Posts Tagged ‘trail’

The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail is an example of why the East Bay has one of the best trail networks in the country. Today’s trek took us through regional parks, public watershed lands, private lands, and through the edges of town to connect Chabot Regional Park to Castro Valley. We parked at the Chabot Staging Area off of Redwood Road. It was a cold morning, but there was no rain, for a change. The Rampage Peak Trail skirts the edge of a Christmas Tree farm, buzzing in the holiday season. We climbed our way up through East Bay Municipal Utility District lands onto Dinosaur Ridge Road. The wet creek bed gave way to sunny chaparral and 360 degree views of the Bay. We exited EBMUD lands onto a private trail easement. These regional trails are what make the East Bay great. They allow for regional connections between protected areas and allow trail users to interface with working lands. Today we were greeted by a couple of friendly horses as we entered private land. They were curious and let us pet them. The Bay Area Ridge Trail promised a pasture full of llamas, but the fence around the llama pasture was in pretty rough shape and there were no llamas in sight. So the horses saved the day. The trail through this portion leveled out and we had about a mile of flat running through scrubby oaks. We exited through a gate into what looked like someone’s backyard. On the way back this same gate was blocked by the same three horses, now a little more stubborn, and possibly hungry, forcing us to wiggle under a barbed wire fence. At this point we were a little confused – we felt uncomfortable just running through someone’s back yard! With a little searching, we saw a sign for the Garin Regional Trail headed downslope. The nice thing about these regional trails is that they meander through the already inhabited areas, so you might find yourself rambling through a backyard before diving back into open space. I believe these were the house at the end of Columbia Drive, shown on the Bay Area Ridge Trail map.

We were quickly back into the lush forest and now in the Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area. This is a little known (at least to us) regional park that is gorgeous. We crossed a creek a few times and worked our way up and down some challenging terrain. We saw one birdwatcher along the way and talked to him about Varied Thrushes. We also heard some Brown Creepers, a rarity outside of the redwoods. Eventually we made it to a more developed part of the park where there were bathrooms, picnic areas, and a swim lagoon. We heard an interesting duck call only to find out that it was an actual a duck call commandeered by a young kid on the edge of the lagoon.

We took a small wrong turn as we followed Cull Canyon Road straight down to Crow Canyon Road, rather than turning east and running through Canyon Middle School, home of the condors. We would pick that up on the way back. The final section leaves Crow Canyon Road and travels along a neighborhood trail to Independent School. The next section picks up there and continues on to Garin Regional Park. We retraced our steps on the way back except for the occasional reroute to climb to the top of some high peaks for better views or to run through the creek as it runs through a large culvert under the road in Cull Canyon Park. Couldn’t resist. Our legs were pretty tired by the time we reached the EBMUD lands and the steep downhills were slow going. Originally we had planned to run another short section today but decided to save it for tomorrow. After 15.5 miles of hills, our legs could use the rest.


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After getting over our disappointment of our SF Watershed hike being cancelled due to storms (resulting in us not being able to actually finish the trail this calendar year because the Ridge Trail Council thinks sections behind locked gates should count), we decided to do another section of the trail today. We’re recovering from running the Quad Dipsea, a 28-mile race with 9200 feet of elevation gain, so we wanted to keep it pretty short and easy. The section from Kennedy Grove to Inspiration Point looked reasonable – 9 miles round trip and the hills certainly couldn’t be too bad.

After a long drive, we made it to the trailhead at Kennedy Grove. The steady rain made it hard to getout of the car, but several other people were there walking their dogs, so we decided to go for it. We headed out of the parking lot and soon realized we were going the wrong way. Once we’d found the actual ridge trail (it’s not easy to find from the parking lot), we were on our way. We ran past a few small bucks, across a small creek, and into the EBMUD watershed lands. We ran past the reservoir and up single-track trail to the main road, through a huge flock of robins (maybe 200), and across the road onto some old, muddy service roads.

