Finally stopped by this roadside attraction
The Petrified Forest
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Distance: 1.00 Mile
Coppertone and I had passed by the Petrified Forest a couple of times in the past and always remarked we should visit someday. Recently, we say that the park was up for sale. Though the family that owns it appears to be looking for the "right" buyers, we have some concerns about how things might turn out. If nothing else, we had better get our visit in while we can!
We start off our hike near the combined ticket booth and gift shop. A very handy interpretive guide and trail map recommends a clockwise direction so we head left.
The trail surface will vary from packed dirt, gravel, pavement and "natural concrete". The natural concrete is actually exposed volcanic ash that has solidified. In general, the trail is easy to traverse with only a later paved segment providing a steep, but short, descent.
The guide's 21 markers provide insight into both petrified trees but also some currently living trees. The main draw for the park are the petrified samples and there are plenty here. Many of the trees felled here were ancestors of our modern day Redwoods so some of the long trunks are impressively large.
The Main Trail consists of a half mile loop. All but one of the stations from the guide are situated along it. The optional Meadow Trail adds another half mile (out and back) to the outing. The end of the Meadow Trail provides nice views of the petrified forest's culprit, nearby Mount St. Helena.
We overheard a couple discussing when the volcano last erupted. The husband indicated it last erupted in 1980. Obviously, he was confusing Mount St. Helena with Mount St. Helens in Washington. Imagine a catastrophic eruption in Napa Valley just a few decades ago!
After our enjoyable hike we stopped by the souvenir shop to buy a few things to remind us of our visit. We really hope that we won't look back on these items in the future with nostalgia about a long gone attraction.
Early, quick and easy
Sonoma Overlook Trail
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Distance: 2.84 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes
Coppertone and I wanted to get some hiking in this weekend. With temperatures expected to reach the upper 90's we decided to hike something nearby so we could get done quickly before the heat got too bad. Sonoma Overlook fit the bill.
A few other folks had the same idea, though the trail was not overly crowded. Visibility was pretty good, providing nice views over Sonoma and Sonoma Valley. And we finished up right as things were starting to get a bit uncomfortable weatherwise.
Fantastic new trail segment
Montini Open Space Preserve
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Distance: 1.87 Miles
Duration: 53 minutes
We had heard that there was a new trail segment at Montini which had just opened up, so we swung by there to check it out today. Technically, it's not an entirely new segment. An unofficial trail leading down from Two Goat Point to the Holstein Hill Trail had long been in use making a loop out of the officially one way Valley of the Moon Trail. Not only was it a rogue trail but it was steep in places and largely exposed, which would have been less than ideal on a hot day like today.
We started off at the Field of Dreams parking lot and headed up Spotted Fawn Trail. We turned left onto the Holstein Hill Trail and ran into a problem. A tree had fallen across the trail. Normally, not a big deal. But in this case a healthy poison oak vine found the top of the fallen tree trunk to be a great place to grow. So hopping over the tree was not so easy. We picked our way around the obstruction and continued on.
The right turn onto the new trail segment is not obvious. At least not yet. The signage at the intersection clearly marks the Holstein Hill Trail going roughly east-west. But it makes no mention of the clear trail headed roughly north. We turn in the hopes that things will become more clear later. Not too long afterwards we see a sign indicating a right turn instead of what would have been a continuation of the old rogue trail. We found it.
The new trail segment snakes its way uphill, mostly through a line of oaks. The rapidly rising temperatures become far more bearable when in the shade. This new segment is not just sanctioned, it is clearly superior to what was here before. We're not sure what the new trail segment should be called, so we just went with Valley of the Moon Trail name in our track file.
At Two Goat Point we turn right and head downhill along the long established Valley of the Moon Trail. We turned at the next junction with Spotted Fawn Trail and then headed back to our trailhead. Even though we were on the trails for less than 2 miles, we achieved our goals. We got the new trail segment mapped and we got out of the Sun before the temperatures were expected to rise to 100 degrees.
First, but not our last, visit to this preserve
Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve
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Distance: 2.74 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to take a day trip to Headldsburg. For our exercise part of the day we decided to explore this park north of town that we had not yet visited.
When we got near the trailhead we were a bit surprised to find a large group of people gathered and all of the nearby parking taken. Thankfully, there was plenty of other parking nearby and the group was finishing up their hike and quickly dispersed.
We started out by hiking along Nancy's Hill Trail on the northern end of the park. This is a good segment tackle first since it's the more exposed. Trail segments on the southern end of the park include much more tree cover.
We found the trails to be very well maintained and punctuated with overlooks containing wonderful views. Several of those spots included benches to allow for thoughtful lingering.
After Nancy's Hill Trail we made a loop by continuing to the Ridge Trail and finally the All-the-Oaks Trail leading us back to our starting point.
We were almost run off the trail at one point by a young boy barrelling downhill. Rather than controlling his speed through the use of a brake, he seemed to flail his feet around in an attempt to arrest his progress like Fred Flintstone. This was the closest we've ever come to being injured by a cyclist on a trail. He seemed completely oblivious to the danger he was presenting to others and ignorant of how to control his bike.
Despite our near miss with the cyclist, we thoroughly enjoyed our hike and plan to return to map out those trail segments we did not have time for this day. We celebrated our hike by going into Healdsburg and having a brisket BBQ lunch at Kinsmoke!
Hiking through the outer solar system
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
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Distance: 4.67 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 49 minutes
Coppertone and I joined our friend Richard for a hike along Sugarloaf's Planet Walk. The Robert Ferguson Observatory that served as our starting point also stands in for Earth in the Planet walk. Subsequent planetary markers on the trail are spaced proportionally to match their relative distances from the Sun. The Mars marker came up rather quickly. The outer planets' markers only come with more milage and some elevation gain.
The walk follows along the Meadow and Brushy Peaks Trails. Along this path we symbolically traversed the solar system all the way past Neptune. There is also a marker for Pluto farther ahead. But we'll stay out of the fierce debate concerning whether Pluto should be considered a planet or not.
Near our picnic bench turnaround point a small section of trail was cordoned off. The reason being a large beehive has been established in the hollow of an Oak tree. There was a constant stream of bees coming and going from the opening right onto the trail. A short and simple detour a little farther away from the tree still allowed access to the nearby picnic table.
Despite the number of people we encountered on the trail we had our picnic spot all to ourselves. After enjoying a rest and snacks we doubled back along the path we took back to our trailhead.