The Bay Area Ridge Trail is now available in the OuterSpatial app. This app, available for iPhone and Android (no iPad version yet) shows trails for all areas where a partner agency has provided the trail alignments, which includes the Bay Area Ridge Trail. An ‘interactive’ map has been available for several years through the ridge trail website, but it was not interactive in the sense of being location aware. The new app is, it has the ‘you are here’ blue dot so you can follow trails as you go. The Trails tab highlights the ridge trail in yellow, while the Outing tab shows trails that have been entered as part of an outing or trip. I used the app on my last ridge trail hike, Crockett Hills and Fernandez Ranch, and found it quite useful. Where there are unsigned or not clearly signed junctions, the app can keep you on track. Though a significant portion of the trails have updated signing, mostly correct, other parts have old signing, or confusing signing, or missing signing.
A screen capture of the app is below. It shows the two segments that I did on my most recent trip. You can zoom in for a great deal of detail, including other trails, creeks, and ridge lines. Check it out!
Completing the last east bay segment of the ridge trail between Carquinez and Garin, I walked the Crockett Hills and Fernandez Ranch trails.
Another transit trip, I took WestCat Lynx from San Francisco to Hercules, and then WestCat 11 to Crockett. A short walk along Crockett Blvd leads to the Crockett Hills trailhead. The trail climbs up through a canyon and gains the ridge after passing under Cummings Skyway in a short tunnel. The views north to the Carquinez (Al Zampa) Bridge, and all of San Pablo Bay and the mountains beyond (Tamalpais and even the tip of Mt St Helena) are spectacular. The trail drops into and follows a creek valley, and then climbs out to a long descent towards Highway 4. The official trail ends before the final descent, but as always, with my attempt to hike the gaps as well as the trail, I continued.
The park trail ends at a ranch fence. From there, over the fence, squeeze through a chain link highway fence, through a tunnel, squeeze under another highway fence, then cross the eastbound highway 4, which took about 10 minutes of waiting for a gap in traffic, rather a busy highway for a Sunday), then over a barbed wire fence, through a long grazing area, through another barbed wire fence, across the railroad tracks (this is a busy BNSP route), and to the next trailhead. I DON’T recommend to anyone else doing this gap. I’m not sure what the eventual ridge trail alignment will be. There was flagging for a ‘cons ease’, I assume a conservation easement for a trail, through the ranch lands, but I don’t know where/how the crossing of Highway 4 will be.
The ridge trail starts again at the Fernandez Ranch trailhead on Christie Road, and climbs to the ridge top where it connects with the trail on EBMUD lands. This is the point where the western and eastern segments of the ridge trail, crossing respectively the Carquinez and Martinez-Benicia bridges. come back together. I had done the trail both south and east from here, so I walked along the ridge trail just to where it approaches a suburb of Hercules. There is no official trailhead here, but a fire/ranch road leads out on the north side of the neighborhood. From there, I caught WestCat bus 10 to Hercules, and then WestCat bus 30Z to Martinez, and Capitol Corridor home.
With this segment, my ridge trail distance is 516 km (320 miles), out of the 380 constructed. I note from the Ridge Trail website that the official completed mileage has gone from 375 to 380. I am unsure which segment completion boosted the mileage from 375 to 380, but every bit counts.
On November 17 I joined a hike sponsored by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, from Skyline College to Mussel Rock, along the Milagra Ridge trail. This is a section I’d done before, but it is always nice to join a group of trail supporters for a hike. This was another transit trip, but unfortunately the SamTrans bus from San Francisco to San Bruno was cancelled (broke down, I heard), so I had to catch the next bus and missed the group at the trailhead. I caught up about half way between Skyline and Pacifica and went the rest of the way. The trail has spectacular views south toward the Fifield section of the ridge trail and coastline, and north towards the Marin Headlands. It descends into Pacifica and follows streets to Mussel Rock, north of town. From this point, the official trail head steeply uphill along streets into Daly City, which is the most boring part of the entire trail. We hung out at Mussel Rock for a while, then returned to Pacifica for lunch and a jazz band at the Chit Chat Cafe.
I understand that it is possible at very low tide to walk from Mussel Rock to Fort Funston, without going up the hill into Daly City. I’ll try it sometime. The steep and eroding cliffs down to the ocean won’t ever see an official trail, though.
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.
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.
Yesterday I completed four segments in Napa County: Oat Hill Mine trail, Palisades & Table Rock trails, Mt St Helena, and the trail in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Below, I’m trying something new with photos, a Flickr embed.