Soon, we’d reached the end of the EBMUD lands. I saw a Bay Area Ridge Trail sign (pointing the way we’d just came), so I followed it backwards to make a big right turn onto a paved trail on the ridge. We followed this until the pavement ran out, and continued to run. When we got to a major fork in the road, we consulted the map, but found that this junction wasn’t there. Cursing the map for being so inaccurate (a common problem on these runs), we went to the right. Our gut told us this was correct. Down we went… where we were going…Nobody knows. After about a mile of going downhill, I recalled that the Ridge Trail book clearly states that from Inspiration Point to Kennedy Grove, it’s a steady downhill; therefore, we should not be running downhill as we approach Inspiration Point. We also approached some gates and houses that looked like they might be outside of parklands. Finally, we turned around and headed back up the hill, slipping and sliding in the sloppy mud.

Back at the junction, we turned left this time. After about a quarter mile, we finally spotted a Bay Area Ridge Trail sign. Phew! (or so we thought). We ran up and down some pretty steep rolling hills, shielding our faces from the wind and rain. As the fog rolled in, we could no longer see more than a hundred feet or so in front of us, so we couldn’t tell how much further we needed to go to get to the “inspiring” parking lot we were headed towards. I was starting to get cold and tired, and the miles had been ticking away. We should have been there by now. I finally decided that it wasn’t worth it to me anymore. I’d be okay with being a quarter mile short because I was too cold. We turned around and retraced our steps back to the car. I was exhausted by the time we got back. Our 9 mile run ended up being 12 miles, which wouldn’t normally be that big of a deal, but on tired legs, those extra 3 miles made a big difference.

Curious how far we had cut the route short, I went back and read the chapter about this section of the trail in the Ridge Trail book. It describes the trail through EBMUD and then states, “When you reach the ridgetop, go through a gate into Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.” Check. Did that. “Turn left (south) on Nimitz Way.” Well shoot… No wonder our map didn’t match the trails we were seeing. We’d gone right and actually spent our morning exploring Wildcat Canyon. Why there’s a Ridge Trail sign out there is beyond me. I had a small breakdown in the car, but eventually pulled myself together as we cranked up the heat in the car and headed home. I guess we’ll be back!

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Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve

Even the best-laid plan sometimes has its faults. When the State Parks were on the chopping block, we made sure to complete all of our runs within the “listed” parks before July 1st. We scheduled our docent-led tour at Crystal Springs. We paid our $10 for an East Bay MUD permit. And, we planned out our last couple of months so that we’d complete all segments by December 31st. So imagine my surprise when we sat down to print our maps Saturday night and noticed the statement, “Lynch Canyon is closed during the fall and winter months (except for Solano Land Trust docent-led events).” Okay… we could change our schedule by running somewhere different on Sunday and doing a docent-led tour through Lynch Canyon; however, when we checked the schedule of events, we noted not a single event at Lynch Canyon for the rest of the year. What were we to do? Not finish the ridge trail this year and wait until March? Try to pull some strings and get permission to enter the park? Neither of these seemed like very good ideas. Shouldn’t Lynch Canyon Open Space Park be open? Now, you must know that I’m a rule follower. Sure, I drive a couple miles an hour over the speed limit on occasion and I sometimes take liberty in my interpretation of “professional dress” at work, but that’s where the rebel in me ends. In this case, though, the best option seemed to be to run in the park (some might call this trespassing…). Run we did.

We’d planned to do this section at the end of the day, but we moved it to the beginning of our day, just to reduce the chances of a ranger being in the park. We parked by the start of the Hiddenbrooke segment, and ran along McGary road (1.6 miles) to the entrance of Lynch Canyon. Though neither the Ridge Trail book, the website, or the Ridge Trail Trail Tracker cite the mileage for this segment, it is on our big wall map, so we figured we should check it out. This mystery segment along McGary road was uninspiring, and, in fact, and bit terrifying as we ran right next to freeway traffic, with only a small 3-wire fence separating us from 65+ mph traffic.

