Wild Turkeys in Pescadero Creek/Memorial County Park

Posted November 24, 2010 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes

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Since tomorrow is our national celebration of the great taste of turkey I thought I’d take just a moment to relate a silly turkey story.

In July of this year I took 2 of my kids on their first actual backpacking trip. The kids are 10 and 9 so they’re not really ready to carry a heavy load nor can they trek for long distances. They each carried around 6-8 lbs of gear, which included their packs. They wear sneakers when hiking because they change shoe sizes so quickly it doesn’t really make sense to buy boots. So it was important to pick the route with care.

My first inclination was to go to the trail camp in Portola Redwoods State Park. The Slate Creek Trail Camp can be accessed by a fairly easy 2.5 mile hike and it has trash cans and a pit toilet. That would have been just about perfect except that a big ole redwood tree came down and removed two of the campsites so we weren’t able to get a reservation there.

My second choice was Pescadero Creek County Park. There are two trail camps in this park, one close to Portola Redwoods State Park and one close to Memorial County Park. Reservations for both can be made at the ranger kiosk at the entrance to Memorial County Park. We hit the kiosk a couple hours before  sundown on a Saturday night and got a reservation with no problems. We drove one mile from the Memorial Park entrance to Wurr Road and parked at the end of Old Haul Road. From there it was a lovely 2.5 mile hike to the trail camp where we found 8 nice campsites under a mixture of oaks and redwoods, about half the sites occupied. The campsites all had firepits and there was a pit toilet and trash collection for the camp. Water was filtered from the creek about a half mile away.

We set up our camp, ate Subway sandwiches and freeze dried ice cream sandwiches and settled in for the night. The next day was oatmeal, Clif Bars, and dried fruit, followed by a 3 mile hike out (we took the scenic route) back to the car. It was the perfect introductory backpack trip, the only downside was the jerks in the nearby campsite smoking dope and drinking beer all night long, the place reeked of pot and they were very loud.

But here’s the turkey connection. While we were getting our gear together Saturday night we saw a group of 6-8 wild turkeys crossing Wurr Road. We saw the same or similar group the next day. In October when we were car-camping in Memorial Park we saw a group of larger turkeys come wandering through the campground despite the presence of 30-50 people nearby. So if you’re looking for wild turkeys to add to your enjoyment of Thanksgiving, you could do worse than to go for a hike along Old Haul Road this weekend, you’ve got a good chance of spotting a few.

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After Work Hike: Russian Ridge OSP

Posted June 25, 2009 by tpmcgee
Categories: Uncategorized

Russian Ridge OSP on Skyline Blvd is the quintessential after work hiking area. It’s a 20 minute drive from the intersection of 280 and Page Mill Road so it’s quick to get to and it has more than a half dozen loops of varying length that can be done, ranging from the Ancient Oaks Loop, the best 1-mile loop on the Peninsula, to a longer 3.5 mile tour of the preserve, which is the hike I did last night.

About the Preserve: Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve is located at the intersection of Page Mill Road and Skyline Blvd in the hills above Palo Alto. Technically Page Mill Road turns into Alpine Road on that side of Skyline but most people will be coming from the Valley so I’m using that as the reference. The preserve is located across the street from Skyline Ridge OSP, which is home to a nature center and the main office for the rangers and open space technicians of the MROSD. What this means is that this is ground-zero for rangers and enforcement, you’re in their back yard. Plan to play nicely and obey all regulations, this is a heavily trafficked preserve and the rangers and volunteers are aggressive at patrolling it. If you go on the weekend plan to be accosted by at least one volunteer trail patroller who will assume you’re a fool who is lost and needs direction, no matter where you encounter them. Just put up with them and move on, as long as you stay on the trails and obey the regulations you’ll be fine. Bikers should be aware that the rangers frequently set up radar guns on the main trails and will ticket you if you’re over 15 mph. This is a ridiculous limit, IMO, but I advise you to obey it nonetheless, the tickets are expensive. Make sure you either print out the map to the preserve or pick one up at the main parking lot, this is a trail-dense preserve and getting more so. If you’re doing this during the heat of the day be sure to have some water, the ridgelines are exposed and can be very hot in the summer. Also, although I frequently hike alone this is one place that I would really advise you to have a partner. This is mountain lion country and they come out at sunset.

