Sunday, April 21st Winehike: Goodspeed Trail to Gunsight Rock

7 strenuous miles, 1900′ elevation gain, Spring wildflowers + Sonoma Valley wine tasting

Along the Goodspeed Trail in April, the ephemeral Golden Fairy Lantern may just leave the light on for us.

Along the Goodspeed Trail in April, the ephemeral Golden Fairy Lantern may just leave the light on for us.

Meet: 9:00 a.m.
Hike: 9:15 a.m.
Duration: approximately 4–5 hours
How to confirm your attendance: Simply add a comment at the bottom of this post.*

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park & Hood Mountain Regional Park
2605 Adobe Canyon Road
Kenwood, CA
(707) 833-5712

THE HIKE
It’s been said by the locals that the trail to Gunsight Rock, high on the side of Hood Mountain, is one of Sonoma Valley’s premier hiking routes. Tough though the trail may be, if you’ve ever thought about hiking to the top of Mt. St. Helena in Napa County, the hike to Gunsight Rock outweighs the hike to Mt. St. Helena in almost any context, except one: the view from the summit of 2,730-foot Hood Mountain is a big disappointment. Manzanita and pine trees cover its wide, rounded top and, unless you feel like shinnying up a tall, sap-sticky pine after the impressive climb to the mountain’s summit, you just can’t see a danged thing from up there. (Though I tried, once.)

Fortunately Hood Mountain has Gunsight Rock located three hundred feet below its summit and a quarter mile away by trail. From this lofty vantage point, you can see just about everything in Sonoma Valley, plus the big mountains of Napa and Marin. Not only that, but Gunsight Rock’s bouldered outcrop is perched so dramatically on the slope of Hood Mountain that its steep drop-off makes the wide view even more impressive.

Peering down through the fog and the gunsight onto the wine country town of Kenwood.

Peering down through the fog and the Gunsight
onto the wine country town of Kenwood.

The real bonus, however, is simply in observing the trailside splendor on your way to Gunsight Rock; the floral diversity of the Goodspeed and Nattkemper trails is alone worth the hike. Redwoods, laurels, manzanitas, oaks, grasslands, wildflowers, serpentine rock, wildlife and vistas make this hike an absolute must-do adventure.

Of course, after surveying Sonoma Valley wine country from above, it’ll only be right to explore it from inside a wine glass! So, we’ll return downhill for a potluck picnic lunch and for tasty local wines (winery to be announced).

GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD
From U.S. 101 in Santa Rosa, take the Fairgrounds/Highway 12 exit. Highway 12 becomes Farmers Lane as it heads through downtown Santa Rosa. Continue on Highway 12 south for 11 miles to Adobe Canyon Road and turn left. (Or, from Highway 12 in Sonoma, drive 11 miles north to Adobe Canyon Road, then turn right.) Drive 2.2 miles to the small parking area on the left at a bridge over Sonoma Creek (it’s 1.3 miles before the entrance kiosk for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park).

CARPOOL
If you’re in the South Bay or on the peninsula, my current plan is to leave my house in Sunnyvale at 6:15 a.m. If there’s sufficient interest in this hike, I may later advise that we concentrate the most bodies into the fewest cars by meeting in Kenwood before heading to the trailhead due to its potentially limited availability (this parking area is a postage stamp!). If you’re attending, please leave a comment below if you wish to carpool from either location along this route. For those of you arriving from the East Bay or elsewhere, please contact others near you to arrange carpooling.

NOTES
Parking at Sugarloaf Ridge is typically $5 per vehicle at the entrance kiosk, but we won’t be going that far up the road. The small parking area by the bridge at Sonoma Creek is known to be fee-free. Drive time from San Jose may take 2-1/2 hours; from SF, perhaps 45-60 minutes less. Please allow adequate time to arrive by 9:00; our hike will begin promptly at 9:15. (Our early meet time is primarily to obtain parking at this tiny trailhead. Believe me, it’ll be very much worth rising early!) Dogs are not allowed on this hike.

The Golden Fairy Lantern, Calochortus amabilis, is also called Diogenes' Lantern.

The Golden Fairy Lantern (Calochortus amabilis)
is also known as Diogenes’ Lantern.

Be sure to bring plenty of snacks/lunch items and water for the trail. I highly recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes – even clothing – to change into after the hike. Please allow plenty of time to arrive, and watch for cyclists during your drive.

Also, wear sturdy shoes for this hike – we will hike over rough, technical terrain in places, and sections of muddy trail may present themselves.

The phone number above is for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

Meet 9:00 a.m., hike 9:15 sharp.  See you at the trailhead!

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Would you like to attend this hike?
If so, let me know you’re coming – simply reply in the Comments below.
Thanks!

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*Your comment on this post is your RSVP. Consider also checking the box labeled “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so that I can share my cell phone number with you a few days prior to this hike – just in case you need to contact me on your way to the trailhead.