Once at the entrance to Lynch Canyon, we stealthily climbed the locked gate, past the closed signs, and headed in. I ran quite a bit faster than normal to get past the entrance of the park, which was in clear view from the freeway. I’m sure the sheriffs have more important things to do than bust some runners trespassing in a park, but I was still paranoid! We ran into the canyon, out of view of the freeway, and up to the top of the ridge. We held on to our hats as the wind tried to blow them off, and kept up a quick pace to keep ourselves warm.

We wound our way around the ridge and up to a rocky outcrop where the trail turned to single track. We followed it through the grass along the southwestern edge of the park, back in view of the freeway. Following our map, we turned around shortly after the junction with the Kestrel Trail, though the trail did continue on a ways. I’d had enough with my nerves, and I was ready to head back. Although we appreciated the hills the Ridge Trail segment had to offer (we’re currently training for the Quad Dipsea), we were ready for a little shelter from the cold wind. We returned to the entrance of the park via the Kestrel and Middle Valley Trails. This route was much warmer! On the way back we heard some hunters and saw some fresh footprints. Needless to say, I ran a little faster yet and was certainly relieved when we hopped back over the fence and out of the park!

Though the trail on McGary Road continues north for what looks like 1.5 miles or so, we decided not to run this segment. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and it’s really not fun. So… I guess we’ll be about 1.5 miles short of actually completing the Ridge Trail, but we’re okay with that.

Hiddenbrooke Open Space

We headed back towards the car and continued on to Hiddenbrooke Open Space. Though it’s a short section, it was fun and challenging. The trail started off on the sidewalk adjacent to Hiddenbrooke Parkway, which leads into a golf course-centered neighborhood. Soon, it veers right and continues up the hill. There were several trails that veered off from the main trail, but all were closed to the public. It appears that this open space isn’t really all that “open” either. We saw a tall peak in front of us, but the trail brought us around it and to the backside where the trail ended. We turned around and found the trail up to the peak. We were feeling good, so we decided to make the little climb. We wandered around the rocky ridge at the top of the hill and decided to take a short cut on the way back down. Instead of heading back on the trail, we thought we could continue north and hit the trail on the other side of the peak. This turned out a little trickier than expected. The grass was tall, and the ground was rocky. We eventually scrambled our way back down the hill and found our trail again. The run out of the park was an easy down hill back through the grassy pasture to our car.

Benecia-Vallejo Buffer

We hopped in the car and headed to Blue Rock Springs Park for the second half of our run. After parking, we headed out on the northeast extension. We were greeted by a peacock at the base of the trail, and then ran up a steep little hill with warning signs for rattlesnakes all over. It was cold enough that we didn’t need to worry about snakes. We zigzagged up the hill and eventually headed west. I took a hard fall into a bunch of star thistle along the way. After picking the spines out of my shorts, we continued on; however, we soon realized that this trail was much longer than what the map led us to believe it should be. We finally turned around and realized we’d actually taken the wrong trail (for about half a mile). We found a little offshoot of the main trail up a little peak, which seems to be where the extension ends. Hopping over broken beer bottles (damn kids), we circled the little peak, and ran back down the hill, admiring the 2 or 3 additional peacocks at the base of the trail.

We then headed south along the sidewalk and began the main trail along the Vallejo-Benicia buffer. After a couple miles of pavement, we finally entered the buffer and enjoyed the single-track trail. We headed up and up past some sort of a mine until we reached the Doris Klein bench. Still windy, we didn’t spend much time admiring the view. The buffer trail continued south, winding up and down the hills. We saw a few lone souls along the trail, but mostly had it to ourselves. When we finally saw the freeway peeking out in front of us, we knew it was almost time to turn around. The trail finally dead-ended at a Kindercare. If you cross under the freeway it connects with Benecia State Park. We ate some gels and headed back into the buffer, up and down the hills. The wind died down, so we enjoyed the view from the bench for a couple minutes longer before heading all the way down the hill and back to the pavement. We picked up the pace for the last mile or so, and celebrated another three sections completed by eating at our now favorite spot in Benicia, Aroma Indian Cuisine.

