The Thursday Picture – Foggy Blanket

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Today’s “Thursday Picture” was taken from the Ancient Oaks Trail at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains just west of San Jose/Silicon Valley.

This is actually not an unusual weather pattern for Northern California during the summer.  On some days while hiking at Russian Ridge OSP, you will get a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.  On other days, you will get a view of a thick blanket of fog that never really goes away all day.  Of course, our magnificent Coast Redwoods prefer the foggy days.  I just enjoy being out on the trail.  I don’t mind the fog at all.

Where are you hiking this weekend?

If you’re looking for me, I’m over the hill.

The Thursday Picture – My Break Room on the Trail

1-DSC_5723Today’s Thursday Picture was taken on the Ridge Trail in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.  Once again, hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, I often wonder, “Is this one of best places in the world to live, work and play?”

I plopped down onto the grass, pulled out my trusty Liberty Bottle, dug through my backpack for one of my trail snacks (a PB&J Sandwich), and just enjoyed the view.  I swear, the hills looked greener and the Pacific Ocean looked bluer than in this picture.

Where are you hiking this weekend?

If you’re looking for me, I’m over the hill.

Hike No. 12 – Wilder Ranch State Park – Old Cove Landing/Ohlone Bluff Trails

Wilder Ranch State Park is located just north of Santa Cruz, California.  The park was formerly a dairy ranch, established in the late 19th century by the Wilder family and operated until 1969. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549  Before this area was a dairy ranch, the land wOriginal Wilder Ranch State Park/Wilder Ranch SP/Hike No 12as part of a Mexican Land Grant called Rancho Refugio.  Prior to the arrival of the Mexicans, the Ohlone tribe of Native Americans lived along this area of the coast.  The state of California is in the process of restoring the original Wilder family homes and the farm buildings.  The park has 34 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails located both along the coast and up in the hills above the Pacific Coast Highway.

Up to now, I have been hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains above Silicon Valley.  So, I decided to change things up a bit and take the Old Cove Landing Trail and the Ohlone Seaside Daisy/Old Cove Landing Trail/Wilder Ranch SP/Hike No 12Bluff Trail for my first coastal hike.

Wow!  As always, the California Coast was breathtaking!  The Old Cove Landing Trail starts out at the main parking lot and heads through a protected marsh area that was alive with hundreds of coastal birds and wildflowers.  The trail then hugs the coastal cliffs for several miles and overlooks the pacific ocean:                                                             Old Cove Landing Trail, Wilder Ranch State ParkOhlone Bluff Trail/Wilder Ranch SP/Hike No 12

The Pacific Ocean was busy working on revealing the ancient seafloor that makes up the geography of this area of the coast.  The trails were well used on this day…but, didn’t ever seem crowded.  I did notice that my typical 20-30 minute per mile hiking speed took a big hit on this day.  I kept stopping to admire the view and take pictures!  I also noticed fellow hikers and bikers who would move down the trail, stop and admire the view, and then move down the trail another 200 yards.  We would all then repeat this process all over again!Locals Sunbathing at Wilder Ranch State Park, Santa Cruz, CA Only the locals seem to be unimpressed with the view.  They were content to lay around and sun bathe all day!

The Old Cove Landing Trail is approximately 2.5 miles and leads to a – you guessed it – old cove where sailing ships used to dock and load lumber that had been cut from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Upon reaching the cove, I took the beach trail down to explore the beach and a cave that has ferns growing from the roof!  Fern Grotto Cave/Wilde Ranch SP/ Hike No 12The ferns are fed by fresh water springs located on top of the cliff.  As you stand at the entrance of the cave, one can see water dripping from the roof onto the ferns and then, splash, onto the floor of the cave.  I took about 20 pictures to try to capture this phenomenon.  I will have to keep working on getting better with my camera!  DSC_2809The trail out of the Old Cove led through a field of wildflowers and back up on to the cliffs.  At this point, the Ohlone Bluffs Trail begins winding past an artichoke farm located right along the coast and then back to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

I hiked along the Ohlone Bluffs Trail for another mile or so and then turned around and hiked back along an inland trail that leads to the Wilder Ranch Dairy Farm.  If you have the time, I would recommend a trip through the Wilder Ranch State Park visitor center.  There are some informative displays of the history of the area and of the wildlife to be found at the park.  There is also a small gift shop that offers maps, t shirts, books, etc.

