Hiking and caching, mostly with solitude
Tolay Lake Regional Park
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Distance: 6.73 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 44 minutes
Coppertone and I picked Tolay Lake for today's hike based on wide trails (for proper social distancing), gently rolling terrain (she's coming off of some knee pain in the past), unmapped trail segments and a few geocaches (which we had picked up again after several years).
Though the parking area was fairly packed, the trail segments we chose turned out to be the least used in the park that day. We chose well. Our route included the Historic Lakeville Road Trail, Farm Bridge Trail, Pond Trail and Upland Pond Trail. On the way back to the car we used the Causeway Trail, which was much more crowded. I suspect most park visitors were headed up for the Three Bridges Vista Point, the highest point in the park.
The drought year was in evidence by the dry, cracked trail surface on some sections of trail. This was most prevalent on the Farm Bridge Trail and lower sections of the Pond Trail. Careful attention had to be paid to foot placement to ensure no twisted ankles or re-injured knees would result.
Generally, trail segments are easy to follow and well marked. The one exception was the Upland Pond Trail loop adjacent to Vista Pond. We ended up on a cow path leading down to Vista Pond. It was better defined than the official trail. We scrambled up a steep slope to get back on the correct, though more subtle, path. A bunch of cows were congregating around the pond and gave us the evil eye before we figured out we had gone astray.
We also spotted a few horses on the trail. One was riderless. No, the animal was not roaming free. Instead, the sadleless horse went for a walk with its owner, who led it by the reins. We suspect it may have been recovering from an injury.
We found all three geocaches that lined the paths we hiked. We found out what the aptly named Stinging Nettle looks and feels like on the third cache.
The 6.73 miles was the most we'd hiked in a day since the pandemic hit. It felt good to get outdoors again.
Not a trail to visit at the moment
Nathanson Creek Preserve
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Distance: 2.00 Miles
Coppertone and I went to investigate the fencing we saw around the area and found that the planned football stadium is under construction. Lots of equipment and fencing all over the place and the wide open fields are all torn up. I fear the stadium will block the views of the mountains that you can see from one of the photos I took along the trail in the past.
Three for one hike around Sonoma
Montini Open Space Preserve
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Distance: 2.54 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Coppertone and I wanted an easy stroll around town today since the air had finally cleared of smoke from the wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties. We made a circular route from Sonoma Overlook to Montini Preserve to the Sonoma Bike Path. Since most of the distance was spent in Montini that's where I'll log this effort.
We parked at the Sonoma Overlook parking area and started uphill. Because we wanted to take it easy today we did not go all of the way to the top of the overlook. Instead, we turned on the Cutoff Trail that crosses Norbom Road and into the Montini Open Space Preserve. We used Rattlesnake Trail, Spotted Fawn Trail and Holstein Trail to traverse the preserve.
Of course, we stopped by the old quarry along the way and stacked up some more loose rocks into cairns to join the many others already erected by others. The views over Sonoma from the Holstein Trail were not crystal clear but they must have been MUCH better than what would have awaited us just a couple of days earlier due to smoke.
When we go to the entrance of Montini at 4th Street West we elected not to dump out on the road but walk along the well trodden path that parallels it before intersecting with the Sonoma Bike Path. We walked along this paved hike and bike trail, stopping at the Vallejo Home State Historical site to check out the measures being taken to try and protect the small vineyard planted there. Fencing, streamers, scarecrows and a hawk kite were all being used. In the past some harvests were completely lost to ground squirrels as well and we could still see evidence of them around. We could see grapes on the vines though, so perhaps there's hope.
We hoped off of the bike path at First Street West and walked north to get back to the Sonoma Overlook parking area. We stopped briefly at the Sonoma Veterans' Cemetery to visit the fresh grave of friend Jim Hill who passed away just weeks ago.
It was the first time hiking in way too long. Scheduling and things like fires keep getting in the way. We need to work on what we can to remove those impediments.
Another visit to Tubbs Island
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
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Distance: 6.21 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 39 minutes
Coppertone and I wanted to hike a flat trail close to the bay since we had not been on the trails in quite some time. It also seemed that we'd have plenty of space to spread out from any other people we might encounter on the trail in this time of COVID-19.
We saw a hawk of some unknown variety flying back and forth high overhead in the distance. Coppertone thought it was carrying something and indeed she was right. As we got closer it was clutching either a fish or rodent in its talons. We're not sure what the purpose of carrying its prey back and forth was other than perhaps scaring it to death before eating.
We knew that the trail here is not the most picturesque, but we had somewhat forgotten how much of an abandoned industrial zone it resembles with the aggregate rock berm that blocks the view of the marshes for much of the trail's length. Yes, you can scale the short obstacle to have a peak at any wildlife that might be there. But the trail overall would be far superior if it were on top of the berm instead of beside it.
First time here
Muir Woods National Monument
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Distance: 7.24 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 53 minutes
Coppertone and I have lived in the Bay Area for years now, but have never managed to make it out to Muir Woods for a hike. The fear of large crowds always had us putting off a visit. COVID-19 provided a window of opportunity because the park was further limiting visitors in an effort to ensure people on the trails were able to maintain proper social distancing. We also had the Monday after the 4th off from work, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We purchased our reservation ahead of time and snagged a parking spot not too far from the entrance gate.
We started off down the main path, Redwood Creek Trail along the east bank of the creek of the same name. Much of the trail is well maintained boardwalk, which prevents damage to the Redwoods root structure which generally does not run as deep as you would expect of it given their height. Numerous informative kiosks along the way tell some of the history of the park and the old growth trees the park is meant to protect.
When Redwood Creek Trail ended and crossed the creek we took Hillside Trail south, climbing high above the creekbed. The trail is rougher single track here. It eventually descends and joins up with the Bohemian Grove Trail, an easy path that parallels the creek like its sibling Redwood Creek Trail on the other side. A couple of bridges join the two together to allow visitors to make small loops of their own choosing though some of the bridges were either closed or limited to one way traffic to encourage social distancing.
After crossing the creek not terribly far from the visitor center we went back up Redwood Creek Trail to tackle the tougher Canopy View Trail and make a loop out of it, Lost Trail and Fern Creek Trail. After getting back down to Redwood Creek Trail we felt we had done enough for the day and headed to car and home.
Though we had never been here before, we suspect that the number of people here was far less than normal. Mostly, that allowed for ample space to give everyone safe distance. A couple of the paths were even converted to one way trails cut down on the possibility of congestion. For the most part, people did the right thing and most had masks on. But of course, there are always exceptions. Along the Canopy View Trail a large family group, none of whom were wearing masks, was about to overtake us on the trail. We found a wide section of trail in which it was possible for all of them to pass on the lower segment several feet from us. Two young boys dashed in front of the rest of the group right at us. I called out to them and asked they keep their distance if they were unmasked. To their credit, they did. The parents and the rest of the group passed right by and didn't say a work. This is why we cannot have nice things.
We'd love to come back some day when fear of getting too close to others on the trail is not an issue. But we loved being able to enjoy much of the trails with very few people. I think we'll take advantage of the reservation system and choose days in the middle of the week during non-vacation parts of the calendar on our next trip. When might that be? Who knows?