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Typically when we head to Napa we are either drinking wine or running the Napa Valley Marathon.  When visiting for both of those reasons we never get the chance to venture off the beaten path to run some trails. That would change today as we made our way just east of the town of Napa to Skyline Wilderness Park. This was the first of a two day stint on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the second being a long run at Annadel State Park in Sonoma County. Since this was the first half of the double header we decided to take it easy. It was five bucks to park for the day and when we arrived the parking lot was pretty empty except for a couple of horse trailers pulling in for a morning ride.

It was chilly as we headed up the rocky Skyline Trail across the dam of Lake Louise. Due to the fog, it had a mystic feel. We got an early surprise when we noticed a few wood ducks perched on the dead logs on the down stream side of the dam and several friendly deer along the trail. There was about a mile climb to start which got our blood pumping. Once the trail entered the trees it leveled out and made for a fairly pleasant run. Before long we saw Lake Marie and a remnant chimney from one of the original structures by the lake. As we left the lake the trail dropped down to Marie Creek and stuck to the creek for the next few miles. This was a great technical single-track trail.

As we left Skyline Park and entered the Tuteur Family Trust lands we had a choice to make, left or right, clockwise or counter-clockwise. These are such big decisions so early in the morning. We chose right and headed out on a loop along the Napa Solano Ridge Trail that played touch and go with the creek. A fellow runner warned us of some cows on the trail ahead, but we never saw them. As we crossed the creek and rose into some open grasslands we hop scotched over a decent sized gopher snake. That was the most exciting thing that happened all day. We headed back the way we came, climbing away from the creek and then making our way back towards the parking lot. When we returned, some serious fun was happening at Camp Coombs on the shores of Lake Louise. We decided not to crash the party and instead headed for the car and an early lunch.

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To fuel up for the third day we made a better dining choice and hit Punjab Burrito in Fairfax. That’s right an Indian burrito place. It was delicious. One lesson we learned from Day 2 was that we needed to get an earlier start. The heat was brutal after about 11:00. So we stopped by a local grocery and picked up some breakfast food. We couldn’t wait for the breakfast buffet to open at 7:00.

Again we dropped a car at the midway point, somewhere in west Novato, and then made our way to the Mt. Burdell Open Space Preserve in San Marin. The original plan was to start in Olompali State Park. The description of this park sounds great and we will find time to visit it one day. Apparently it is only open for a couple of hours on the weekends and this was a holiday Monday. Give me a break. We headed out on the Dwarf Oak Trail before the sun had even risen. It was in the low 50’s and much more pleasant than the heat from the day before. We were excited for the day not really knowing what was in store. Up to now we had 35 miles on our legs over the last two days. Amazingly we felt refreshed and really good as we made the gentle climb. There were some little aches and twinges and some general tired muscles, but once we loosened up it was a brand new day. This park is known for its rock quarries during the gold rush era. This was evident as we hit the Cobblestone Fire Road. Things got pretty rocky and we were slowed to a walk from time to time. You can still see the ruts from the wagons and carriages that were once used to run the rocks down the hillside destine for the streets of San Francisco. Once at the top we walked through the gate to Olompali State Park (technically trespassing at this early hour) to see if we could see over the hill for a view of the Bay. There is an old rock wall that marks the border between the two properties. These walls, mostly built by Chinese laborers during the gold rush era are one of the most common sightings on our runs along the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Satisfied that we made the first climb of the day we descend with a little more reckless abandon. Due to some mismarked trails we actually returned on the Middle Burdell Trail, cutting about a mile out of our run. Since we were on this three day quest we didn’t complain too much.

