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?
Ritchey Canyon and Vineyard Trail
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
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Distance: 4.68 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 58 minutes
Coppertone and I made a repeat visit to the park to map some more trails, this time the Ritchey Canyon and Vineyard Trails. We were provided with great weather for our trip.
We spent a rather long period of time at the waypont we named "Eddy". Here between two small waterfalls was a small circular pond with floating leaves on the surface. The speedy flow of the upstream waterfall entered the pond at an angle, creating a lazy clockwise gyre. The slow, peaceful spectacle of the leaves swirling around was relaxing and we staid there transfixed both on the hike upstream and on our way back.
The Hitchcock Site was the second home of a doctor from San Francisco. The boarded up house, aptly named "Lonely", is no longer in use but the park seems to use the wooden building nearby for storage. A nice little rough stone water fountain adjacent to the house sits as dry as can be.
We turned around at the bridge near the junction of three trails (Ritchey Canyon, South Fork and Spring trails). The bridge fording the creek was unlike any we'd seen on trails before. A large metal arch resembling a cut out section of very wide diameter pipe with rocks and dirt piled on top.
On the way back to our trailhead we opted to map out the Vineyard Trail which moves away from the creek. Just a short distance from the creek the character of trail changes dramatically. The Sun blocking heavy tree cover disappears, replaced by Manzanita bushes and more scrubby oaks. The Sun beats down on us seemingly for the first time. The trail name comes from its short detour through private property, in this case one of the Schramsbery Winery vineyards. At certain places along the trail Coppertone and I could smell the must (crushed grape juice) from this or some other nearby winery.
Always be alert
China Camp State Park
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Distance: 4.24 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Coppertone and I returned to China Camp to map out more of the trails. We parked at Bullhead Flat, across the street from the ranger station. Our plan was to head west along Shoreline Trail and turning around at Miwok Meadows which was the easternmost extent of our previous trip.
Like our first trip to the park, hikers were far outnumbered by cyclists. The ratio today may have been 5 to 1. Every cyclist was friendly, so no problems of that nature were encountered. One or two did not adhere to slow down doctrine when passing by hikers. Thankfully they didn't catch a rock the wrong way and crash into us. If you really hate sharing the trail with cyclists, even when good natured, this park may be one to avoid.
We were hoping for a bit more of a bay breeze but our jackets got no use today. The temperatures were moderate enough but very little wind provided any cooling opportunities. Shoreline Trail is high enough off the shore that tree cover is fairly consistent. Views of the shore are more sporadic through breaks in the trees here and there.
Near our turnaround point at Miwok Meadows we crossed North San Pedro Road to do the loop around and over Chicken Coop Hill. On the far side of the loop a dead tree has crashed down on the trail, completely covering it. We picked our way around the obstruction at the tree's trunk without too much trouble.
What stopped our progress more, in terms of time, was a rafter (a.k.a. flock) of turkeys crossing the trail. The seven individuals were cautious of our presense but did not seem overly concerned provided we remain quiet and still. Obviously, these birds had not gotten the memo about this being Chicken Coop Hill. No mention of turkeys in the name!
We doubled back to the trailhead along the same trail. Coppertone noted that it seemed that every single cyclist we encountered was headed from west to east. Neither of us could really recall an exception to this rule. This meant our return leg meant less spinning our head around at the sound of an oncoming bike. We're not sure if this was pure coincidence or if there is an unwritten rule somewhere.
Because of chores and other responsibilities we had to attend to we did not complete Shoreline from the ranger station to the eastern boundary of the park. That will have to wait for some other time.
Vista Trail Loop
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
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Distance: 3.78 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Coppertone and I returned to map out the Vista Trail segment, which we had only partially hiked in the past. We did a counterclockwise loop using the Meadow-Gray Pine-Vista-Bald Mtn.-Lower Bald Mtn.-Meadow trail segments. In a nutshell, what this meant was stairs going up and sloped trails coming back down. If you prefer stairs on the descent you'll want to reverse the direction of what we did today.
Along Meadow Trail we stopped to look whether there were any Blackberries on the brambles along the trail. There were a few available for picking, but not as much as during our previous visit. While doing this we could hear a number of California Quail chirping to each other to alert the group about our presense. We could never manage to catch a glimpse of them in the thicket.
We spotted numerous harvester ant mounds along the trail though most had settled in their homes with the temperature rising.
The climb up Gray Pine Trail and the first half of Vista Trail is strenuous. The stairmaster workout took its toll on us and demonstrated that we have yet to get back into decent trail shape. At least the tree cover over these steep sections provided ample shade for us to stop and catch our breath.
After about halfway through Vista Trail the path flattens out somewhat as the path largely follows the contour of the hillside. The word Vista in Vista Trail also becomes apparent at this point. At the waypoint Vista View the scene is extraordinary. It's practically a 360 degree panorama over the southern half of the park. The Robert Ferguson Observatory, a vineyard on the opposite side of the canyon, numerous peaks, some still fire scarred, some still verdant. This would be a spectacular spot to stop for lunch and soak in the views.
We also stopped briefly at Indian Rock, a spot we had visited in a previous hike on our way up to Bald Mountain. It boasts a nice view as well, but the Vista View point takes the cake. It's pretty much all downhill back to the trailhead from this point on, which was a welcome respite for our tired legs.
In the end the trail length, elevation gain and expected time to finish were reported to a remarkable level of accuracy in the park's official map, which we recommend you purchasing. It provides a great level of detail for this park as well as adjacent Hood Mountain Regional Park that's not found on the free (and quite adequite) maps handed out when entering the park.