I would rate this 4.5 mile hike as easy.  It is flat and family friendly.  There are no rails along the cliffs…but, the trail is wide enough to feel perfectly safe.  Trails: Old Cove > Ohlone Bluffs > Park Trail to Wilder Family Farm.  You can extend your out and back up to 10 miles by continuing along the Ohlone Bluffs Trail.

Old Man and the Sea...Hike No 12, Wilder Ranch State Park

That’s 12 hikes and 73.9 miles!  28 hikes and 126.1 miles to go.  I will not forget my day spent at Wilder Ranch State Park.  Don’t be surprised if you see this hike repeated!  Until next time, if you are looking for me, I’m over the hill.

Hike No. 8 – Russian Ridge OSP – Ridge/Borel Hill/Hawk Ridge/Ancient Oak Trails

State Route 35, or, Skyline Boulevard as we know it, is a two lane highway that runs along a ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains from western Santa Clara County all the way to San Francisco.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_State_Route_35

The views from the Skyline are fantastic…both the Pacific Ocean and San Fransisco Bay can be seen from many stops along the way.  There are also many California State Parks, Santa Clara County Parks, and Open Space Districts along the Skyline.  On this bright Sunday morning, I decided to hike at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.

http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_russian_ridge.asp

I started from the trailhead just off of the Skyline at the Alpine Road parking lot.  There were several mountain bikers gearing up that I would see along the trails all day long.  I started off along the Bay Area Ridge Trail  http://www.ridgetrail.org/  which climbs steadily for about a mile.  A short spur to the top of Borel Peak gave me this incredible view of a fog covered Pacific Ocean!

Pacific Ocean Covered in Fog

After admiring the view, along with several other hikers and bikers, I continued on the the Bay Area Ridge Trail for another mile to the junction of the Hawk Ridge Trail.  I found it hard to keep a steady pace with such magnificent views!

Hike No. 8 from the Ridge Trail - Pacific in the Background

At a water break, I set up my camera for my regular “look at me, I’m hiking number…” shot…and, stopped to admire the view of Pacific Ocean.

I cut over on the Hawk Ridge trail at about the 2 mile mark and headed down into the valleys of the preserve.  This trail gently descends just below the ridge trail and into a tree covered canyon.

Hawk Ridge Trail - Hike No. 8

Yes, I could hear Hawks calling out in search of breakfast in the tree covered valley below…

After another 1.5 miles, the Hawk Ridge Trail ends at a junction with the Ancient Oaks Trail.  This trail leaves the treeless grassy green ridge and enters a valley of…very old Oaks.  I could hear several creeks spilling over small waterfalls as I hiked through this valley.  After hiking in the bright sun for many miles, I had to take off my sunglasses as I traveled through the shadows of this tree covered trail through these “ancient oaks!”  After nearly a mile, I left this valley and emerged from the shadows to be greeted by a bright sunbow overhead!  Sunbow from the Ancient Oaks Trail - Hike No. 8I did my best to capture the colors…but, as always, my photographic talents couldn’t quite capture the moment…but, I guess, moments along the trail like this is why we love hiking!

As I neared the end of my day, a lone Oak on a south facing slope of Russian Ridge reminded me of just how great spring hiking is along Northern California’s green mountains!

Lone Oak - Hike No. 8

I’d rate this 5.8 mile hike as easy/moderate.  There are a couple of sections of climbing…but, no more than a few hundred feet.  The views of the Pacific Ocean along Russian Ridge are pretty spectacular!  There is no shade along most of these trails…bring a hat and sunscreen!  As you know by now, bring a map to follow my rambling route…Trails: Bay Area Ridge > Borel Hill > Hawk Ridge > Ancient Oaks > Bay Area Ridge.

That’s 8 hikes and 49.7 miles…32 hikes and 150.3 miles to go!