Getting to the Trailhead: To do this hike you will not be parking in the main lot at Page Mill and Skyline, you’ll be going into the preserve from the back door. From the main parking lot at PageMill/Skyline drive roughly westward on Alpine Road about 3/4 mile. Watch for a little unmarked gate on the right, this is the Ancient oaks Trailhead and you should park here if you can. If there are already cars here you can usually park in one of the other pullouts in the area. If you go a little farther on Alpine Road you’ll come to the marked RR02 gate, there’s a small space to park here as well but it’s tricky. Try to park off the road so you don’t get a ticket and then walk back to the Ancient Oaks Trailhead.

Doing the hike: From the Ancient Oaks Trailhead walk a few feet uphill to the beginning of the Ancient Oaks Trail. Turn left on this trail and you’ll be on a rolling singletrack with great views of Portola State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park to the west. Closer in is the new Mindego Ridge property that MROSD will be adding to its stable of preserves in the future. After 0.3 miles you’ll come to a wooded section of, well, ancient oaks. There’s a singletrack trail coming in from your right, if you only have 30 minutes or so to walk take this trail. It’ll lead you to the Ridge trail and you can do a short 1.1 mile loop that’ll take you back to your car. I highly recommend this hike for a later day.

For folks who have a bit more time, though, continue straight on Ancient Oaks following the sign towards the Mindego Trail. The trail will meander downwards through a mixed oak and Douglas Fir woods. There’s some poison oak in the neighborhood so be cautious about touching any plants you can’t identify. When you reach the wide Mindego trail continue straight/turn right and follow Mindego as it winds along below the ridgeline of Russian Ridge. This is an old ranch road and is patrol-width. It’s also a nice cool spot on a hot day. At various points you’ll hear some funny sounds off the side of the trail, mostly this is water trickling through culverts but you’ll also be enjoying the sounds of lots of birds and small critters. It’s a great soundtrack.

After about 0.3 miles on Mindego there’ll be a big wide fireroad coming down from your right. If you’re short on time you can turn right on this and head back but really you should continue straight on mindego all the way to the Hawk trail, a small singletrack that will come in form the right after another 0.4 miles. Turn right on hawk trail and wind your way up to the top of the ridge. This is a premier trail for mountain bikes so keep your ears open for approaching cyclists and give them the right of way if you can, you’ve got more options than they do on this trail.

As you climb Hawk check out the big hill to the West. It’s sort of rounded on the Southern side and has a big scoop out of the northeastern side. the scoop is filled with green trees and shrubs. This, I believe, is the long extinct Mindego volcano. And was the source for a lot of the big rocks you see scattered around the ridge you’re climbing.

At the top of Hawk Trail turn right on the Ridge trail and begin your return to where you began. You’ll follow Ridge for about 0.6 miles and you’ll come to that shortcut fireroad that was mentioned earlier. Continue straight on Ridge for 100 yards and there’ll be a singletrack trail coming in from your right, take this trail. This is the singletrack portion of the Ridge trail and it’s my favorite trail to ride my bike on. it’s twisty, just bumpy enough to keep you honest and has killer views. After 0.5 miles you’ll re-encounter the arm of Ancient Oaks the forms the short loop on your right. You can return on this but I’ll advise that you continue past it and rejoin the fireroad portion of ridge in another 100 yards.

Once on the fireroad turn left and go back the way you came. You’ll see a high point on your right and a steep little trail leading to the top. Go up there and enjoy the view from the top of the preserve. You can see Moffet Field and all of Silicon Valley. See all that nasty brown air hanging in the Valley? That’s why I’m a bumpkin living on the Coastside. For you geocachers, there’s a USGS marker at the top of this hill.

Return to the Ridge Trail and walk in the southeastern direction. After about 0.2 miles there’ll be another fireroad coming in from your right, that’s your return path that will lead you back to the Ancient Oaks Trailhead and your car. In all you will have done about 3.7 miles. Walking at a medium pace this will take you a little less than 2 hours.

After Work Hike, The High Roads in El Corte de Madera OSP

Posted June 17, 2009 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes

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After last night’s walk in the cool canyons of El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve I decided I wanted to go back tonight and visit a couple other points of interest. So with just enough time for a 90 minute hike I managed to string together a 3 mile hike that covered  4 different trails and managed to avoid any serious gain/loss. This is a great little loop for an after work walk, it’s suitable for anyone, even my young kids will be comfortable with this level of difficulty.

