Saturday, March 9th: Loop of the Briones Crest, Briones Regional Park

 6.8 moderate rolling miles, with scenic ridgetop views

Meet: 9:30 a.m.
Hike: 9:45 a.m.
Approximate hike duration: 4-5 hours
How to attend: Reply in the Comments section of this post.

Late winter rains add vivid color to the hillsides at Briones Regional Park.

Briones Regional Park
Bear Creek Valley Entrance
Orinda, CA
(888) 327-2757

This rambling loop hike includes parts of the Homestead Valley, Briones Crest, Table Top, Mott Peak, and Black Oak trails, and is a great introduction to the southwest half of this expansive, 6,117-acre park. It’s an area of rolling hills, high ridges, and forested canyons, but the real reward for hiking the Briones Crest will be late Winter/early Spring wildflowers and those stunning 360-degree views.

Much of our route will be out in the open, climbing high atop the rolling hills that characterize this regional park, but we’ll also appreciate the wide variety of trees that grow along Bear Creek. Birds appreciate this landscape too, and we may hear the sharp cry of a northern flicker or the call of a California quail as we amble along.

After the hike, we’ll be hungry! So let’s all chow down on wood-fired Mexican comfort food in downtown Orinda at Barbacoa.

From Highway 24 in Orinda, take the Orinda exit and drive northwest 2.2 miles on Camino Pablo to Bear Creek Road. Turn right and, after 0.3 mile, reach the entrance kiosk; continue 0.1 mile to the last parking area. Our trailhead is just beyond this last parking area.

From the South Bay: Let’s meet at 8:15 a.m. at the 680/Mission Park n’ Ride Lot located at the intersection of Highway 680 and Mission Blvd. in Fremont. We’ll leave at 8:30 sharp. For those of you arriving from The City or elsewhere, please contact others near you to arrange carpooling. Thanks!

Parking at Briones Regional Park is free; here’s an online trail map. Drive time from San Jose may take 55-70 minutes; from SF, perhaps 10-20 minutes less. Please allow adequate time to arrive by 9:30; our hike will begin promptly at 9:45.

Parking should be adequate near our trailhead at the end of Bear Creek Road. Nevertheless, I urge hikers to please carpool if possible (see above). Dogs are allowed on this hike for a $2 fee.

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 may be hiking over rough terrain in places, and sections of muddy trail may present themselves.

The phone number above is for East Bay Parks.

Meet 9:30 a.m., hike 9:45 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.

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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.

This event is listed on my 2013 Schedule of Hikes.



“Little Snow Girl” by John Gary

Crooner John Gary's classic Christmas album was a staple in the Beebe family household. In fact it still is.

When the snow flies and Winter is just around the corner, Christmas preparations and outdoor fun wouldn’t be nearly complete without hearing crooner John Gary’s rendition of Little Snow Girl at least once.*

I admit to being a little sentimental about this song. It was always one of those Christmastime staples for my family and me, ever since we first heard the vinyl being played on our monstrous 84″ Curtis Mathis stereo TV’s turntable back in 1964.

So give it a listen, snowgirls and snowboys, and see if you aren’t transported to the happy child you used to be – or even to the joyful snow-loving human you are today.

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Winehiker’s Posterous, where it was easily accessed for listening or download. Unfortunately does not support the uploading of .mp3 files. I’ll try to find a workaround soon.]

Happy Holidays!


*Who was John Gary? Answer here.

Will winehikers walk in well-nigh wintry weather? Yup.

The Fall weather here in Northern California is beginning to get cool, almost wintry. I know that’s a mild statement when compared to the weather in much of the rest of the country. And yes, I’ve heard all the usual stories about how we here in California don’t know real weather. But here in my vegetable garden, I’m still harvesting basil, tomatoes, and chili peppers.

It’s still good hiking weather, too. I’ll be rendezvousing with friends this morning for about 9+ miles of hilly trail at Nisene Marks State Park above the seaside town of Aptos. We’re managing, somehow, to sandwich a sunny clear day in between two rainy ones. That’ll make the ocean air pretty fresh for our walk in the redwoods – great for filling our lungs as we gasp uphill.

