Austin Explorer's Logbook


Total Log Entries: 380 (Rank: 4th)  [List Them]  [Map Them]
Total Distance: 1,518.09 Miles (Rank: 4th)
Average Distance: 3.99 Miles

Average Rating: 3stars (3.06)
Average Difficulty: 2stars (2.29)
Average Solitude: 2point5stars (2.52)

Earliest Log Entry: 4/7/2001
Latest Log Entry: 12/31/2020

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



Some interesting ruins on the side of the trail. Appears to have been a shelter cut into the rock, featuring a wood stove in the back. [Skyline Wilderness Park]

Log Entries

Last hike of the year, mapping more trail segments
Jack London State Historic Park - 12/31/2020  [View Log Page]
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 5.93 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 7 minutes

Coppertone and I chose to revisit Jack London State Park to map out some more trail segments we had not yet visited.  We parked at the back of the Sonoma Developmental Center once again and hiked in through Orchard Road.  We were retracing some of the path we walked not too long ago but things went a bit more quickly since we didn't stop to find caches along the way.

Orchard Road ends at Camp Via, a summer camp previously used by SDC.  The buildings are dilapidated now, with the campers' shelters in particular falling apart.  The main building seems intact enough but all of this seems to be completely abandoned.  We're not sure what the state's plans are for it.

Once we got to Camp Via we walked some of the crisscrossed paths that go through Jack London's orchards.  Many of the trees here seem neglected and are barely holding on.  A few others seemed to have tapped into the fountain of youth.  The disparity is a bit strange.  Camp Via Trail and Orchard Trail mark an "X" through the orchard and each consists of gently sloping jeep trails and a bit of single track trails.  There is a nice little spot off of Orchard Trail that provides a nice view over the orchard and Camp Via.

We did find a couple of geocaches while we were in the area and made our way back to the car just doubling back along Orchard Road.

Mapping segments and finding caches
Jack London State Historic Park - 12/24/2020  [View Log Page]
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 4.59 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 31 minutes

Coppertone and I parked at the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) and hiked in the back way along Orchard Road.  This allowed us quicker access to several trail segments around Fern Lake that we had not yet hiked and mapped.  There was plenty of parking at the state facility, which is in the process of being decommissioned.

Orchard Road is a paved road and hardly constitutes a true hiking experience.  However, it is closed to all traffic with the exception of some employees.  So it provides an easy path into Jack London State Park.  The road actually ends at Camp Via which technically remains part of SDC and is completely enclosed by the park.

Along Orchard Road is Eldridge Cemetery.  SDC patients (previously SDC was known as The California Home for the Care and Training of Feebleminded Children) and 2 employees were buried between 1892 and 1939.  Headstones were removed in 1964 to protect the privacy of the families so all of the graves appear unmarked now.

We took a right onto Bay Trail to start a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Fern Lake.  Fern Lake Trail and Inner Fern Lake Trail were used to complete the loop.  Fern Lake seemed bigger than I was expecting.  I was also a bit surprised by the number of ducks and other waterfowl in the lake.   While hiking near the lake there was a near constant cacophony of duck squabbling or flights initiated or terminated in the water.  Lots of reeds and plants along the lake shore provides ample cover for the birds.

The trail segments around the lake were single track packed dirt trails.  "Real" hiking, if you like.  One section, which corresponded with the lowest elevation above the lake were a bit overgrown and the surface moist, despite the dry winter thus far.  During times of heavy rain this route may not be pleasant, if at all possible.  We also say a bit of poison oak, so be careful out there.

Part of the decision on where to hike also hinged on how many geocaches we would be able to find while we hiked.  In the end we snagged 8 new caches.  I also had the leasure of picking up a tick in the process, but hopefully got it removed before it could do any damage.

Knowing about the back entrance to the park means mapping out additional segments around the historic orchard area should be in our plans in 2021.

Geocaching and hiking
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge - 12/6/2020  [View Log Page]
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 3.16 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 42 minutes

We hiked along the Sonoma Baylands Trail this time around primarily for the geocaches.  There are a string of them about every 1/10th of a mile of so along the route.  In the end we logged nine caches in less than two hours.  This might represent the most we'd found in a single day ever.

Unlike our aborted trip here a couple of weeks ago when the winds were howling we had pleasant temperatures and calm air.  This trail segment in the refuge sees fewer people than some of the others so we were able to cache without having to worry too much about giving away cache locations to "muggles".

We spotted a large flock of California Quail on the trail ahead of us but they disappeared into the brush before we could get a better look at them.  They did not reappear after we passed by, which is unfortunate.  In a previous visit we spotted a hawk's nest on top of one of the high tension power line towers that crosses the trail.  It's still there and appeared to still be in use as two birds perched just above it.

A few spots along the trail were blackened by what appeared to be controlled burns.  The burned areas more clearly showed the trash that people had disposed of in the past, now primarily glass bottles and cans.  We need to make a habit out of bring a bag to pack out a bit of trash whenever we go hiking.  Every little bit would help.

Hiking and caching, mostly with solitude
Tolay Lake Regional Park - 11/29/2020  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
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 - 11/1/2020  [View Log Page]
Rating: 1star Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: N/A

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.