About hike: El Corte de Madera Creek OSP (aka ECdM) is a preserve rich in history. There are sites that were used as stopovers by the Ohlone Native Americans as they traveled from the Bay to the ocean, as evidenced by shell and obsidian fragments in the hollows of ancient redwood stumps. There’s abundant history of the logging activities of the late 1800s and early 1900s and then again in the last half of the 1900s. The area abounds with stories of murders and land grabs, nefarious dealings and wild living in the logging days. Remnants of summer cabins from the 1930s can be found in the northern portion of the preserve and there are abandoned cabins from the hippie counter-culture movement still to be found if you know where to look. And then there’s the debris field of the 1953 crash of the passenger airliner The Resolution.

In October of ’53 a DC-6 from Australia/New Zealand made a navigational error and instead of descending through the fog into the San Francisco Bay Area they instead dropped into the El Corte de Madera Creek canyon. The aircraft clipped some trees with one wing and crashed into the trees, killing the 19 people on board. The debris of the crash remains in the preserve, including a 13 foot section of the wing which was sheared off and  which can still be seen today if you know where to look. The Resolution trail in ECdM goes through the crash site and is dedicated to the memory of those lost in the crash. In July of 2009, the MROSD will place a memorial plaque in the preserve at a spot where the visitor can see the trees which were topped by the aircraft as it descended into the trees. I’ve visited the crash site and wing many times and I wanted to go see where they were placing the plaque, so that was the basis of this hike.

Doing the hike: Start off at Skeggs Point Overlook on Skyline Blvd. Park here and walk a hundred yards or so northwest to Gate CM01 (you’ll need to cross Skyline Blvd so be careful). Go in CM01 and follow the Tafoni Trail (not the paved road) about one mile to the intersection with the Fir Trail. Go straight at this intersection and you’ll be going downhill on the Fir Trail, through a section of trail which is usually quite soft. After about .2 miles you’ll see a small sign on the right that reads “Vista Point” just beyond this point is a boulder that will have the Resolution memorial plaque mounted to it on July 18. The resolution trail begins another 0.1 miles down Fir but we won’t go there today, it’s too long for an after work hike. Follow the path up to the Vista Point and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view of the ECdM canyon and the San Mateo Coastside in the distance. There’s a little turnaround at the Vista Point, back in the 50s and 60s kids used to drive out into the woods and neck at the Vista Point, according to one MROSD Board member who reminisced about doing so.

After enjoying the view at the Vista Point return to the Fir trail and retrace your steps back to the intersection with the Tafoni Trail. Now follow the Fir Trail in the other direction. This keeps you high on the mountain rather than dropping into the canyon. After 0.2 miles you’ll come to an intersection with a sign indicating that you can turn right and go to the Methuselah trail, follow this trail down 0.1 miles to a 4-way intersection with Methuselah and Manzanita and the little no-name trail you just walked on. Manzanita is a tempting trail but it’ll add a lot of mileage to our hike so for today turn left on Methuselah, in the direction of Skyline Blvd and gate CM02.

Methuselah will descend quite a bit down to an intersection with the Timberview fireroad. Check out the big boulders at this intersection, read the sign about being kind to the streams but don’t go down Timberview. Stay on Methuselah and climb back up to Skyline Blvd. Just before you get to Skyline and Gate CM02 you’ll come to an intersection with the Sierra MorenaTrail. Turn left (northwest) onto Sierra Morena and follow this very lovely but often soft/wet trail back towards where we began. Listen carefully for cyclists on this trail, it is a heavily used connector trail for mountain bikers.

When Sierra Morena trail intersects with the Fir trail turn right and head back to Skyline. This is a little counter-intuitive, you’ll feel like you should go left. Trust me, head right and in about 200 yards you’ll see a fenced area with some antennas and water tanks. This is the Sierra Morena peak, the highest point of Kings Mountain, in this part of the Santa Cruz mountains. The trail continues past that fenced area and onto that paved road that began at CM01. Follow the trail through the gate to the paved road and then down to CM01. Now walk back along Skyline to Skeggs Point.

The map claims this hike is right at 3.0 miles, give or take a smidgeon. I did this hike at a relaxed pace,  fiddled around peeking at some old closed trails and poked my nose into some hidey holes that I probably shouldn’t and still managed to do this hike in about 90 minutes. It’s a gentle hike and well suited to an evening hike when you need to wind down but not push yourself too hard.

