Sunday, September 28, 2014

Yearning for a horse at Point Reyes

Bayview Trail

I hauled my husband and son with me on a Point Reyes hike Saturday, but in the end they were the ones who pushed me up the last hill.

We started at Sky Trailhead, always one of my favorite Point Reyes staging areas. At 9:20 the small lot was full, so we parked on the side of the road and began on Bayview Trail. Although the narrow path runs along Limantour Road initially, traffic was light and thick vegetation screens views of the pavement. Within minutes we came across a yearling buck munching at the side of the trail. He was nonplussed at our presence, but when we came within 10 feet he daintily stepped into the woods.
A massive Douglas fir along Laguna Trail

At 0.7 mile we turned onto Laguna Trail. This path descends steadily, mostly through the shade of a young forest -- this area burned in the 1995 Vision fire, but other than an occasional charred trunk on the very old Douglas firs, it's hard to see the scars. Some sections of Laguna permit views to the northwest, and in those clear areas California coffeeberry shrubs were heavy with fruit. All along the length of the trail numerous coyote scats were studded with coffeeberry seeds. The downhill grade steepened for about 1/2 mile, but as we stepped out into a damp meadow near the Clem Miller Education Center we enjoyed a nearly flat interlude. After passing through woods graced with gnarled buckeyes, we reached a junction near the Laguna Trailhead.
Ceanothus tunnel on Fire Lane Trail

The next stretch of Laguna starts out easy but the grade stiffens as it cuts through coastal scrub. A group of backpackers cruised past us, likely on the way to Coast Camp. About 3 miles into our hike, at the junction with Fire Lane Trail, we were feeling fine. Within minutes I was cursing the trail, and me for suggesting it. At a grade hovering around 14 percent, the first 1/2 mile is nasty. Horses have worn a deep grove into the path in many places of Fire Lane Trail -- by the end of the trail I was wishing a horse would have carried my cranky butt too. When we weren't panting for breath, we enjoyed the trail, which alternates between level segments through coastal scrub and steeper climbs through woods. Ceanothus is very common -- in spring their intoxicating aroma draws bees to purple-blue blossoms. Woodrat nests are constructed near California bays along the trail. I learned recently that the woodrats use bay leaves to help keep their nests pest free.

Fire Lane Trail
We hiked up (and much to our dismay, sometimes down, followed by more up) the trail. My husband sang songs from Monty Python's Holy Grail to keep our spirits up. Fire Lane's last 1/2 mile is a butt-kicker, with grades on some short stretches exceeding 30 percent. As we climbed higher green grass lined the trail -- lots of fog moisture keeps these woods hydrated! Finally, at 4.7 miles and 1,100 feet, we burst through a covey of quail and reached the end of Fire Lane Trail. The remaining mile was downhill on wide Sky Trail. I first hiked Sky in 2000, when the skeletal remains of burned trees afforded great views north, but no more. The new forest blocks views.

Totals for this hike: 5.7 miles with 1,312 feet of elevation change (according to Strava).


Susan Alcorn said...

"I learned recently that the woodrats use bay leaves to help keep their nests pest free." Thanks for teaching me something today--fascinating!

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