On December 5 I completed the Almond Ranch section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This section, which is on a newly acquired property managed by John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) fills a gap between the Mount Wanda trail within John Muir National Historic Site and Sky Ranch which were previously protect by the trust, and which now forms a large protected area along Franklin Ridge.
My access was by Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to Martinez, then walking along streets of Martinez to the trailhead in John Muir NHS. There is a bus stop very close to the trailhead, but on weekends the bus only runs every 785 minutes, so it was much easier to walk the 2.1 miles (3.4 km) than wait for the bus. The trailhead for Mount Wanda can be accessed from Alhambra Ave just south of Hwy 4, or through the NHS when it is open. There is also a back-gate access to the trail, but as an exit only, you can’t re-enter the NHS, which takes you under Hwy 4 and connects to the trailhead.
The Mount Wanda trail is a fire road that climbs to the ridge top, opening up good views in all directions, then dips a bit and climbs to the Mount Wanda/Almond Ranch fence and gate. Almond Ranch was opened in October. Rather than following the fire road, a new trail diverges off the ridge top and contours around hillsides to regain the fire road/trail in Sky Ranch. Most of Almond Ranch is open grasslands, but the off the ridge and down in the draws there are oaks, California Bay Laurel, and other species that like more moisture and less wind. Where the new trail meets Sky Ranch, there is a row of huge concrete pipe segments, the purpose of which mystifies me. These are the sort of pipes usually used for sewer lines in cities, so what are they doing here?
With this gap closure, the Bay Area Ridge Trail is now continuous from Benecia, across the Martinez-Benicia bridge, through Martinez, to Nejedly Staging Area, and up through the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, to John Muir NHS, along Franklin Ridge and then down to Ferndale Road, a distance of 10.2 miles (16.4 km). There follows a gap of 1.7 miles (2.8 km), which can be walked by following Ferndale and Alhambra Valley roads for 2.5 miles (4 km). The trail then climbs out of Alhambra Valley over East Bay Municipal Utility District lands, through Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve, and down to Conestoga Way. There is then a 1.8 mile (2.9 km) gap along surface streets to the next segment of the Ridge Trail in Kennedy Grove.
Almond Ranch will also be part of the yet incomplete Carquinez Strait Loop Trail. With this Almond Ranch gap closure, the Dutra Ranch Trail (also called Contra Costa Feeder Trail #1) becomes a side trail of the Ridge Trail.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157717423100027; and Bay Area Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.