A random collection of day hiking trips, meanderings, musings, and other distractions from the maelstrom that is modern life.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Brook Trail Variation
Tall redwoods along the Brook Trail
This hike was a variation on the Brook loop at Pescadero Creek County Park. Most of the hikes I do around the bay area are planned out as different variations of some predefined route. My usual practice is to peruse my maps and study the trail systems to see how they interconnect. I try to never hike the same route twice in the same year, even though I might use the same trails for other routes. By doing this, I can go on hikes in familiar places that can seem like a completely different hike than my last visit. Not that there is anything wrong with the Brook loop. Actually, if you’ve never hiked at Pescadero Creek before, I would recommend hiking the Brook Loop as shown on the map as a perfect introduction to the park. If you follow the trail markers, they will lead you on a great little loop of about 6.5 miles depending on which trailhead you use. The route as marked is comprised of single track trail sections, using fire roads only minimally to make connections. The Brook loop will take you through many of the prettiest areas, which would get bypassed if you were to divert to a fire road for simplicity. Pescadero Creek overall is very peaceful and underutilized. Having a good map is essential here, as the trail system can be confusing if you don’t pay attention. There is an excellent map available on line. I highly recommend purchasing a hard copy.
I decided to park at the Heritage Grove trailhead on Alpine Road, even though this is a longer drive than using the trailhead along Camp Pomponio Road, which always necessitates an uphill return. Heritage Grove is a little wooded park right along Alpine Road where there are a few fairly nice old growth redwoods. There is only a small turnout parking area. Most of this area does show signs of legacy logging, but some impressive trees remain amongst the recovering forests. After enjoying the grove on this chilly but clear morning, I diverted over into Sam McDonald County Park hiking west on the Heritage Grove trail. This section is a flat easy walk along thickly wooded slopes with its trail tread carpeted with cushioning tree duff. I turned off to hike up the Big Trees Trail. This is another nice, mostly redwood, section leading uphill to the Towne Trail. After passing the junction with the Ridge Trail and the Jack Brook horse camp, the Town Trail becomes a fire road leading through open grassy meadows. The horse camp looked completely deserted, and the meadow grasses are turning deep green like springtime. Most of the trails are still closed to horses for the season even though it’s not very wet up there right now. At the next junction I picked up the Brook Trail.
Tiny red mushroom
From this point, the Brook Trail leads gently downhill into a densely wooded canyon. The switchbacks along the trail make the grading easy. Lots of Pacific Hound’s Tongue is just beginning to bloom all over Pescadero Creek right now. Most of it is just peeking out, but the leaf structure is unmistakable. I was seeing it everywhere and even saw some bees buzzing around it. By the time you get down to Towne Creek you are in deep forest canopy with the water sounds echoing around, and I was hearing lots of bird and squirrel calls. The creeks that run through here have cut some fairly deep little ravines thick with greenery, and one of them looks like a miniature version of Fern Canyon. After crossing Grangers Bridge at the junction of several creeks I turned on the Pomponio Trail and over to the Bear Ridge Trail eventually rejoining the Brook Trail and returning to Towne Road. I used the other part of the Heritage Grove Trail to return to Alpine Road. I didn’t see any other people for most of the day. Not until I was almost back to Town Road did I pass a Boy Scout troupe and some other hikers close to trailheads. I found a tiny white trillium along Bear Ridge alongside some yellow Wood Violets, providing a glimpse of the coming spring, even though I hope we get some more rain before that happens. This route was 11.7 miles with a moderate 1941 feet of total elevation gain. You can check out my trip report and photos on EveryTrail. (fixed the track log)