As always, most of the access is by transit, this time Capitol Corridor to Suisun/Fairfield, then Vine Transit buses 21 and 10X to Calistoga, then a short walk to the trailhead for Oat Mine Hill trail. The Oat Hill Mine trail is an old wagon road, so the grade is moderate but continuous. The lower part is mostly shaded, oak forest, while the upper half is mostly sunny, chaparral with some grasslands. At the top of the hill, a marker on the sign post says ‘end Ridge Trail segment’ but this isn’t correct, as the trails along the ridge and to Mt St Helena have been added to the Ridge Trail. (7.3 km)
The Palisades trail is much different, a narrow trail with many rock steps. The sections with rock steps and through forested areas are in pretty good condition, but on the open grassy hillsides the trail is sloughing off, and the yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis, an aggressive non-native invasive) has taken over the the grasslands, leading to a less than pleasant trail experience. The Palisades are a volcanic rock formation that tops the ridge and falls away steeply on the west side. The Palisades trail connects with the Table Rock trail that continues more or less along the ridge, crossing a small creek (probably seasonal) and continuing to the Highway 29 crossing. This seems to be a much older trail than the Palisades trail, well beat out and eroded by use. It passes two large labyrinths, but it was the heat of the day, so I skipped these. (9.7 km)
The next segment is the trail and road up Mt St Helena, the highest spot on the Ridge Trail (4342 ft/1323 m). The path is pretty boring, and passes through large areas that were burned in 2017, and/or butchered by a misguided attempt to create firebreaks (the fuels were not removed or burned, but left on the ground, so these actually carry fire better than live vegetation). But the views are pretty amazing. It was not a very clear day, but Mt Diablo and much of the route of the Ridge Trail is visible. Once years ago I was there on a very clear day, and most of northern California was visible. The vegetation contains California nutmeg (Torreya californica), a conifer with a cone that looks like a large green berry, and that sprouts after fires, and on the top of the north peak, sugar pine, with its long, pendant cones. (8.1 km)
I returned to Calistoga by hitching a ride from the Highway 29 saddle, not because returning on the trail would not have been good, but to save time. I walked the gap between Oat Hill Mine trailhead and Bothe Napa Valley State Park, stopping at Calistoga Roastery for tea. There is a path along the alignment of Washington Ave for about 1/3 of the walk, but the rest is along the shoulder of Highway 29. The high speed traffic is not pleasant, but there is space enough to feel safe, and in fact there is space enough to add a separated multi-use path. However, I hope there is some way the future Ridge Trail alignment can follow the Napa River, away from the highway. (8.0 km)
The trail up through Bothe Napa Valley state park along Ritchey creek is pleasant. The is apparently the furthest east occurrence of redwoods in Napa County, with some large though second growth trees in the lower part and increasing areas of redwoods in the upper part, which is further west. The lower trail dawdles along the creek, and the upper trail climbs the slopes above the creek. The official end may be at the creek crossing at ‘Traverso Homestead’ site, or maybe further up the old logging road at the park boundary (prominently signed) beyond which the road seems to disappear. There is no ‘end of Ridge Trail’ sign at either location. The trail will apparently go from here to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. (5.5 km, or more)
It was my original intention to get to Santa Rosa for two more segments, but I did not feel like hitchhiking that part, and the transit all runs north-south, not east-west, so getting to Santa Rosa requires going all the way to El Cerrito Del Norte BART, and then back north. Yow! So those segments will await another trip.
I’m now at 68% of the trail, plus 64 km of gaps and side trails. The official trail tracker spreadsheet shows the Palisades/Table Rock and Mt St Helena segments as official parts of the trail, spurs, so those I’ve included in my total.
Tuesday I completed a little more of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the Coyote Creek south and north sections, plus the part of Penitencia Creek that I’d not done on the previous trip. I had set aside all day for this trip, thinking of it like it were a hike and considering the distances, but of course bicycling was much quicker and more efficient. When I’ve been hiking a lot and not bicycling as much, I start thinking of distances solely in terms of walking, and forget that bicycling is the most efficient form of travel ever invented.
I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose Diridon, VTA light rail to Santa Teresa, and VTA bus 68 to Morgan Hill, then rode the 3 km to the trailhead of Coyote Creek Parkway in Anderson Lake County Park.