After Work Hike, Tafoni Trail, El Corte de Madera Creek

Posted June 16, 2009 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes, mountain biking

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This weekend I decided it was time to start leaving my hiking boots in the truck full time again so I could restart the after work hikes. So last night when I got out of work late I headed up for a short loop in the redwoods at El Corte de Madera Creek OSP on Skyline Blvd. I’ve described ECdM previously as a fairly rugged preserve with a lot of trails with significant vertical changes so doing a short loop in this preserve can be a challenge. This particular hike is no exception, it’s only 3.5 miles total but the last mile is a big climb out from the bottom of the canyon. As before, this preserve is very popular with cyclists on the weekends but mid-week it’s nearly deserted after work.

About the Hike: This particular route hits several highlights of ECdM, including one of the most unique features, a huge rock formation showing what’s known as Tafoni. The Tafoni formation is a sandstone face with myriad lacework pockets that have been eaten away. Look at the images in Wikipedia and you’ll get a better idea but the formation itself is as big as a house. I’m planning to use this formation as part of the geology lesson for our Cub Scout troop so this was also a recon trip in prep for that hike. After a visit to the Tafoni structure the hike heads into one of my favorite parts of the park, not the least because of the old-school memories it holds for me. Back in the old days I broke several bike parts and several Galoot-parts on a now-closed trail known as Carnage out in the north-western part of the park and it’s nice to visit my old nemesis, even if it’s now almost impossible to see. After a ramble along a shrinking fireroad the hike returns on one of the nicest pieces of singletrack MROSD has built, the ECdM Trail and then concludes with a thigh burner climb out of the canyon.

Doing the Hike: Park at the  Skeggs Point Overlook on Skyline Blvd , in between Kings Mountain Road and HighWay 84. Walk northerly on Skyline Blvd (watch for cars) to the CM01 gate for ECdM. Enter the gate, grab a map from the signboard and take the dirt trail (not the paved one) following the signs that point to the Tafoni Trail. About 100 yards in you’ll notice a singletrack trail coming in from the right, that’s the El Corte de Madera Creek Trail and you’ll be returning on that trail in about 90 minutes. For now, though, stay on the Tafoni Trail, which is a patrol route so it’s wide enough for a truck and in pretty good shape. It winds through the mixed Oak and Redwood forest for a little more than a mile before you come to a 4-way intersection. Turn right following the signs to Sandstone Formation and Tafoni Trail. You’ll go about .1 miles and there’ll be a small wooden gate on your right.

Head through the gate to visit the sandstone formation, it’s a very short walk there and back and not to be missed. There’s an informational sign describing the process that created the formation and asking users to stay on the trail, read this and continue on the trail to the observation deck. At one point there’s evidence of people sliding down the hill shortcutting the switchbacks, please don’t do that. Just stay on the trail, it’s very, very short and gets you to the deck every bit as fast and doesn’t damage the hillside. Spend a few minutes checking out the Tafoni formation and then it’s time to head back to the main trail, if you’re doing this after work you don’t want to be caught out in the dark.

Back on the main trail you have the option of turning around and retracing your way. That’s the shorter and easier option, and if you’re familiar with the preserve you can build a second loop into the return. But for more exercise and better scenery, do as I did and continue for just under a mile on the Tafoni Trail all the way out until it ends. The trail narrows and gets rougher as you go along. There are multiple “Closed Not a Trail” signs on the left side of the trail, these are the old-school mountain bike trails that we used to test/wound ourselves on back in the day. Don’t hike those, if you get caught it’s a misdemeanor and you’ll never make it out before dark. At one point the trail passes under a huge tree with an equally huge limb that juts straight out over the trail. As you approach it looks like you’ll have to duck under it until you get close and realize that it’s actually far above the trail. It’s sort of creepy walking under it, the whole thing feels unstable, even though it’s been there for many years.