We passed our car and headed through a sliver of trail that runs between some houses and onto the road near San Marin School. The trail hugs the edge of the city streets for a bit before heading back into the woods in O’Hair Park. O’Hair Park is a city park where the trail runs along Novato Creek. We then switched back into Little Mountain Open Space Preserve. This area is quintessential Bay Area where there are house surrounding this little open space. I’m sure it is a great local resource and I can see the signs and bumper stickers from years ago – “Save Little Mountain!”. Okay I made that up, but it sounds quaint. The Doe Hill Fire Road, which is actually more of single track was one of the best parts of the day. It gave way to one of the worst, which is a barren and extremely warm service road in the Indian Valley Golf Club. It offered views of Stafford Lake but not much else. We crested a steep hill and started working the switchbacks down towards the Indian Hill Open Space Preserve. We exited the Verissimo Hills Trail onto Vineyard Drive where we had dropped a car earlier in the day. This was a welcome sight because we knew we only have about six miles left.

As we have noted in several other entries there are some hidden gems along the trail that we never would have found without this little project. The Indian Tree Open Space Preserve definitely falls in that category. The trail was dusty and had a lot of horse traffic from the many stables in the area. It was also in the shade and the perfect incline. The first part was no accident. The night before Corina had the brilliant idea to run this section last because it looked shady on the air photos. This turned out to be critical because it was now midday and it was warming up. We chased a woman on horseback up the big switchbacks, though we eventually lost sight of her after about five minutes. We locked in a steady pace and cruised up the hill. There is no way that either of us would have predicted that we would feel this good at miles 45-51 in day three of this trip. Though it was shady it was also pretty muggy. We reached the top dripping and ready for the descent. The one thing the preserve lacks is a view. The top was a welcome sight but the turnaround was an unceremonious fence line. The trip back down was more enjoyable than we could have imagined. The trail was so dusty from the horse traffic that our legs were nearly black with mud. At one point we passed a party of three women on horses heading up. What a great local spot. We arrived at the car having accomplished one of our biggest running feats of our short running careers. There were no photo finishes or finish lines or medals but this was one of the most rewarding weekends ever!

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After a good dinner at Iron Springs Brew Pub (and a so so beer) and a good night’s rest at the San Anselmo Inn we were ready to tackle 11 miles in the Loma Alta Preserve and Lucas Valley Open Space. Breakfast wasn’t served until 7:00 at the Inn so we got a late start. This weekend was unseasonably warm and letting the sun get ahead of us was a risk. After dropping a car at Big Rock trailhead, named after, you guessed it, the big rock alongside the road, we were back at Brown Bridge – same as the day before. For this section we started east from Brown Bridge and climbed for two miles in the morning sun. We had great views of the bridge, which is apparently the longest free span bridge east of the Mississippi. Why do we still use that phrase? The climb wasn’t bad but we were conservative, knowing that we were only in the middle of our three day jaunt. This dusty fire road is apparently a favorite local spot because several groups of hikers huffed and puffed along with us. Once at the top it was an easy decent down through and easement on private land. There were occasional security cameras in odd spots along the fence so I guess it must be owned by George Lucas, who lives across the road.

We exited the private property and entered Lucas Valley Open Space at a small parking area along Lucas Valley Road. Big Rock was prominent in the day but based on the number of lights surrounding its base, it is probably more magnificent at night. We worked our way uphill for another couple of miles through mostly grassland and occasional stands of oaks and bay laurels. At every turn we had great views of Lucas Films headquarters, birthplace to the great Star Wars films and the not so great Jar Jar Binks. It seemed to be quiet on this Sunday morning. Near the top we were passed by a couple of other runners who were working harder and running faster than us. We were saving it for Day 3. At the top we were greeted by a sign that told us we were at the end of the trail and not to enter private property. We hung on the gate and ate our nut butter and honey sandwiches while overlooking the Bay and the town of San Rafael. We picked it up on the way back down but the miles were mounting on our legs. Due to the late start it was now about 80 degrees and it was taking a toll on us.  The short 11 mile run left time in the day for plenty of food and even a little side trip to Point Reyes Station where we enjoyed some champagne and cheese and looked forward to another long run the next day.

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We took advantage of the three-day Labor Day weekend to do some serious running in Marin County. We staged at the San Anselmo Inn for the weekend and ran all over the place.