The Coyote Creek Parkway is paved all the way, and mostly in good condition. Sometimes it has a walking verge off the pavement, and sometimes not. The path sometimes follows the creek closely, within the riparian area, but often veers away into drier areas. The south section, to Metcalf Park, is lightly used and mostly feels very natural except for a few places where is comes close to Highway 101. The north section is much more heavily used, by bicyclists and walkers and unhoused people, and feels much more urban with proximity to the freeway and more road crossings, though it passes through some nice city parks.
The official trail ends at Tully Road in San Jose. From this point I followed streets and a few short sections of trail to the Penitencia Creek trailhead. The creek corridor is much more constrained in this section, and a creekside trail may not be possible along the length, though I’m sure that some can be.
The Berryessa BART station, when it opens, will be the end of this Coyote Creek route and the start of the Penitencia Creek Parkway, an urban trailhead. But the station is not due to open until fall (of some year – it has been delayed multiple times) so I don’t know what the trailhead will look like.
I rode the Penitencia Creek Parkway path, some of which is paved and some dirt, to the point I’d left off on the previous trip, very close to the VTA Penitencia light rail station. Light rail to catch the Capitol Corridor at Santa Clara Great America, and then off on a side trip to San Francisco, because I had so much time left over.
My trail totals are now 434 km of 683 km, 64%, and 56 km of gaps and side trails.
I checked trail conditions for the Granite Chief Wilderness, the area of the Sierra Nevada where I usually spend most of my summers, and it looks like the snow is still deep in several areas, so I’m going to do one or two more trips on the Ridge Trail, in Napa and Sonoma counties, and then head to the mountains mid-month. As much as I’m enjoying the Ridge Trail, I want to be in the high, cooler country.
This week I picked up three more sections of the Ridge Trail. Though the trail is continuous from Kennedy Grove in the north to Garin in the south, about 73 km, it becomes very discontinuous to the south, so I went in and out from transit accessible trailheads. I have mostly finished off the easily transit accessible trails, so the walks from transit to trail are becoming longer.
I have converted the trail council’s spreadsheet to kilometers, as I’m trying to convert my mind from miles to kilometers. The US being the sole holdout in the world for the ‘standard’ system, it costs our county billions of dollars per year, and makes communications with other countries more difficult. I still have some refining to do on the spreadsheet, so won’t post it quite yet, but will share when I can. At any rate, I am now 403 km out of 683 km, 59% of the completed trail, plus another 45 km of gaps and side trails.
I started at Castro Valley BART, where I left off my last trip, and walked to the Five Canyons Trailhead. The trail skirts above houses and eventually rises steeply to the ridge. It drops off the ridge into a wooded shady canyon with flowing (seasonal?) creek, a brief respite from the sunny ridge, and then back up to the ridge. The trail eventually passes through Stonebrae, a membership golf course, upscale to say the least. The council says that a trail down to Niles Canyon is in the planning stage, but meanwhile, a side trail descends steeply through Dry Creek Regional Park, finally reaching a shaded canyon. It is a short walk out to the bus on Mission Blvd, which I used to BART and then another bus to the beginning of the Mission Peak section.
The trail starts again at the upper edge of Ohlone College, and climbs steadily and steeply up onto the main ridge. There were hundreds of people on this trail section, more than I have ever seen on the Ridge Trail, a popular destination. From the point the trail leaves the main trail to the peak and skirts to the east, I saw only two people. The walk up the peak from the south is easier than from the north, and of course less crowded. Eagle Spring Backpack Camp along this section offers picnic tables, porta-potty, and water. It doesn’t look like it gets much use, but would be a good stopping point for long-distance hikers, or just people wanting a night away. I was there in the middle of the day, so moved along. After skirting Allison Peak, with its thicket of communication towers, the trail descents very steeply to the west, dropping into Calera Creek. I missed the trail here and ended up on a cow trail, as did other hikers, so I think there is a sign missing.
I was thinking about walking a road gap from Ed Levin Park to Sierra Vista, along Calaveras Road and Felter Road (which will probably not be the alignment of the ridge trail when complete), but I had failed to notice how far down the trail drops to Ed Levin, almost back to the valley floor, so climbing back to the crest would have pushed me so far that I might not have done the next section.
I caught a ride out from Ed Levin Park to transit from two of the other lost hikers, and then took light rail to Penitencia Creek Station.
I headed up Penitencia Creek Parkway, not very interesting other than providing access, and into Alum Rock Park, which is quite a magical place. I missed a ridge trail turn, perhaps a missing sign, and found myself heading up Penitencia Creek rather than climbing the northern wall of the canyon. Though it is a relatively short distance from the end of the trail in the creek bottom where it becomes the south rim trail, and the Ridge Trail, there is no connection. I continued. Less said, the better, but Penitencia Creek goes into an extremely rough canyon that is barely hikeable, and was quite difficult with a backpack on.