Tafoni continues to narrow and descend the hill, eventually turning into a singletrack trail that descends into the redwoods to join the ECdM Trail. When you come to the 3-way intersection with the ECdM trail turn right heading back to Skeggs Point and Skyline Blvd. Follow the ECdM Trail as it winds along the shoulder f the hill and eventually descends down to the trickling headwaters of El Corte de Madera Creek. You’ll notice that you’re going down quite a bit and that’s about to change as you reach the first of three bridges across the creek. This part of the trail used to be a mud-bog pretty much year-round but work in recent years has really improved things. Stay on the trail and don’t walk around the wet spots, just walk through them. That’s why you have boots on. Walking around wet spots makes the trail wider and screws up the drainage, your boots will walk themselves clean by the time you’re back to your car.

Climb the sometimes steep and always long ECdM trail all the way up to the trail you began on. You’ll hear traffic sounds long before you reach the top. Turn left on the Tafoni trail and head back about 100 yards to gate CM01. Now walk back up Skyline Blvd to Skeggs Point and you’re done. The hike as described is just about exactly 3.5 miles long and I did it walking pretty quickly in 1.5 hours. There’s lots of potential to make it longer and a few ways to make it shorter if you don’t want the long climb at the end of my described route.

After work hike, Los Trancos Open Space Preserve

Posted July 17, 2008 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes

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Los Trancos OSP is a tiny little preserve, just 274 acres big but it’s packed with trails and is a real gem of a place to go for a short wander after work. I spent about 2 hours in the preserve and walked nearly every trail, some segments twice. From the intersection of 280 and Page Mill it’s a short 15 minute drive to the parking lot, right across form the main Montebello OSP parking lot. The preserve gets very little use during the week so it’s a great place for a little quiet time on the way home. Most people know this preserve for the educational Fault trail that imparts information about earthquakes and fault lines. The best trails in the park, however skip this segment and offer a very pleasant ramble through an old oak wood.

About the hike: Pick up a map of the preserve from the trailhead and spend a bit of time studying the preserve. You’re realize that this a trail dense environment. You’ll need to watch the turning carefully but the good news is that the park is small enough that even if you take the wrong turn you’ll figure it out quickly and likely end up back where you started with little effort. Start your hike from the sign board at the trailhead and follow the signs for the Franciscan Loop trail (Ignore the fault Trail for now). Follow Franciscan Loop down into the forest, across a bridge and bear to the left at the next two intersections, turning onto the Lost Creek Loop trail. 

Lost Creek Loop goes downhill a bit and then when it starts to climb you’ll see an intersection with the Page Mill Trail off to your left. There’ll probably be a barricade across this trail saying that it’s closed. As near as I can tell that trail hasn’t been open in 10 years, the barricade has been there every time I’ve been in the preserve, summer, winter or spring. Just past this intersection with Page Mill Trail there’s a second intersection on your right going uphill, that’s the continuation of the Lost Creek Loop, turn here and go uphill until you rejoin Franciscan Loop. Bear left on Franciscan Loop a short ways and you’ll come to an intersection that would take you back to your car if you turned right. Go straight instead towards the Page Mill Trail (this section is open) and turn left onto Page Mill Trail.

Follow the Page Mill trail along an old road cut down to a small gate at the boundary of the preserve. Just before you reach the gate you’ll see a little singletrack on your left, follow this trail downhill and you’ll end up back at an intersection you’ve been at before, where Lost Creek Loop meets Page Mill trail. Turn left and walk this portion of Lost Creek Loop again, it’s pretty and deserves a second look. Go uphill until you rejoin Franciscan Loop and bear left on Franciscan Loop again. This time when you come to the intersection that heads uphill to the parking area go right and follow the trail up to the intersection of the fault trail.

Turn right onto the Fault Trail and walk to 1.5 mile loop, stopping to look at the numbered signposts and read about them on the map that you should have picked up at the trailhead. The loop will bring you back to the trail to your car. On your way uphill there’s a small unmarked braid on your right, take that trail, it’s the very first part of the fault trail that we skipped on the way into the preserve. Admire the views from the top of this trail as it looks over the Bay. You’ll end the hike back at your car having walked a bit more than 5 miles.

