Austin Explorer's Logbook

Stats

Total Log Entries: 326 (Rank: 3rd) [List Them] [Map Them]
Total Distance: 1,297.65 Miles (Rank: 4th)
Average Distance: 3.98 Miles

Average Rating: (3.05)
Average Difficulty: (2.23)
Average Solitude: (2.51)

Earliest Log Entry: 4/7/2001
Latest Log Entry: 2/11/2018

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

Photos

Austin Explorer on the trail

Here I am on the trail leading up to Otokomi Lake. Once again we were beset with smoke-filled skies, but at least we had trails to hike! [Otokomi Lake]

Log Entries

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.

Guided Fire Ecology Hike
Sonoma Valley Regional Park - 1/14/2018  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.43 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Coppertone and I went on a guided hike with the Sonoma Ecology Center to illustrate the area's ability to recover from the recent wildfires that ravaged the area.  Technically, the hike was in the Sonoma Developmental Center property but it's adjacent to Sonoma Valley Regional Park and many hikes there include a visit to Lake Suttenfield here.  Many locals also consider the undeveloped acres of the SDC part of the park anyway.

We found grass fields with verdant green abundant new growth.  Even trees and bushes with blackened trunks have started to show bud breaks for new leaves.  Still, there were dark black or whitish ash patches where the fire burned hotter and regrowth has not yet been able to establish itself.  In some cases trees that had previously fallen and burned on the ground left marks that reminded me of body outlines at a crime scene.

Overall, the area showed more improvement at this point than we were expecting.  We left feeling a bit better about the valley's ability to recover.  This wasn't the first fire to come through the area and it won't be the last.  In time it will look as beautiful as when we first saw it.

Small rough park on the western edge of Napa
Westwood Hills Park - 12/31/2017  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.63 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Coppertone and I decided to hike today instead of tomorrow because Jan. 1 is for college football.  Last week we hiked at nearby Alston Park and this was our backup at that time.  When arriving at the parking area we were a bit surprised to find the parking lot full and lines of cars parked along Browns Valley Road on both sides of the road.  The park just isn't that big, but it seems to have drawn quite a crowd on this day.

According to signs posted near the entrances, a mountain lion has been spotted in the park.  Despite Coppertone wanting to catch a glimpse of a "kitty", we spied only birds and the dogs accompanying visitors.

We hiked up the main path to the summit and then picked off the park's perimeter along its property lines.  There remain a number of additional trails within that circle to be mapped and explored.

This park turned out to be much rougher than expected, particularly the trails other than the main thoroughfare that leads the majority of people to the park summit.  The main trail is a difficulty level of 3, which is what I rated this hike.  A few segments here could earn a difficulty rating of 4 due to steepness.

We were a bit surprised to find a small burn area not far from the trailhead in the Eucalyptus grove behind the house close to the trailhead.  Though it may have occured around the same time as the devastating North Bay fires in October, it doesn't really look like it was part of the larger named fires around the area.

Fitness Walk
Nathanson Creek Preserve - 12/28/2017  [View Log Page]
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: 37 minutes

Just a walk along the trail and in the surrounding area to get some mileage in rather than sitting at a desk all day.  Weather was warmer than normal for this time of year.