Posted tagged ‘el corte de madera’

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

June 17, 2009

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.

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

June 16, 2009

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, El Corte de Madera Creek OSP

June 26, 2008

Last night’s after work walk was an old-school loop through El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. ECdM, as it’s commonly referred to, used to be the pre-eminent mountain bikers paradise in Northern California and it is still very popular with bicyclists but it’s nothing like it used to be in the old days.

About the park: ECdM used to be known for very rough trails, poor signage and  a plethora of unofficial trails that varied widely in grade, difficulty, and completeness. Going deep into ECdM was a semi-darwinian experience and it was GREAT! Things are more civilized now, the signage is much more complete and the hairball trails have all been closed or bulldozed into nice smooth trails that go around steep sections instead of dropping straight down the fall-line. But the upshot is that if you’re looking for a quiet contemplative hike with no bikes in sight, this is not your park. But if you want a walk in deep redwoods in a preserve that offers a huge variety of trail experiences, ECdM is still one of the best around. Keep in mind that there is no potable water and no restroom in ECdM.

About the hike: I parked at Gate CM02 on Skyline. This is the ECdM gate right across fro the Methusela Tree, just a bit south of the Skeggs Point overlook. There is a small amount of pullout parking beside the road but you’ll need to be careful pulling into and out of the parking area, traffic on Skyline can go fast and surprise the inattentive driver.  This is a loop of just about exactly 5 miles, give or take. It took me just a smidgeon under 2 hours to complete last night, walking fairly quickly and not taking a lot of time to dream about the good old days. The signage is pretty good and you should have no trouble finding the route. There are lots of opportunities to shorten or extend this basic loop to get further into preserve but you should remember that ECdM is a very vertical preserve. Most trails do down into the canyon with very few opportunities to go across the face of the canyon to a different trail before you reach the bottom. So if you decide to go farther you need to bear in mid that you’ll need to also come back out and a small extension on the map can add up to a big difference in vertical loss/gain. Plan to see lots of mountain bikers and to give them space on the tight singletracks, you as a hiker have more options than they do in many places.

Doing the hike: Go in gate CM02 and pick up a map from the sign-board, if you’re not familiar with ECdM having a map can be a very good thing. Turn right onto the Methuselah/Timberview Trail and descend on the fireroad. Keep an ear out for bikes approaching from behind. At the first intersection check out the cool sandstone boulders and then bear right, going uphill on the Methuselah Trail, going toward the Fir Trail (but you won’t go that far). You’ll climb up the Methuselah Trail to a 4-way intersection and then turn left onto the Manzanita Trail.

Manzanita starts off as a little switchback singletrack through a mixed oak forest and then devolves into a rutted, rocky and hard to walk trail through the chaparral before heading back into the oaks. Mountain bikers have long loved the Manzanita Trail as a way to improve riding skills over broken trail and it can be a bit of a challenge to walk as well but it has great views on a clear day and it’s worth the effort. Manzanita will end at an intersection with the Timberview Trail fireroad. Turn right onto Timberview and descend 0.3 miles to an unmarked but very clear intersection with the Crosscut Trail on your left. If you get to the Giant Salamander intersection on your right you went way too far.

Turn left onto Crosscut and walk back the way just came. This route adds distance but Crosscut is one of the nicest rambling trails in the park and any opportunity to traverse it should be taken. Follow Crosscut back to the intersection with the new Crossover Trail. Crossover is one of the few trails that joins major fireroads in ECdM, it’s what allows one to make this a short loop instead of an epic hike. Follow Crossover downhill to the intersection with Gordon Mill Trail fireroad. Now turn left and follow Gordon Mill through the redwoods all the way up to the top  where it intersects with Skyline Blvd/Sierra Morena. You’ll know you’re getting close to the top when you see the forest transition to more oak trees than redwoods.

Note the intersection with Steam Donkey for future explorations, especially if you’re a biker. Steam Donkey used to be called Voodoo and was supposedly the trail that gave Voodoo Cycles its name. The trail is marked by a slightly hidden old stump that has been carved into a face, sort of like an old Hawaiian Tiki. Steamdonkey/Voodoo is a destination trail, one worth traveling to ride, it’s an absolute blast to ride but it adds too much mileage to be included in this particular walk so we’ll bypass it for now. The steam donkey name refers to an old boiler that used to be near the bottom of the trail, presumably the remains of an old saw mill though the identity of the mill is unclear. 

At the top of Gordon Mill turn left onto Sierra Morena. The mountain bikers call this trail “Blue Hair” because it’s a gentle trail, fit for blue-haired elderly ladies of genteel disposition. It’s maybe not the nicest name. Sierra Morena winds through redwoods and oaks often dripping with fog. There are two options, the short and the long version. The version marked “alternate” on the signs is shorter and has a small steep section. Unless you’re in a hurry, take the longer version, it’s prettier and farther from the road. Whichever route you take,  Sierra Morena will lead you quickly back to Gate CM02 where you began. 

While walking Sierra Morena you’ll see several signs indicating that old trails have been closed. The hill that Sierra Morena encircles was home to some of the most challenging trails close to Skyline Blvd, trails with names like the Witches Knoll, Devil’s Staircase, and Nosebreak. Those trails are no longer legal and have been destroyed in the interests of protecting mountain bikers from having fun and challenging themselves. Ooops, I slipped into a rant there, didn’t I?