along the way.
We've had an early "spring" this year and some flowering plants seem to be blooming earlier than normal. We spotted what we think is the first blooming lupine of the year for us. They always remind Penny of Bluebonnets from back in Texas.
The views from the Overlook were surprisingly good given the greyness of the day. One could clearly see across the city of Sonoma and across the valley. Furthermore, one could even make out some of the skyscapers of San Francisco far to the south.
We scrambled back down to the car, went to the grocery store and did other chores for the day. Hopefully we've started to internalize that not all hikes need be outings that dominate an entire day and thus much of a weekend. In doing so we may end up hiking more.
First time back since the 2017 fires
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Distance: 2.65 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Coppertone and I wanted a nearby hike that wouldn't eat up too much of our day today. We were also curious about what the park looked like since the 2017 fires swept through the area.
The weather today was fantastic with a slight chill in the shade and warmth in the full Sun.
We opted for a hike comprised of the Grape Stomp, Top and Angels Flight Trails that loops around Benicia Lake near the highpoint of the park. The small lake feeds into Arroyo Seco Creek, which was still flowing fairly well. Fording it was not a problem.
There's no doubt that fire has played a major role here in the not too distant past. However, it's comforting to see that even those areas that were obviously burned there is a great deal of vegetation that has grown back. Large trees with singed ebony trunks nevertheless sprout green foliage high up in the canopy. This wasn't the first time fire has come through here and it won't be the last.
The Bartholomew Winery and the nearby Buena Vista Winery were both spared destruction by the narrowest of margins. On the way down the mountain along the Angel's Flight Trail we saw evidence of the hard work put in by first responders in the form of a fire break that cut across the trail.
By the time we got back to our car near noon the practically empty parking lot was full, so we were happy we didn't wait too long before heading out today. We had purchsed quite a few bottles of wine in the last few weeks so we opted not to stop by the winery this time around.
Lynch Road, Middle Valley and Ken Poerner Trails Loop
Lynch Canyon Open Space
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Distance: 4.02 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes
First hike of the year for us. I wanted to get a hike in since the weather was nice, even if it had rained a bit the previous night. Lynch Canyon was one of the nearest large parks we hadn't yet visited, so it was the winner.
There is ample parking at the trailhead and a restroom. We elected to do a counterclockwise loop through most of the park than consisted of the Lynch Road, Middle Valley and Ken Poerner Trails. This was expected to yield a bit less than four miles.
It's hard not to notice the cows congregating near the trailhead. We're not sure why so many seem to loiter here, but they serve as a reminder that the area continues to function as a cattle ranch. You're likely to see many more on the trails in the park. Some of them can be spotted high up on the steep hills in the park. We joked about the cows mistaking themselves for mountain goats but they probably were able to snag some of the choicest tufts of grass up there.
Not too many people on the trail today and many of those who were had horses underneath them. The horses didn't seem to mind the muddy conditions at all.
Through about the first mile or mile and a half Lynch Road and Middle Valley Trail surfaces were graveled jeep trail, so the recent rain had no effect on our hiking at all. I didn't think this would last, but it was nice surprise.
About half way through the Middle Valley Trail the path turned to an ungraveled dirt path. Given the recent rains the trail turned to mud at this point. Mostly the mud was firm, so your feet didn't get sucked into it but we definately got some mud caked soles. The soft dirt path faithfully records the hoof imprints of both cow and horse. This increases the difficulty of the hike a bit as one has to mind his or her step a bit to avoid twisting an ankle.
Hawks of various types love the area and we stopped to watch them hunting numerous times on our visit. They often swooped close to the ground along the steep slopes of the hills looking for prey. However, we failed to see one successfully snag a lunch. If you like to birdwatch, take your binoculars. You'll have plenty of opportunities to spy on them.
We spent a few minutes back at the trailhead with some branches to try and scrape off as much of the mud from our boots as possible. Our footwear sits on our front porch at this time with a few remaining souvenirs of our visit until we can point a hose at them. We'll probably save a repeat visit for the remaining trails a bit later in the year to give the mud a chance to dry out a bit, but not too late though. We'd like to see the hills as green as possible.
Valley of the Moon Trail stroll
Sonoma Valley Regional Park
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Distance: 2.70 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Coppertone and I took a leisurely stroll through the park along the paved Valley of the Moon Trail. Her ankle was a bit sore and we did not want to risk any uneven or rocky paths. We also did not want to waste a day of beautiful weather by not being outside.
An art walk of book illustrations was placed near the trailhead. We had seen a similar one when we last hiked at Coverdale River Park. The topic of this installation was woodpeckers. Whoever chose this location to place the art walk chose well. We indeed heard and saw a lot of woodpeckers along the trail. We can't be sure whether the woodpeckers like it here so much because of the terrain itself or whether the health of the trees given the ongoing drought and 2017 fire that ravaged part of the park also plays a role. Whatever it is, this park is a must visit if you want to observe woodpeckers in action.
Woodpeckers weren't the only birds to be found along the trail. One couple who we passed by twice brought their own. A medium-sized parrot rested on the lady's hand much of the time. When passing by other people she cradled it with her other hand as though to make it feel more secure and ensure it wouldn't try to fly away. There appeared to be a harness tied to its leg to keep it from getting very far. It was the first time I'd seen that type of visitor on the trail.
The grasses and trees all seem to be screaming for rain, which hopefully will arrive in just a couple of days. We are all anxious for fire season to end.