Weekend/Connector Hike, Long Ridge OSP to Portola State Park

Posted July 14, 2008 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes

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I’ve been spending time trying to figure out a good route for doing a hike with my son from Skyline Blvd over to the ocean without going through Big Basin State Park. I don’t anything against Big Basin but it can get pretty busy and going that route would take me a lot farther south than I really want to go. My son is pretty young so eliminating extra miles is a good thing. I think it’s going to be pretty doable and I’ve been hiking each of the segments to make sure the distances are not overly-long and the connections really exist before the boy and I head out for the deep nowhere. This weekend’s segment was a long (13.4 miles round trip) out and back from Skyline Blvd at Long Ridge OSP to the Slate Creek Trail Camp in Portola Redwoods State Park. It was a very isolated and lovely walk with significant descending and climbing, 1300 feet down then back up. As a connector it should be good year-round. As an out and back it’d be best to pay attention to the weather because the exposed ridgelines in Long Ridge can be pretty hot and dry on a day with temps in the 90s or above.

About the parks: Because this hike spans two different parks you should plan to bring maps of both parks with you. You can pick up a Long Ridge map from the trailhead where you begin but you’ll be coming into Portola State Park through the back door so you should print a map before you start. If you have the $5 map from Pescadero Creek County Park this will serve nicely as your Portola State Park map since there’s significant crossover. The trails near Skyline Blvd in Long Ridge OSP are heavily traveled and popular with mountain bikers. The Peters Creek Loop is one of the nicest trails open to bikes in the south Skyline region so keep an ear out for bikes approaching as you hike. The portions of Portola State Park that you’ll be hitting on this hike are the quietest and least traveled parts of the park. On a day when Peters Creek in Long Ridge was bustling with bikers and hikers and the main camping areas of Portola State Park were full I saw no one at all once I got 2 miles from Skyline Blvd.

Doing the hike: I began this hike at the Grizzly Flats Parking area along Skyline Blvd at the border of Upper Stevens Creek County Park and Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. This parking area is on the east side of Skyline, is well-marked and can be reached by traveling south on Skyline from Page Mill Road or by traveling north on Skyline from Saratoga Gap at Highway 9. As an alternate you can start the hike at the Hickory Oaks gate of Long Ridge OSP but the parking is harder here and you’d miss out on the Peters Creek Loop, which would be a mistake, in my opinion. 

From Grizzly Flats, cross Skyline into Long Ridge OSP and pick up a regional map. Take a minute and familiarize yourself with the map because it contains the maps for several preserves and parks. Now descend on Peters Creek. Stay left at the next three intersections and follow Peters Creek Loop trail as it winds through meadowlands, oak woods and past a pond choked with algae and lilly pads. Obey the signage and don’t trespass on private property around the pond. Follow Peters Creek up a series of switchbacks and you’ll pop out on a ridegline at the intersection with Ward Road. Follow Ward Road downhill in the direction of School Road. You could also go uphill and head toward Hickory Oaks but that route is unshaded and you’ll get plenty of sun in a short while.

Stay to the left at the intersection of Ward Road and School Road and keep heading down Ward Road past the intersection with Hickory Oaks. That booming sound you likely hear off to the south is the gun range that’s a few miles away. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe, the rounds are caught by a berm and do not fly off into the surrounding land. You’ll come to a slightly confusing intersection with Ranch Spring Trail, stay to the left of the three trails and do NOT follow the very weathered old marker that points to what appears to be a double-track through the grass, that’s the other end of Ranch Spring Trail. Continue down Ward Road ignoring the signs that the trail might end soon, you’ll be continuing past the end (don’t worry, it’s legal).

At the preserve boundary you’ll encounter a closed gate, which can be a little intimidating. Don’t worry, you can just unchain the gate and then close it behind you. Keeping heading downhill (you’re getting worried about all this downhill, aren’t you?) and you’ll transition from open ridgeline to a mixed oak and douglas fir forest. The trail levels out here and actually rolls up and down a bit. You’ll see an old fireroad intersecting Ward Road on the left, probably with an orange traffic cone and a no trespassing sign. Stay to the right and continue downhill. In a little bit the trail will head steeply downhill and you’ll want to watch out for a small singletrack trail off to your right with a sign indicating that you are now in Portola State Park and that this is the trail to the Slate Creek Trail Camp. Turn right onto this singletrack and follow this trail 1.7 miles to the trail camp. If you miss this turn you’ll go a long way down and find yourself on Pescadero Creek in lumber company property. Don’t sweat it, turn right and follow the road to Portola State Park if you don’t want to go back up.

While following Slate Creek Trail downhill you’ll cross the creek a few times, once by walking through the creek and a couple times over wooden bridges. Just 0.4 miles before the trail camp you’ll arrive at the second site of the William Page Mill Site. Read the sign and then continue on to the trail camp. The trail camp is a good place to rest, have a snack and use the pit toilet before turning around and heading back up the hill.

