Couldn't complete loop around Lake Benoist
Riverfront Regional Park
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Distance: 2.40 Miles
Duration: 58 minutes
The first of two hikes today so that Coppertone and I could complete our 2019 Sonoma County Parks Trails Challenge. We were surprised to see park employees at the entrance. No concern for us since we have a yearly pass.
We start off from the trailhead and walk in the cool shade of the Redwood trees that cover the aptly named Redwood Hill. This straight shot parallels the shore of Lake Wilson and leads directly to Lake Benoist, the largest in the park.
Wen end up taking a right at the split in the trail and work our way counterclockwise. The shade of the Redwoods gives way to ample Sun exposure for a while though less impressive trees provide some relief from the Sun's rays. At times one can spot both the lake and the Russian River along the path. Numerous small spurs and occassionally parallel paths break off of the main trail.
Almost half way through the loop we encounter a barricade stating that the area is closed for restoration. We double back and take a split off the trail that looks quite official and come to another barrier that stops us in our tracks. The water level is such that there's no clear way to get across. It almost looks like part of the official trail has washed away though when water levels are lower another parallel trail below might be able to make it across. We see in the distance some folks who did not heed the plea to avoid trampling through the restoration area making their way around the cut to continue a loop. That's not us.
We turn around and make it an out and back trail. To try and make up for not competing the loop we cut take the Redwood Hill Trail back towards the parking area. This trail section is like the direct opposite of the main trail. It's steep, more muddy than dusty, shady to the point of being somewhat dark and a lot more fun. On top of that we didn't see another soul on this particular trail segment.
Sonoma County Trails Challenge Completed!
Cloverdale River Park
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Distance: 2.32 Miles
Duration: 52 minutes
Coppertone and I completed our 2019 Sonoma County Trails Challenge with this short hike. We had been here before and the parking in the official parking lot looked nicer than parking along the road at the southern end of the trail.
In the first quarter mile we enjoyed the temporary signage that discussed a children's book about rivers entitled I Know the River Loves Me. We had a bit of fun hopping like frogs, flapping our arms like butterflies and identifying things that did and did not belong in nature. Naturely, we saw no one else around when we did these things!
After the hike it was time to go home and fill our our trail log for the challenge.
Up East Ridge Trail to the best view in the park
Tolay Lake Regional Park
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Distance: 5.37 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 36 minutes
Coppertone and I knocked out our third trail in our 2019 Sonoma County Trails Challenge at Tolay Lake Regional Park. Two more to go!
We took the suggested route across the Causeway Trail and uphill on the East Ridge Trail. We were rewarded with spectacular views of a wide swath of San Pablo Bay and even into San Francisco Bay. The earlier clouds and fog were just beginning to clear so visibility was not ideal, but it was still impressive enough for me to consider this the best viewpoint in the park.
We started our day on the flat causeway walking along a dotted line of trees and being buzzed at high speed by acrobatic chimney swifts. Later in the day on the return leg of the hike they had settled down a bit as the temperatures rose.
To our left were some fenced in fields and a low drainage ditch paralleled the dividing fenceline heading away from us. We heard a rustle of grass and brush (more like a crash) and out of the grass emerges a cow. Closer examination showed there to be several additional cows in the low spot. The loud crash of vegetation and the unexpected emergence of large mammal called to mind a hike we had taken in Montana years ago. But unlike the Moose we saw in Glacier National Park the cow here presented no possible danger.
About 1 mile into the hike the flat terrain turns slighty upward. There are several gates that must be opened and closed along the path to keep the roaming cattle in their proper pastures. Unlike the cows we saw in the ditch the ones from this point on up are in the same fields as hikers. They generally clear a path and get well out of your way.
There's little tree cover on the trail, but as East Ridge Trail continues to climb it makes a turn and parallels and seasonal streambed. Here a line oaks, buckeyes and some others provide a brief respite from the Sun. The respite is short as the trail again breaks out into rolling open grassland for the final push.
We found a hiker already at the Three Bridges Vista Point. She had a blanket laid out and has obviously planned to soak in the vista for an extended period of time. We had a nice chat about the park and the things one can normally see to the south on clearer days.
As I said, the view is great but there are some unwelcome reminders we are not terribly far from cities. A high tension powerline can be see along the west ridge on the opposite side of the park. Sonoma Raceway provided near continuous racecar noise. In addition a nearby gun club has a shooting range which projects the sound of gunshots much farther than I would have expected.
Due to plans later in the day we didn't spend too much time admiring the view, so we doubled back down the trail to where we started.
An easy walk to check off another Trails Challenge entry
Spring Lake Regional Park
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Distance: 2.61 Miles
Duration: 53 minutes
Coppertone and I had been to this park before, but we're in the midst of the 2019 Sonoma County Trails Challenge (2 down, 3 to go) and wanted to knock off another easy trail prior to meeting some friends later in the day. We chose the easier Spring Lake Loop given our time constraints.
The weather was almost a little chilly due to the thick cloud cover, but a brisk walk kept things pleasant. The water park area said it was open but the temperature at that point in the day was still a bit too cold to encourage many patrons.
Don't expect to get any solitude, particularly along the heavily used Spring Lake Loop. Some of the non-paved paths farther from the lake provide a small taste of solitude.
First hike as part of the Sonoma County Trails Challenge
West County Regional Trail
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Distance: 5.01 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Coppertone and I logged our first hike as part of the 2019 Sonoma County Trails Challenge. Since she was still coming off of an illness and not quite up to 100% recovery we decided to chose an easy one to start off with.
We'd already done the southern half of this trail earlier this year, so it was a relief that the challenge recommended the northern half so we would not have to redo a trail we had visited not that long ago.
We started off in the parking lot on Front Street (Highway 116) and headed south. Technically, this is not part of the regional trail, but it meets up with it in about a quarter mile and there is much more parking here. At the official start of the trail off of Pajaro Lane there is only street parking and not much of it.
Being a rail trail, the West County Trail is mostly flat and easy going. From the start the path is mostly paved. About 2 miles down the road the path changed into something like gravel. It was still easy to traverse. Right near Green Valley Road before we turned around the path turns into a raised wooden walkway over a boggy area near the Gratan water treatment plant.
Bicyclists outnumbered walkers on this day due in part to a fund raising century ride (100 miles). The cyclists were sporadic and well spread out throughout our walk, so the trail must have been closer to the end of their route.
The days are getting hotter and the ample tree cover in here and there was a welcome relief from the Sun. Where the trees did not dominate the terrain it seemed blackberries did. Large mounds of blackberry bushes dotted the landscape, in some cases just starting to reach out into the path of the trail. Later this year there should be ample berries for picking up a mid-hike snack.
Vineyards dot the landscape throughout the hike. We spotted a couple of California Quail scurrying in through the high grass just on the edge of a one of them. A cute farmhouse right off the trail was selling fresh eggs on the honor system. Small producer Ektimo Wines has a small sign pointing to their tasting room a very short distance off the trail near the trail crossing of Ross Lane.