Monday, August 3, 2015

Leveling up

Hazelnut Trail at San Pedro Valley Park
When my son was just a few weeks old, he visited San Pedro Valley Park for the first time, snuggled in an infant carrier. As he grew, we'd venture up and down the Valley View Loop -- often I'd have to carry him back to car, but his stamina increased rapidly. By 4, he was able to complete the Waterfall Loop with minimum candy bribes. Now, at 9, we've moved up to a new loop, Hazelnut.

This nearly 5 mile loop is a winner in every way. It offers outstanding opportunities to see wildlife, well-graded trails, pretty views, and a variety of vegetation. I've come to prefer climbing via the switchback side of the trail (reached via Weiler Ranch Road) and descending to end at Plaskon Nature Trail, just steps from the parking lot. This route works well on hot summer days, since there is some shade along the switchbacks and if you an early start you get the climbing done in the coolest part of the day.
Huckleberry on Hazelnut Trail -- look for ripe berries in August

The trail is aptly named -- hazelnut shrubs grown in thick hedge-like shrubs along the 3.7 miles. Huckleberry, blackberry, and thimbleberry are also common, offering tasty treats to hikers as well as resident coyotes and birds. The coastal scrub plant community, including manzanita, ceanothus, silktassel, coffeeberry, toyon, and chamise, provides interesting flowers and berries throughout the year. Most of the San Pedro trails are not great for wildflowers, but Hazelnut Trail is the exception, and is best path in the park for blossoms from late winter through summer.

On our recent hike, we tiptoed past deer browsing along Weiler Ranch Road, ran off several brush rabbits, and watched alligator lizards scampering across the trail. Our constant conversation probably kept any bigger creatures at a distance. I've seen bobcats twice at San Pedro, coyotes use the trails (look for their fruit-studded scat), and mountain lions are sometimes spotted.

I'm already looking ahead to the longest, hardest hike at San Pedro, the 7 mile out and back expedition to the top of Montara Mountain. With over 1600 feet in elevation gain, we're not there yet, but soon!


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