I walked out the Sierra Vista section south to the current end. There will be a connection to Joseph Grant Park, but it is not there yet. I then headed north along the Ridge Trail, which climbs all the way to the ridge, nearly to a trailhead on Sierra Road, and then descends all the way back down to the creek. This south facing slope is almost treeless, just grasslands, and was quite warm even on a moderate temperature day. I saw a lot of people going uphill, already sweating heavily and red-faced.
East Bay Regional Park District and Santa Clara Open Space Authority have grazing on many of their lands. While this is overall a good thing, as it reduces fuel for grass and brush fires, much of the area is seriously overgrazed in my view. It was worst on Santa Clara lands. Grass length was down to less than two inches over large areas, and I could see a number of places where grass had actually been pulled up by the roots, by cows. There are also sacrifice zones of bull thistle where the soil is sterilized by cow flop and nothing else can grow. These ugly black areas, which look like they have been burned, are a message that there are too many cows on for too long. EBRPD and SCOSA are not managing grazing in a responsible manner.
I returned down Penitencia Creek to the light rail station, thence to Diridon Station, and home on the Capitol Corridor. Though I was considering also doing the Santa Teresa section that remains on my list, my feet and the very warm day argued otherwise. I am going to bicycle the Coyote Creek Parkway trail, the remaining Penitencia Creek Parkway trail, and the gap section in between, on another trip.
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.
This weekend I enjoyed an overnight hike, called the Solano Overnight, sponsored by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. We met at Benicia State Recreation Area on the Carquinez Strait, and were shuttled to the northern end at Newell Open Space trailhead. The group of about 20 people, leaders included, are mostly from Solano and Contra Costa counties, many of them long time Ridge Trail hikers but some new to it.
From the Newell trailhead, we hiked up the access trail to the ridge crest, connecting with the official Ridge Trail, and then descended through the Lynch Canyon Open Space to the trailhead parking lot near Interstate 80 where we had lunch. We then went up Middle Valley back to the ridgeline, and then out through a newly purchased but as yet un-trailed grassy valley to a trailhead near the Hiddenbrook interchange.
Across the interchange to the Hiddenbrooke Trail, which is initially along the road but eventually heads into the grassy hills again, with spectacular views near Sulfur Springs Mountain. At the end of the official Ridge Trail, we descended into McIntyre Ranch, a Greater Vallejo Recreation District facility where we camped the night, with a catered dinner and s’mores around the campfire.
Next morning we walked along unofficial road and trail to Blue Rock Springs Park, where the official trail starts again. A long walk along Columbus Parkway and Ascot Parkway finally brings the trail back to nature at the Vallejo-Benicia Buffer. The trail heads down the ridge between sprawl subdivisions on the Vallejo side and sprawl subdivisions on the Benicia side. And then back to the state recreation area.
I got to the trailhead via BART and SolTrans Y bus from San Francisco, and then caught a ride from two participants to the Pleasant Hill BART station, thence back to Richmond BART and the Capitol Corridor train home.
For me, the two big reasons I signed up for the hike were that a shuttle was provided to the trailhead, which I could not have gotten to on transit, and that the route was through sections not open to the public.
I do most of my backpacking and much of my day hiking solo, so this was a fairly unique experience of going with a group, but I really enjoyed the camaraderie, information sharing, and stories. I have a lot more insight now into the challenging planning, fundraising, and partnerships that go into the Ridge Trail and growth into its eventual 550 miles or so.
I am ‘circumnavigating’ the Ridge Trail, but as a car-free person, that is challenging. I’ve done the easily transit-accessible segments, have started into the partially transit-accessible parts, but won’t get to the rest unless I go with groups. I’m now at 242 miles / 389 kilometers, but that distance is not directly comparable to the current officially complete mileage of about 375, because I have been walking and counting many of the gaps. I’ve also walked access trails that won’t necessarily be part of the final trail once it is a through-trail.
This week I backpacked/hiked several section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail between Martinez and Richmond, south of the Carquinez Strait. This is part of a long-term project to walk as much of the Ridge Trail as possible with access from transit, with occasional long walks or hitchhiking. I had done the easily transit accessible sections over the last two years, and now it is getting increasingly challenging, but I’m also re-energized for getting as much of it as I can. As of this trip, I’ve done 226 miles, though that can’t be compared directly to the 375 miles which is complete because it includes several gaps I’ve walked, along roads and fire trails that are not officially part of the Ridge Trail but provide connections.
