Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Back to Santa Teresa

Coyote Peak
I didn’t want to let too much of the spring season roll by with making a return visit to Santa Teresa County Park. Our last trip here was a wet hike, that we went on just to cure a case of cabin fever. We hiked around most of the day in the rain and mud, and actually had a pretty good time. I had noticed that even though this park is at a low elevation, the view opportunities actually looked pretty good. The weather was too murky to really see anything very far away, but knowing the area, I could easily imagine what the vistas would look like. I was also remembering how many of the wild flowers had responded despite the wet conditions, so I was anxious to get back there on a clear and sunny day to see what we’ve been missing.

Most Beautiful Jewel Flower
In the southwest corner of the park is the Style trailhead, which is much quieter than the main entrance over at Bernal Road. We often drive right past here on our way to Rancho Cañada del Oro. I enjoy Rancho Cañada for its more remote and quieter setting, but this would make a nice change. The Style Ranch Trail immediately begins climbing up some rocky switchbacks up to about 700 feet. The shrubbery on this section works as a natural attractant for humming birds, and we ran across a man with a gigantic lens on a tripod that looked like it belonged in an observatory, who was trying to get pictures of them. Evidently some of the humming bird species that frequent this park are quite rare. I don’t know if I would have the patience to sit there all morning shooting birds. After we had reached the ridge top, I began to notice the Jewel flower that was in bloom along this route. I had not seen this variety before in a pinkish color, called Most Beautiful Jewel Flower (Streptanthus albidus ssp. Peramoenus). The Jewel Flower I see most often is dark purple. Finding what was for me a new flower was good payoff after only the first mile or so.

We hiked about a 10 mile loop utilizing the Mine Trail, Ohlone, Ridge, and Hidden Spring Trails, then up to Coyote Peak at 1155 feet. This little peak offers some fantastic long range viewing for so little climbing. We could see all 3 major bay area cities (SF, San Jose, and Oakland), several bridges, and Mt Tamalpias looming in the distant haze. Normally you would need much more altitude for that. Turning to the south you can also see Morgan Hill, El Toro Peak, and can spot Pine Ridge in Henry Coe. Just west is Mt Loma Prieta, and to the east, Mt Hamilton. We didn’t stay all that long because the wind was blowing so hard it was like a freakin' gale or something. Being exposed to the channel of the bay, the wind has a straight shot straight up there which can make it like a wind tunnel. We also had made a couple of diversions that you can see on the track log. The first one was a walk up an old road which we had mistaken for the Ohlone Trail. The other was a trail shown on the map called the Laurel Canyon Nature Trail. Who knew Santa Teresa had a waterfall? I didn’t, but there is was. It’s Small and vey seasonal, but worth seeing. I couldn’t get a very good picture because of the lighting conditions.We should have come here during our wet visit.

Serpentine rock along Rocky Ridge Trail
We headed back toward Style using the Rocky Ridge Trail (aptly named). The serpentine rock along here is perfect habitat for rattlesnakes, and we crossed paths with a couple of them. The first one was moving across the trail, and looked to be avoiding us. Later, I had found some nice Cream Cups on the trail, and was kneeling down trying to get some photos in the wind while Sue hiked on a bit. A few moments later, I barely heard a strange little shriek as Sue had stumbled across another rattlesnake coiled up hidden in the grass not 1 foot off the trail. Unlike the first one, this bad boy wasn’t going anywhere. We finally hiked off trail to make a wide enough birth around it, and were on our way. But It did get a photo. We used the Fortini Trail to make our way back to the trail head. It was a beautiful day, and I’m sure we will make future visits.

Click here to see the photos on flickr
Click here to see my track log on Everytrail

1 comment:

Chris Marks said...

One of my favorite spots for wildflowers in the spring that I didn't discover until recently. Coyote Peak is a great spot to watch the sun set too. Spring and Summer afternoons can be a bit warm in the park but in the evening it's a blast to watch the fog roll over the Sierra Azul and the shadows creep across Silicon Valley.