This event is listed on my 2013 Schedule of Hikes.

~winehiker

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Trip report: Spring serenity at Briones Regional Park

From Briones Peak, a view to the north of cattle ponds and Carquinez Straits.

From Briones Peak, a view to the north
of cattle ponds and Carquinez Straits.

The day after a snowstorm, folks who ski tend to reference sunny, clear-blue skies as evidence of a bluebird day. If I can extend that term to include my hiking adventures, then I’ve recently enjoyed two bluebird days – one at Big Basin Redwoods back on February 24th, and the other this past Sunday at Briones Regional Park.

Quite fortuitously, each of these hikes had occasion to occur two days after moderate seasonal rainfall late in the week, each rain quickly giving way to clear weather and allowing adequate drainage and drying of the trail surface. By the time I’d arrived at their trailheads, the soils at each park had yielded a near-perfect tack, comfortable underfoot and presenting only minor incidence of loose footing in the shadowed low spots.

Red Maids (Calandrinia ciliata) were a common sight on the sunny saddle between Briones and Mott peaks.

Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliata, were a common sight on the sunny saddle between Briones and Mott peaks.

It had been another in a series of long weeks at work, and I first had to get past the frustrations of deciphering dense Engineerese and an all-too-tall pile of workload. A good night’s sleep and a few miles of road between my Sunnyvale home and the hills of Orinda seemed to carve away the vestiges of these vexations, but once I stepped out of my truck at Briones Park’s Bear Creek Trailhead, breathed the cool green hills, laced my boots and embraced a friend, all care quickly melted into a serene pace and welcome chatter.

Within a few steps, my week had suddenly and gratefully distilled into a decoction of carpe the damn bluebird diem.

We strode out on a counterclockwise loop, Angela and I, first walking a trail east along Bear Creek before angling right along Homestead Valley Trail. We encountered the softest earth along these lower flats which, though pocked with cow sign, were easily navigable, yet too laden with moisture to support wildflower displays. After perhaps a mile, our route took us left onto Briones Crest Trail and into hills rampant with coast live oak, yet studded here and there with madrone, bay laurel and, as we climbed higher to a junction with Table Top Trail, a scattering of surprisingly tall, quickly-growing buttercups.

Mt. Diablo glows in the morning haze.

Mt. Diablo glows in the morning haze.

Eventually we emerged from the trees onto an open ridge below Briones Peak and enjoyed our first glimpse of the surrounding countryside. Mt. Diablo shimmered beyond us to the east above the town of Walnut Creek, its twin peaks prominent on the morning skyline; to the west, we could easily recognize the unmistakable contours of Mt. Tamalpais.

We sauntered on, gaining Briones Peak, then continued northwest, following the crest of the ridge toward Mott Peak. The land undulated away to the north below us, offering a dazzling view of the Carquinez Straits, the Mayacamas Ridge in Sonoma County beyond and, just below us, the twin Sindicich lagoons.

Up until now we had generally followed the main trails, which had in large part been wide ranch road. But having seen that the trail we were on skirted the high point of the park, Mott Peak, I eschewed pretense and instead decided to follow a fenceline cow trail directly upslope to its summit. Mild protestations from Angela elicited a brief discussion of rhythmic breathing technique and, before we were scarcely aware of it, we were communing with the meadowlarks and ravens atop the peak, and hungrily unwrapping our sandwiches.

The Herrick Red from Conn Creek Winery: well-structured, fruit-forward, and absolutely delicious.

The Herrick Red from Conn Creek Winery: well-structured, fruit-forward, and absolutely delicious.

At 1,424 feet, the view from Mott Peak is nothing if not commanding, and so we sat and gazed awhile at the splendor surrounding us, gratefully chowing down and occasionally commanding sips from a bottle of Herrick Red from Conn Creek Winery, a classic yet affordable Bordeaux-style wine sourced and blended from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes grown in Napa Valley’s Rutherford district.

On such a comfortable, sun-warm day, it was easy to accept the notion that we should simply linger in the grass among the Red Maids, allow the gentle Bay breeze to caress us, and let our thoughts wander in unbroken reverie, but our feet eventually ruled the moment, given to notions of wandering themselves. And so we ambled downhill, back along Mott Peak Trail to Black Oak Trail which, though it descends sharply enough to wisely warrant a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the Briones Crest, quickly returned us to Old Briones Road and our cars.

If you’re going to Briones Regional Park

The wildflowers are just beginning to bloom, so now through mid-May is a great time to explore the magic of Briones Regional Park. The majority of the park’s over 6,000 acres of open space is unshaded and open to the elements, so be sure to wear sunscreen, even a wide-brimmed hat. The Briones Regional Park website a includes a downloadable trail map; parking at the Briones Park office and the Alhambra, Bear Creek, Lafayette Ridge and Reliez Valley staging areas is $3 and is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

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Have you hiked Briones Regional Park?
If so, did you see any wildflowers or enjoy the view from Mott Peak?