I took the train into Martinez, walked to El Cielo Brewery for a beer (beer is usually a trip-completion item, but I knew I was probably not going to be near a brewery at the end), then out of town to the Nejedly Staging Area and up onto the ridge via the Hult Hornbeck trail. I slept up top, slightly sheltered from the strong wind by a sitting bench while cows milled about all night. Morning, I walked down to the John Muir National Historic Site, which surprisingly I’d never been to before. After waiting for it to open, I toured the house and property. Then out the back gate, though the tunnel, and up onto Mt Wanda. The Ridge Trail ends here at private property, the Almond Ranch, which the John Muir Land Trust is making an effort to purchase and close a gap in the trail. I ran into staff/volunteers from the JMLT and talked to them a while about the challenge and hiking. I returned to the bottom and walked along Franklin Canyon Rd to…
Feeder Trail #1, which climbs up a fire road to the grassy highlands. This won’t be the trail when the gap is closed, but it is for now. The trail goes through two other JMLT purchases and onto what I’m guessing is an easement through another private ranch, down to Ferndale Rd. This section of trail beyond the top is almost unused. No footprints, no bending of the grass. From Ferndale Rd to Pereira Rd, I think there once was but no longer is an easement. I wiggled through on an adjacent ranch and the owner was nice enough to let me pass. He grumbled about EBRPD (East Bay Regional Park District) which he thought was responsible for the trail route and the lack of access.
From the bottom of Pereira Rd, the East Pinole Watershed Trail climbs back up the the ridgeline through heavily grazed lands belonging to EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utilities District) which supplies most of the water to east bay cities. A permit is required, though again the trail is practically unused and I’d not expect to see anyone there.
The Pinole Watershed trail leads from the junction of the Fernandez Ranch trail coming up from the north westward to the edge of the watershed and into Sobrante Ridge Preserve. Again, very little use, the trail was hard to follow especially in wet areas, and signing is sparse. The entire part of the Pinole Watershed is hard walking, at least at this time of year, and the heavy cattle grazing makes a mine-field of the trail, with deep cow hoof prints interspersed with ridges of dried mud pushed up out of the prints. My ankles were very sore after this section. In Sobrante Ridge, the cows were gone and the walking easier. The bottom section of the trail down to Conestoga Dr is ‘closed’ due to a slip-out at a creek crossing. The closure was probably appropriate, but it is very irritating that EBRPD places the closed sign at the beginning of the last section. There is no indication of the closure ahead at the earlier point where I could have exited down to Coach Dr. This is at least the fifth time I’ve run into this unprofessional too-late signing on EBRPD lands. I guess it must be their standard practice.
From the end of the trail, I walked along Castro Ranch Rd to Hillside Dr, another gap in the Ridge Trail, and into Kennedy Grove recreation area, the end of my hike. Two years ago, I’d walked from Kennedy Grove south to Castro Valley. After lunch, I walked back to the bus stop and waited for well over an hour for a 30-minute frequency bus, as apparently AC Transit saw fit to not run two buses in a row. To Richmond station, and then home on the Capitol Corridor.
The pieces of trail in this area that I did not do are the ones in Crockett Hills park and the Fernandez Ranch trail on JMLT, so I’ll go back to pick those up on another trip. Last year I rode the road and trail between Crockett and Martinez, but it was mostly dark and so I didn’t really see what it looked like. Not part of the ridge trail, but worth doing again, in daylight. When the gaps are filled, there will be a Ridge Trail loop using the two bridges (Martinez-Benecia, and Carquinez) and trails north and south of the strait.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, often just called the Ridge Trail, is planned and promoted by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council (https://ridgetrail.org). The trails, however, are administered by the land agencies over which they pass. Some do a good job, others not so much.
Two previous posts on the Bay Area Ridge Trail: Bay Ridge Trail: White Hill to Pantoll and Bay Area Ridge trail sections. Of course what really introduced me to the Bay Area Ridge Trail is hiking the American Discovery Trail section CA-09, San Francisco to Point Reyes, for which there are two posts: Point Reyes to SF backpack 2016-05, and ADT: San Francisco to Point Reyes 2013-11. When labeling and uploading the photos from this trip, I realized I’d not labeled or uploaded anything from my 2018 trips, and that I had not blogged about them either. Ah well, water under the bridge, so to speak. I probably have sufficient information in my journal (I carry a small Moleskine on my backpack trips) to post, but I probably do not have sufficient time.