If you brought your water filter fill your water containers when you cross Slate Creek on the way back up. If you didn’t bring a filter conserve your water, you’ve got a long way to go up the hill. When you reach the intersection of Hickory Oaks and Ward Road you can choose to follow a different route back to the Grizzly Flats parking area, guided by your map. Round trip this hike will be just over 13 miles and you’ll have gone through around 3000 feet of loss/gain.

After Work Hike, Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP

Posted July 11, 2008 by tpmcgee
Categories: hikes

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Last night I decided to go explore some an area of Purisima Creek that I’ve never gone to before, the Irish Ridge Trail. The hike ended up being a 6 mile hike with lots of descending and climbing and more opportunities for further exploration in the future. In retrospect I wish I had held off until a weekend because now I want to go back and explore the rest of this area but it was still a very lovely hike and well worth a try if you haven’t gone there before, even if it is an out and back. I should note, however, that if you’ve read my other hike descriptions you’ve probably figured out that I tend to hike solo. This area was one of the few areas of the San Francisco Peninsula that I actually thought that was a bad idea, the Irish Ridge area appears to get almost zero usage and it’s deep in the nowhere. If you fall or injure yourself in this part of the park you cannot rely on someone finding you and coming to your aid so take a friend on this walk.

About the park: I’ve described Purisima previously so I won’t spend more time describing the park. I parked at the PC04 gate off Tunitas Creek Road. To get here take Skyline Drive to the intersection with Kings Mountain Road and Tunitas Creek. Turn westerly onto Tunitas Creek and slow down. This is a twisty and bumpy road. Follow this road for about a mile or so and you’ll come to an intersection with Swett Road, stay to the left and continue on Tunitas Creek for another couple miles until you see the brown and yellow gate for PC04 on your right. There’s no developed parking here but there are lots of roadside pullouts you can park in. Also bear in mind that there are no bathrooms or water on this side of the park so be prepared.

About the hike: From PC04, walk down The Grabtown Gulch trail 0.3 miles and then turn left onto the Borden Hatch Mill Trail. Follow BHMT for 0.2 miles and turn onto the Bald Knob Trail. Follow the lovely Bald Knob singletrack for 1.3 miles to a 4-way intersection and take a sharp left turn onto Irish Ridge Trail. I’m not certain but I would suspect that this ridge is named for Milton Irish, who operated a sawmill over in El Corte de Madera Creek OSP back in the late 1800s and this area has a heavy logging history.

You will descend steeply on Irish Ridge Trail for the first 100 yards or so and you’ll be tempted to turn around but continue on for a bit and the trail begins to descend more gradually. You’ll hit one section which has some stunning views of the southcoast, especially if the fog should be out. Continue on this trail and you’ll note that the trail becomes rougher and shows little sign of recent use. In places there are branches of poison oak reaching out over the trail so be cautious about touching the plant life. This trail also has lots of coyote and scat and similar evidence of other critters, testifying to the scarcity of use in this part of the park.

Continue down Irish Ridge to the end of the trail or to the intersection with Lobitos Creek Trail. You’ll have descended about 500 feet in total if I’m reading this here topo map correctly.  Lobitos Creek appears to be a 2 mile long ramble through the redwoods, a welcome relief after the open ridge trail you just descended on. I’ll be coming back to check out Lobitos Creek another time when evening is not approaching rapidly. But even if you’re turning around, walk down the first 50 yards of Lobitos Creek and check out the huge redwood tree just to the left of the trail with the very funky branch arcing over the trail. I’ve never seen a redwood growing like this one, it’s quite cool and worth a look while you’re in the neighborhood.

Now, unfortunately, it’s time to turn around and head back up the hill. It’s not too steep until you hit those last 100 yards or so and it’s a pleasant ramble back the way you came on Bald Knob to Borden Hatch to Grabtown Gulch to PC04. According to the map this route was just about exactly 6 miles. If you do Lobitos Creek it would be 10 in total. I did the hike in exactly 2 hours but I was really pushing and wished I could take it slower but I had gotten a late start leaving from work and it was getting dark by the time I walked out. Plan that it’ll take you 2.5 -3 hours at a comfortable pace with time for a snack at one or more points along the trail.