Ridge Trail: Sonoma 2019-07

Continuing my circuit of completed sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, I did three sections in Sonoma County in mid-July. And then was off on my summer backpacking in the Granite Chief Wilderness in the Sierra, and forgot to post on this trip.

This was my second major trip in Sonoma County. I took Capitol Corridor train to Richmond, bus to San Rafael, and SMART train to Santa Rosa, my first time on that commuter train. Unlike the Capitol Corridor, on which I can no longer write in my journal because the Union Pacific tracks are in bad and deteriorating condition, I could actually write on SMART. I took a local bus to the trailhead in Howarth Park.

The trail through Howarth Park, Spring Lake, and Annadel State Park gets less and less use the further from Santa Rosa, hikers dropping out first, then mountain bikers, and I saw no one the second half of the trip. There is a mix of grasslands and woodlands, and a few redwood groves in Annadel heading up to the ridge, and then down to the south trailhead on the Lawndale Trail. There are extensive burn areas to the south, probably from 2017. The burn is patchy and vegetation recovering. Redwoods, bay laurel, and black oaks sprout from the base, even when the tree is not killed.

I walked the gap between Lawndale trailhead and Hood Mountain trailhead, rural roads and along Highway 12.

The Johnson Ridge Trail starts immediately at the highway, follows an easement, and then into Hood Mountain Regional Park, climbing gradually and then more steeply towards the top. The Valley View trail segment was closed due to trail damage, but the route to the peak was clear if not as scenic. I spend the night on top, brilliant stars, spectacular sunrise, and fog in the valleys in the morning. The next morning I headed north along the the ridge to Azalea backcountry campground, which was fun but is not the ridge trail route, which will head south from the peak. The bedrock along much of the ridge is serpentinitic, producing low stature forests composed of Sargent cypress and many other adapted plants. Back down to the highway, I walked to Oakmont and then caught the bus back into Santa Rosa, where I stayed overnight at an Airbnb and visited the breweries.

view south from Hood Mountain, fog in the valleys

For the next segment, I took to bus from Santa Rosa to Glen Ellen and walked up into Jack London State Park. I climbed the Mountain Trail, then headed south along the East Slope trail to the current end of the ridge trail. The east slope trail is an actual constructed trail, a nice change after walking fire roads for much of the time. The trail wanders through redwoods, oaks, and grassland, ending at a small loop with beautiful rocks and trees, and with a thick growth of poison oak.

I returned north along the trail, and then the North Sonoma Mountain trail to its trailhead end, climbing steeply at the beginning and then descending gradually. I was originally going to return back through the park to Glen Ellen, but I was tired, my feet were sore, and the trail had lost a lot of elevation I’d have to regain. I hitched a ride into Rohnert Park, walked to the SMART station, and then did the reverse trip on the way home.

I had spent a lot of time in Sonoma County back in the 1990s, when there was almost no transit at all, and what there was, was infrequent and limited. Having real transit in the county now has made an incredible difference. Santa Rosa has changed as well. It used to be, as I called it, ‘a little piece of Los Angeles in northern California’ but it is now an interesting place, breweries, restaurants, concert in the park, etc.

With this trip, my ridge trail distance is about 505 km (313 miles) of the 375 constructed, plus 71 km (44 miles) of not-yet-constructed gaps. One segment in the south bay, and a few in the north bay, and I will have completed all the transit-accessible sections.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157709605315442

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