We’ll follow our traipse with a stop at Burrell School Vineyards, where we “promise to sip” some good Syrahs and at least one good Cab Franc. Fellow hiker/blogger Tom Mangan will be along for this one, ostensibly to further his winehikerness. I think he’s got what it takes.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

******* UPDATE: I’ve now posted my Nisene Marks State Park trip report.


Winter is coming to the Sierra Nevada’s enchanting Mokelumne Wilderness

I mentioned the other day that I’d be posting a story about the autumn-blazed aspens I had looked forward to experiencing. The weather had made a distinctive turn during the week, and Summer had suddenly and finally become Fall.

The Quaking Aspen waits patiently for Winter.

The Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides, waits patiently for Winter.

At 7800 feet, the nights around Caples Lake in the Sierra Nevada’s Mokelumne Wilderness, near Carson Pass, had begun to drop below freezing. The quaking aspen responded by metamorphosing to gold and orange and red, especially in the groves near the Lake, where the air temperatures remained cooler.

We just missed the wet weather in camp, having spent three days in progressively cooler sunshine. On the drive home down Highway 88, however, right about the time we hit Waterloo, the water hit us.

Meanwhile, we had enjoyed two good hikes. I always enjoy taking people up to Emigrant Lake from the trailhead at Caples Lake Dam, where fisherpeople abound. With four uphill miles to Emigrant Lake, however, you don’t see any fishin’ folk at all. It’s not that they’re soft, I’m sure. They probably don’t undertake this hike because their fish will spoil on the hike out.

We discovered a new trail, too, to Margaret Lake – one I’d been meaning to explore for years. The trailhead is just west of Kirkwood Inn, and the hike is a 5-mile out-and-back – just perfect distance on a drive-home day.

A cool October morning on Caples Lake.

A cool October morning on Caples Lake.

It’s currently pouring cats, dogs, and cows here in the Bay Area this early afternoon. In retrospect, I’m sure glad I’d scheduled last week’s camp-out when I did. Putting it off one more week would have changed everything.

Snow is falling intermittently in the high passes of the Sierra today, and Winter waits with mild impatience.


Big Basin Bobcat

Bobcat tracks in clay.

Bobcat tracks in clay.

The trails of the Bay Area offer a real treat in Winter. As storm systems pass, there are often a few days of clear weather that provide the freshest air one can breathe as one walks the coastal hills.I led a group of hikers at Big Basin State Park for a 6-mile hike through stately redwoods to a ridgetop. Upon our descent, we beheld Nature’s finest shades of blue — the brilliant clear sky, the ridges of the coast, and the deepest blue of them all — the Pacific Ocean. From our vantage point, the view to its horizon appeared as an optical illusion, as if it were above our heads.

It was a view worth savoring. Nearer to us, however, one of our sharp-eyed crew spied the tracks of a bobcat, which had worked its way downtrail ahead of us. It might have been searching for rabbits or rodents, but quite possibly it was after deer, which they’ll hunt in winter months when other food is scarce. The tracks I had seen moments earlier, being small-hooved and traveling in the same direction, suggested a young Black-Tail — easy to spot in the trail mud after the recent rains, and easy prey for a hungry bobcat.

In my trail haunts over the years, I’ve sometimes encountered wild cats. It can feel as if you’re whistling past the graveyard when a predator makes eye contact with you. But it’s a safe bet that a bobcat will turn and run, leaving you with nothing but a fleeting dash of yellow-brown fur, a blip of a tail, and a story to tell. What I find interesting about bobcats is that they’re highly adaptable to changes in environmental conditions. Some biologists even believe that there are more bobcats in the United States today than there were in colonial times. Despite their rare and elusive nature, that could be reason alone why I’ve seen them at all.

Bobcats: rarely seen, even more rarely photographed.

Bobcats: rarely seen, even more rarely photographed.

I like to stop and admire the comings and goings of Nature. If I loiter long enough, there’s often a story hidden there, waiting to be unveiled. These simple natural phenomena are my connection to the real adventure that so many of us seem blind to. I’m rewarded then, when my fellow hikers take the cue and, before we know it, we’ve gained honest memories — memories that make us want to don our boots and return to savor them anew.