Hike No. 31. My last hike in 2013 and my return to the trail after 6 weeks of “R&R.” The winter sun was shining bright over the Silicon Valley with absolutely no pesky clouds to cast any shadows as I crawled out of bed on this Sunday morning. Because I hadn’t been hiking for quite awhile (I had a bout of pneumonia and am only now starting to feel 100%), I decided to drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains along Skyline Boulevard – we call it “the Skyline” – and hike along the Bay Area Ridge Trail at Russian Ridge OSP.
As I mentioned in some previous posts, the Russian Ridge OSP is part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) http://www.openspace.org/.. I like to think of the MROSD as one of my “partners” in my quest to hike 40 time for 200 miles in 2013. As always, the MROSD does an excellent job of providing parking and trail head information.
After a great drive along the scenic Skyline, I arrived at the trail head fairly early in the morning and quickly slipped on my most excellent Keen boots. I hadn’t been on the trail in quite some time and was excited to get outdoors again! It did take me about 15 minutes to set up my new hiking toy – a Garmin eTrex 30! The trail climbs steeply for the first 1/2 mile of the hike.
For most of the upper ridge area, there are very few trees on the trail. Today’s hike, although sunny, was very windy! I was glad that I came prepared for the chilly weather! er, well “California Chilly!”
I continued along the Ridge Trail for another mile or so and took a short branch trail up to the top of Borel Hill…The panorama view from the top of the ridge of both the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean was spectacular!
Most of the upper ridge area of the Russian Ridge OSP has these incredible views on a clear day. As I traveled down from the top of the ridge and followed the Bay Area Ridge Trail on its winding path down into the canyon areas of this OSP, I could see Hawks circling the canyons cruising on the updrafts. The views continued to be outstanding.
There are several alternate routes to take as the Ridge trail winds back down the hill to the Vista Point trail junction and parking lot. This parking lot is just about 1.3 miles from the trail head. From this point, you can continue along the Ridge Trail, hike back around the base of Borel Hill, or take a 1/3 mile shortcut to the Hawk Ridge Trail. I chose to go to the Hawks Ridge Trail and head down into the canyons via the Ancient Oaks Trail. The route descends gradually for about 1/2 mile into a heavily wooded canyon. Quite a change in scenery from the Ridge Trail!
Rich, green vegetation like these native ferns and oaks are really quite a contrast from the treeless, grass covered hills of the upper ridge area! The Ancient Oaks Trail winds for about 1/2 mile through a canyon. It seemed as if I was hiking through a tunnel of native oak trees. There is a ridge trail shortcut at the 1/2 mile mark which I took. I wanted one last look of the Pacific Ocean before I headed back to the trail head!
Mileage: 3.9 miles – A “Balloon” shaped Hike
Elevation Gain/Loss: approximately 1,300 feet
I would rate this hike as easy/moderate. There are some climbs of 300-400 feet along trails that have no protection from the sun. On a summer day, this part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail is best done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But, on a spectacular, sunny winter day, the only real obstacle was the strong wind!
Great time as always in The Santa Cruz Mountains! Well, that’s 31 hikes and 177.1 miles! Unfortunately, a knee injury and pneumonia kept me just a bit short of reaching my 40/200 goal. However, I am proud of my effort and will continue to explore California as I hike. Stay tuned for my 2014 hiking challenge! Thank you for reading my 2013 blog and for the many emails of support that I received over this year.
Until next time, if you are looking for me, I’m over the hill!