Austin Explorer's Logbook


Total Log Entries: 329 (Rank: 3rd) [List Them] [Map Them]
Total Distance: 1,310.92 Miles (Rank: 4th)
Average Distance: 3.98 Miles

Average Rating: (3.04)
Average Difficulty: (2.23)
Average Solitude: (2.51)

Earliest Log Entry: 4/7/2001
Latest Log Entry: 3/18/2018

Average ratings are based on the published values and not the values entered in your own log entries.


Moss Covered Rock

Moss covered plenty of rock and trees, like these along the Sonoma Ridge Trail [Jack London State Historic Park]

Log Entries

A bit of everything
Howarth Park - 3/18/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.06 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Coppertone and I were looking for something not too long or difficult today.  We had hiked at the adjacent Spring Lake Regional Park in the past but had never crossed the boundary into this park so we figured we'd give it a shot.

Howarth is one of those parks that seems to have something for everyone.  In addition to trails there are playfields, playscapes and even a miniature train.  The hiking is not a destination activity for those who live far away, but there is a surprising variety of terrain from completely flat paved surfaces to rocky hard packed dirt with a little bit of elevation gain.

You won't find a lot of solitude here, particularly on the easier trails near the center of activity in the park.  But as is typical, the farther away from a trailhead you venture the smaller the number of people you'll encounter.

The Spur 6 Trail had piles of rough rocks that resembled those we've seen in quarries elsewhere.  I need to do some research to see whether or not that was the case here.

When hiking down the Eagle Scout Trail on the north shore of Lake Ralphine we were able to see a young boy catch his first fish along the shore.  Unfortunately, the fish got loose right at the edge of the lake and got away, much to the young angler's disgust.  He threw his pole down and mother and and father were trying to encourage him and keep him motivated.

Sears Point out and back
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge - 3/11/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.71 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 53 minutes

For our second visit to San Pablo Bay NWR Coppertone and I headed to the flat and straight Sear Point area to hike along a section of trail that was relatively recently opened to the public.  Termed the "Eliot Trail" on some maps produced by the refuge the path we chose today sat atop a levee that paralleled the railroad tracks that run through the area.  To the north some fields continue to worked but mostly for hay production these days I believe.

To the south are the wetlands that have been recreated on what used to be acres of productive farmland.  Now water, marshes and small dots of dry land sprinkled about provide shelter and feeding grounds for a large number of birds, the wildlife refuge's main customer.  From a hiking standpoint there's nothing here that's particularly gripping.  The trail is very flat and straight.  There are a few views of far off mountains such as Mount Tam and Mount Diablo is the weather permits.  But the reason for the refuge to begin with and the added interest for hiking here are the birds.

We're not birders by nature but we spotted Seagulls, Canada Geese, Egrets, Hawks, Red Wing Blackbirds, Plovers, Ducks, Terns.  The list would be longer if we had enough knowledge to differentiate the ducks and others from each other.  Suffice to say, if you like birding, you'll like hiking here.

Despite there being numerous signs indicating that dogs are not allowed on the unpaved trails in the refuge, about half of the people we encountered had dogs. One dog in particular had gotten quite muddy and wet by launching itself into the shallow muddy flats reconstructed to serve as shore bird habitat, not a doggy playground.  I'm sure the refuge personnel are stretched given current funding issues, but some enforcement of the rules is called for here.

Bill and Dave's Blister Buster
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park - 2/17/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Coppertone and I went on another Bill and Dave's led hike.  We had to turn around after a couple of miles because Coppertone's blisters from a previous hike has opened up and the 3M tape she had applied was no longer working in her favor.  We had to cut things short but proceeded to the nearest REI to buy some different shoes for her since the hiking boots she has really give her issues on steep terrain.  There was plenty of that here.

Getting there was half the fun?
Oat Hill Mine Trail - 2/11/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 8.01 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 43 minutes

After completing the first half of the trail on the Calistoga side of the mountain Coppertone and I were eager to see what the eastern half of this trail had to offer.  The drive to the trailhead was an adventure all its own.  It's about a 1.5 hour drive from Sonoma Valley but the real adventure is the last few miles that take place on a single lane dirt road headed up the mountain.  I'm not entirely sure what we would do if we encountered a vehicle headed in the opposite direction but thankfully that did not occur.

As you would expect on the Oat Hill Mine Trail, the surface is very rocky.  However, to get to the pass that marks the halfway point there is far less elevation gain.  There's a bit of up and downs but 400 feet of elevation difference is less challenging than the west segments almost 2000 feet.

The solitude is far higher here on the eastern half of the trail.  In almost 4 hours of trail time we came across only two other people.  The canyons opening up into sparsely populated Pope Canyon meant quiet solitude for the entirety of the hike.

A surprise birthday party later in the day required us to push the pace a bit to make it back home in time.  It would have been nice to have a bit more time to take in the views, which were spectacular.

Second time's the charm
Oat Hill Mine Trail - 1/28/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 10.11 Miles Duration: 5 hours, 59 minutes

During our first attempt at this trail we had to turn back earlier than expected due to some unexpected heat and blisters on Coppertone's feet.  This time around we tackled the trail a bit earlier in the year and had some extra tape for Coppertone's heels, just in case.

We didn't bite off more than we could chew, but we probably still bit off more than we should have at this point.  For a number of reasons we were a bit out of trail shape and a 10 mile hike might not have been the best choice.  But we were determined to get from the trailhead along Highway 29 to the Holms Place junction.  We would not be denied!

There was a great deal of maintenance on the trail that has recently been done.  A large number of tree limbs and even entire trees that had been trimmed back from the trail.  In some cases the limbs and brush was piled up along the trail's edge.

We saw a number of crows and turkey vultures from the trail and even a single woodpecker in a tree.  But strangely, we don't recall seeing, or hearing, any other birds during the entire hike.  Once we came to realize this it was a bit spooky.  We were never able to really come up with an explanation for it.