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~winehiker

Sunday, February 24th: Meteor Trail Loop Hike at Big Basin State Park

 

Remnants of logging activity linger many decades in Big Basin.

Sunday, February 24th: a moderate 6-mile loop w/ 400+ feet elev. gain

Meet: 10:30 a.m.
Hike: 10:45 a.m.
Approximate hike duration: 3-4 hours
How to attend: Click the Join button on this Facebook event* or reply in the Comments section of this post.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Visitors Center
21600 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, CA
(831) 338-8860

THE HIKE
Walking the Meteor Trail Loop is a fine way to wander among the giants at Big Basin Redwoods State Park without the crowds on the more popular trails. In Winter and early Spring, the surrounding creeks burble to life, making the Meteor Trail one of the best riparian hikes at Big Basin. And on clear days, Ocean View Summit from Middle Ridge Road offers an expansive view from over 1800 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

We’ll probably arrive at the spur trail to Ocean View Summit before we know it. After many a lingering gaze, we’ll then head south, returning via the Dool, Creeping Forest, and Skyline-to-the-Sea Trails to where we started at Park Headquarters.

After the hike, we have the option of tasting the wines of Cinnabar Winery at their tasting room in downtown Saratoga, back along our return route to Highway 280.

GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD
From the SF peninsula, take Hwy 280 to Sunnyvale/Saratoga Road. Turn south toward the hills and drive 5 miles to Saratoga and Hwy 9. Turn right at Hwy 9 and drive up the hill for 7 miles to Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35). Continue over the other side of Skyline along Highway 9 about 7 more miles to Highway 236. Turn right and drive about 10 miles to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We’ll start our hike at the Visitors Center.

CARPOOL
From Cupertino: Let’s meet at 8:15 a.m. at Coffee Society, located at 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, opposite De Anza College. We’ll leave at 8:30 sharp. The merchants have posted a number of signs warning “non-customers” not to park their cars in the plaza parking lot. So, please park on N. Mary Avenue behind Oaks Plaza. If you plan to meet at this carpool, please share a note with your R.S.V.P.

For those of you arriving from The City or elsewhere, please contact others near you to arrange carpooling. Thanks!

NOTES
A $10 day-use fee is charged per vehicle at Big Basin; trails maps are $3 at the Visitors Center. Drive time from San Jose may take 75-90 minutes; from SF, perhaps 30 minutes longer. Please allow adequate time to arrive by 10:30; our hike will begin promptly at 10:45.

Parking is usually adequate at the park’s main parking lot adjacent to the Big Basin Visitor Center. Nevertheless, I urge hikers to please carpool if possible (see above). Dogs are not allowed on this hike.

Be sure to bring plenty of snacks/lunch items and water for the trail. I highly recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes – even clothing – to change into after the hike. Please allow plenty of time to arrive, and watch for cyclists during your drive.

Also, wear sturdy boots for this hike – we may be hiking over rough terrain in places, and sections of muddy trail will likely present themselves.

The phone number above is for Big Basin State Park.

*A few days prior to this hike, I will share my cell phone number with all people who RSVP either by clicking the Join button on the Facebook page for this event or have commented on this post.  (If you and I are not Facebook friends, hit me up at http://www.facebook.com/winehiker.)

Meet 10:30 a.m., hike 10:45 sharp.

See you at the Visitor Center!

~winehiker

P.S. This event is listed on my 2013 Schedule of Hikes.

Winehiking enters the lexicon!

Winehiking shall ensue!Saturday morning I’ll be meeting up with a group of hikers to tramp along a 5-mile loop trail at Sunol Regional Park near Fremont, California. For those five miles, it will be a rather steep hike that promises such striking features as Cave Rocks, Calaveras Dam, Indian Joe Creek, and an area along its main drainage, Alameda Creek, known as Little Yosemite.

I’ve done this hike a time or two previously (I’m being modest here); in fact Sunol Park was one of the first parks I ever dusted my boots in. What enchants me about being there Saturday is that the organizer of this hike, a fellow from Oakland who goes by “J.D.”, has billed his event as a “Sunol Breakfast & Wine Hike”.

Well, the idea of breakfast before a steep hilly hike is always going to be a good one. To share breakfast first with fun outdoorsy friends is certainly an attractive prospect. The post-hike stop at Elliston Vineyards in the little town of Sunol also promises to be a treat because they’re hosting “Holiday in the Vineyards” in their 100-year-old stone Victorian.

Of course, they’ll be pouring wine, too.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued about the usage of the term “Wine Hike” by others. Perhaps I’ve had some influence; perhaps a winehike just sounds like good healthy fun. Naturally, I’m glad to see the term entering the lexicon, and I’m equally curious to see which trail it’ll take next.

~winehiker