Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A blissful day at Mount Burdell
Buckeyes along Middle Burdell Fire Road

I timed it right -- I'd never seen Mount Burdell so beautiful. Grass tall but still green, buckeyes in bloom, and wildflowers everywhere.

Back at home, I compared photos from this hike to previous years and was surprised to see that in this drought year, the grass at Burdell is far more lush than it has been in some "normal" rain years. Testament I suppose to the late and proportional amount of rain received in the north bay -- grassland is considerably drier everywhere else in the bay area.

In most parts of the preserve the grass is now towering over and obscuring smaller flowers. I didn't see some favorites from the past: no owl's clover, tidytips, nor creamcups. Broad leaf filaree was the dominant bloom, but poppies are coming on strong. Royal larkspur, Chinese houses, iris, buttercups, and even a few milkmaids were blooming in shaded spots. Next month might bring a new wave of beauties, including clarkias and mariposa lilies.

This was the first time I hiked at Burdell with a fitness tracker app on my iPhone. I now know Old Quarry Trail has some stretches that are at 25-27% grade! Old Quarry is a weird little trail, very unusual in our contemporary world of well-designed paths. It's old and straight and covered with ball-bearing-like stones and rocks and so crazy steep. I love it and I hope it never gets mothballed.

http://bahiker.com/northbayhikes/burdell.html
more photos: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bay-Area-Hiker/138877479476343

Monday, April 21, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week Thirty-four
Joseph D. Grant County Park

Up on the ridge at Grant, on Canada de Pala Trail

What it's like:
I think of this hike as a table -- straight up, across, then straight down. It's not really super steep, but you do need to be in decent physical shape to tackle this 7.4 mile loop on the high slopes of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose.

Why now:
Although a bit of rain is expected this week, the end of April usually spells the end of green grass in the bay area. Get hiking at Grant while the hills are still verdant; look for big patches of California poppy, blue-eyed grass, lupines, and many more wildflowers.

If you can't make it this week:
My cut-off date for Grant is mid-May. As the bay area temperatures soar this grassland bakes to a crisp and the park's cows make the trails very dusty. Grant is lovely in late winter, when the big old valley oaks stand leafless above tidy fresh green grass.

Insider tip:
If you are capable of stretching this hike a bit, instead of returning to the trailhead via Yerba Buena, continue across Mount Hamilton Road on Canada de Pala Trail, then take Hotel Trail back to the trailhead.

Grant is hike number 43 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
Happy birthday John Muir! The naturalist and conservationist spent more than 30 years at his ranch outside Martinez. On this his birthday week hike 2.3 miles at Mount Wanda on trails Muir strolled with his daughters, where colorful flowers bloom in grassland beneath graceful oaks.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New hikes


Here are the three latest:

















Stanford Dish


















Crockett Hills


More new hikes soon!

Monday, April 14, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week Thirty-three
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness

Rocky Ridge in spring

What it's like:
4.6 mile loop up and along a rolling rock-studded grassy ridge west of Danville.

Why now:
Las Trampas sings in spring -- lovely flowers and not too hot.

If you can't make it this week:
Too hot in summer, but autumn is pleasant. Avoid during the wettest months because trails get mucked up by the cows.

Insider tip:
Bollinger Creek divides Las Trampas into two different plant communities. If you prefer chaparral to grassland, explore the eastern part of the wilderness, on trails up and down Las Trampas Ridge.

Las Trampas is hike number 25 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
Crane Creek is a tiny oasis on the eastern outskirts of Rohnert Park. Lose yourself in a landscape of grassland, graceful oaks, and a burbling stream, on this easy 1.1 mile hike.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.

Monday, April 7, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week Thirty-two
Briones Regional Park

View of lovely hills from Old Briones Road Trail

What it's like:
4.3 miles up, over, and down glorious rolling grassy hills near Walnut Creek.

Why now:
Flower displays peak in April before grass towers over and obstructs big patches of California poppy, creamcups, and lupines.

If you can't make it this week:
Often really muddy in winter due to cattle traffic. Pleasant in autumn, especially the colorful foliage on Black Oak Trail.

Insider tip:
Briones is a large park with several staging areas, but Bear Creek provides the most parking as well as a few charming picnic sites (with grills and tables) near the trailhead.

Briones is hike number 22 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
Calero County Park trails lead uphill from the shore of their namesake reservoir, southwest of San Jose. This is a remote and often lonely place, where wildflowers are plentiful in spring (you may see some rare ones in the serpentine soil part of the park).  Spend a few hours exploring Calero on this 5.1 mile loop, or make a full day out of it by continuing deeper into the hills. Most trails here are old ranch roads with moderate grades -- check the park map for some ideas.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.

Monday, March 31, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week Thirty-one
Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Loop

Steep Ravine ladder

What it's like:
7.3 miles of pure hiking bliss, traveling through deep lush woods and verdant grassland on the west slope of Mount Tamalpais.

Why now:
It doesn't get better than now. With recent rains (and a bit more coming this week) the creeks and waterfalls are rushing and the grass is green. Look for wildflowers in the woods and grassland throughout the hike.

If you can't make it this week:
Not as much fun in the dry months -- try for April or May at the latest. This loop is very popular and crowded in the summer.

Insider tip:
You can start this hike at Stinson Beach or Pantoll and hike the loop in either direction. I prefer to start at Stinson and get the climbing done first, but parking is much easier at Pantoll. (The book uses Pantoll as the trailhead; BAHiker describes the Stinson option.) If you start at Pantoll consider packing light and stopping for lunch in Stinson.

Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Loop is hike number 8 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
El Sereno Open Space Preserve is a little known destination west of Los Gatos. Hikes here (like this 6 mile out and back) offer beautiful views -- enjoy flower spotting in the chaparral and grassland during spring.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.

Monday, March 24, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week 30
Mission Peak

Spotting scope at the top of Mission Peak
What it's like:
This is a serious, sustained climb to the top of Mission Peak, near Fremont. Although the out and back trek is less than 6 miles, it's the kind of hike you brag about the next day at work (then again, for a taste of humility, you will likely see people hiking here on their daily constitution or run).

Why now:
Get to the peak before the weather is hot!

If you can't make it this week:
Trails do get muddy during the rainy season (I once fell into a cow sinkhole on Horse Heaven Trail and nearly lost my boot) but views are generally best on clear winter days. My favorite time to visit is early spring; by June the grass is already dry and since there is little shade this becomes a hot hike.

Insider tip:
You can reduce the elevation challenge (but increase the total distance) by starting this hike at Ohlone College, where the elevation is more than 100 feet higher than at the at Stanford Avenue trailhead.  Read about the parking options for Ohlone here, and consult the EBRPD map to alter the hike I describe in my book and webpage.

Mission Peak is hike number 27 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
Sonoma County's Helen Putnam Regional Park is a small preserve on the outskirts of Petaluma. The trails here wind through lovely mixed woods and grassland. Hike this 3 mile gentle loop this month to enjoy spring wildflowers throughout.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.