Ridge Trail: Castro Valley area 2019-06

I hiked from Castro Valley to Castro Valley, which doesn’t sound interesting, but the Bay Area Ridge Trail loops around the north to east to south sides of Castro Valley. This trip continues my goal of hiking as much of the ridge trail as possible using transit access. I took Amtrak and BART to Castro Valley Station, then walked up Redwood Road to the Brandon Trail, which become the Ridge Trail heading north. Heading south, the trail is the Willow Creek Trail, leading to Chabot Staging Area. This is the beginning of a segment through East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) watershed lands and Cull Canyon Recreation Area. I hiked this two years ago, but without creating a track, and it is not available as a traceable route in gaiaGPS, nor in Open Street Maps, so I was re-hiking to create a track.

The trail parallels the valley of a fork of San Leandro Creek, past a Christmas tree farm, climbing into side canyons and dropping back down. The Ridge Trail branches off and head very steeply up the ridge to the east. But I missed this junction, mis-reading the sign (below), and continued on the Ramage Peak Trail. I didn’t realize I was off track for a while because the next five trail posts have ridge trail confirmation markers on the back of the posts. Not the front, the direction I was headed, true, but on the back. I am not sure why these are here, off the main trail, but by the time they faded away, I was quite a ways up the trail and decided to head on to Ramage Peak. The peak itself is a high rocky outcrop, I think of limestone, but it has been quarried and is on private land. The trail ends at an oak tree on the ridge line, well worth getting to for the view even if not the top. Most of the drainages the trail crosses had a least some water in them, as it was a wet year, though I’m sure they will all be dry soon. Kaiser Creek, another side trip down a fire road off the Ramage Trail, was pretty and might be year-round.

At the 21km side trip to Ramage, I was finally back on track, but it was close to the end of the day, so I just went a little ways up and camped in the road. Just up from the junction there was a pig cage full of captured wild pigs. These animals, which do an incredible amount of damage to native soils and vegetation, are hunted and killed, but I don’t know whether this cage was by EBMUD or a rancher. See https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Wild-Pig is you are interested in ‘wild pigs’, which are non-native.

During the night the fog came in heavy with a light drizzle, soaking me (no rain gear because no precipitation in the forecast), but made a for a beautiful walk through the fog the next morning. What was formerly the steepest section of the entire ridge trail, just below the ridge, has been bypassed by a short connector trail, making a huge difference. The fire road wanders along near the top of the ridge, heading south. The trail leaves the fire road and becomes a single track again, first through some private lands and then in Cull Canyon Recreation Area. The east facing slope has a completely different vegetation type than the rest of the trail, much wetter. The trail descends and crosses Cull Creek several times before ending at the parking lot and picnic area.

The next section of the Ridge Trail is from Cull Canyon to Five Canyons Parkway. The trail ascends and descends and doubles back and wanders, all in an effort to provide a somewhat natural experience, rather than following the heavily traffic arterials in the east end of Castro Valley. Whether this is worth it or not is a good question, I followed the trail going south, and walked the arterials going back. I ended the trip where started, Castro Valley BART, and took BART and Capitol Corridor back home.

My original intent for the trip was to walk the Five Canyons to Garin Regional Park to Dry Creek segment, the next one south on the way around the bay. But after the long detour up Ramage, and the sore feet and ankles, I thought better of it. So I actually only made 4.5km of forward progress on my circumnavigation. But, I expect to have at least two more Ridge Trail trips this early summer, until the snow melts enough to get into the Sierra.

This trip, and in fact the last several I’ve taken, my ankles have really bothered me, walking over very rough cow-pocked trails, where the deep hoof prints are separated by hard narrow ridges of dried mud. This trip, the wild pigs added their own roughness to the trail, pig-pocked, smaller hooves but just as damaging. Though EBMUD lands are not the only ones grazed along the trail, the grazing is more intense and therefore more damaging to the trail.

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