The first stop was Brown Bridge. We spent a lot of time at Brown Bridge over the weekend. The bridge is in fact “brown” but it is named after so and so Brown who probably built bridges. Notably it is the longest free span bridge west of the Mississippi. Who even says that anymore – west of the Mississippi? We decided to do the longest section on the first day, so after wandering about aimlessly in the morning fog we dropped a car earlier in the day at the junction of Bolinas-Fairfax Road and West Ridgecrest Blvd. So that’s where we were headed. We started by running west from Brown Bridge up White Hill Road. It was pretty steep, but still cool with low clouds, so we kept a steady pace. Up on top, just past Conifer Trail, we ran through a very rocky section that had a dwarf pine forest. This was a rolling section but the rocks made it pretty technical. We descended before climbing up Green Mountain along San Geronimo Ridge. We left behind the dry rocky terrain for a lush hillside. We could see Kent Lake in the distance. We were headed down to it more or less. This section wraps around Marin Municipal Water District watershed lands that surround Kent Lake and heaven forbid anyone actually go into a drinking water watershed. The way down was pretty steep but there was the promise of a sun butter and honey sandwich at the bottom.

We reached Inkwell’s Bridge with signs about running salmon and steelhead. It was the wrong time of year, but this looks like a great place to watch the run up Geronimo Creek. We continued on the Cross-Marin Trail towards a bathroom and picnic area. This section looked to be an old railroad bed. It was flat as a pancake and hugged the edge of Barnaby Mountain. We were ready for some lunch but the picnic areas was full of people. There was nowhere to sit so we plopped on the ground on the edge of the trail and enjoyed half a sandwich. This really hit the spot. We were about 14 miles in to what would be about a 24 mile run.

We left lunch and headed out on the Marin Trail towards Bolinas Ridge. This took us through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. We originally tried to get camping reservations for this site but it was booked on this busy weekend. It seems like a beautiful park. The Marin Trail runs along Geronimo Creek and there are access points along the way. Families were playing in the creek and the campground was buzzing with lunchtime activity. We were tempted to snag some snacks off of some of the picnic tables. Once we got through the park, the trail turned up onto Bolinas Ridge by way of the Jewell Trail. A worn out sign said it was closed, but it didn’t look closed. It was a gradual climb up to the ridge. We thought it would be a short steeper. It turns out it wasn’t steep because the Bolinas Ridge Fire Road would continue to climb for another three miles or so. We always envisioned Bolinas Ridge as redwood thickets, but apparently you have to run through some grassy pastures to get to the redwoods. This was a tough section because it was now hot. Once in awhile we would catch some sea breeze but the heat and the dust were sapping our energy.  We could see Point Reyes Station and the south end of Tomales Bay in the distance. l decided to eat the other half of my sandwich, but my mouth was so parched, it took me about a mile to choke it down. We were both showing some signs of dehydration and lack of focus. Just then Corina took a hard fall. We were heading downhill and rather than bracing with her hands, her shoulder and left hip took most of the blow. The downhill momentum made it even worse. After a few minutes she shook it off and we were on our way. We had barely seen anyone all day, but of course when she fell there were three mountain bikers passing by. The luck.

I was starting to worry about water. I had drunk a lot but was still feeling thirsty. If only I had stopped to fill up in Sam Taylor Park. We finally got to the redwoods around the Shafter Trail junction. The groves were thick and dark. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees and felt great. The rolling hills were manageable, but our legs were pretty tired from the sunny hills of the last hour. I ran out of water with about two miles left. I was also hungry, but I didn’t want to eat much without also having some water. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best use of food and drink for the day. The cooler temperatures allowed us to keep a pretty steady pace. Now that we were in the redwoods everything looked the same and it seemed like the car should be around every turn. Finally it emerged out of nowhere! We made it. Day 1 complete! We scarfed down some food and started planning lunch and dinner. Running and eating – that is what this weekend was about. We needed to recover quickly and thoroughly because we had 11 more miles tomorrow.

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