This is a Ridge Trail hike that I neglected to post about in 2018, but it was a significant chunk of the trail, so I’m posting now for the record.
I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose, then a bus to West Valley, and then hitchhiked up to Saratoga Gap where I’d finished off on a previous trip (also not posted), and headed south. No transit comes close to the trailhead at Saratoga Gap, so driving or hitching is the only access. I hope that someday there will be at least limited weekend transit access to all the major trailheads. A desire to get out in nature should be available without driving a car, which is destructive of the same nature you are accessing.
The trail south along the ridge is mostly through forest, without many views, through Castle Rock State Park and Sanborn County Park. There are some small groves of Pacific Yew, a conifer with ‘cones’ that look more like fruits. It then drops off the ridge via the John Nicholas Trail, a new trail which is a travesty. It was clearly designed by mountain bikers, as it roller coasters, loops around, drops and then climbs without reason, and has unnecessary steep downhills. The route then follows a fire and water facility access road out to a trailhead on Black Road. I walked Black Road out to the Bear Creek Road crossing over Highway 17. There is no shoulder, or space for a trail alignment on Black Road, but it was a low traffic day and not an unpleasant walk except for too much time on pavement. I walked along the edge of Lexington Reservoir along roads and informal trails to the next trailhead on the east side of Lexington. My understanding is that the trail alignment will climb to a ridge and then run down towards Lexington Reservoir. This is a gap of 6.2 miles in the trail.
The trail climbs steeply into Sierra Azul Open Space, heading east. As it reaches the ridge there are good views and interesting chaparral vegetation, as well as some patches of oak forest. The trail drops into the Guadalupe Creek watershed, beneath (far beneath) Mount Umunhum on fire roads and out to the Jacques Ridge Trailhead on Hicks Road. It crosses several small tributaries, and is mostly in denser forest. I ate lunch at the trailhead and then crossed the road. I did not take the side trip up Mount Umunhum as that was beyond the capability of my feet. I don’t keep my feet in condition between backpack trips, only walking, so my feet wear out before my muscles do. So the top is for another trip.
The next section through Almaden-Quicksilver County Park is much more open, and passes a lot of relicts of the mercury mining era, which ended surprisingly recently (1976). There are many parallel trails through here, more than are necessary, and it is a little hard to figure which one is the official ridge trail.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157679975620528/
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