Monday, November 24, 2008

Day Hike: Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Loop


Finally, I went on my first secluded mid-week day hike. On Thursday I hiked in Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. I had never been there before and was intrigued by a former coworker commenting that his friends abandoned ship after only a couple miles in this park claiming it was too steep for them. I'm not sure if this was the route he took his friends on, and being in the East Bay hills I was expecting plenty of up and down, but it wasn't anything yours truly couldn't handle. It ended up being short and sweet with just enough steep ascent to get my heart thumping.

Hike Stats:
  • Date: November 19, 2008
  • Location: CA, Bay Area, Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, San Ramon
  • Lat/Long: 37.81600189, -122.0496292
  • Trailhead: Staging Area End of Bollinger Canyon Rd.
  • Facilities: toilets, picnic area, no drinking water or phone
  • Trails Hiked: Bollinger Creek Loop, Las Trampas Ridge, Corduroy Hills, Las Trampas Ridge, Chamise, Bollinger
  • Mileage: 3.75
  • Elevation: +/-881' ; lo pt 1,049'; hi pt 1,736'
  • Route Type: Loop (w/ side trip spur to Eagle Peak bench)
  • Terrain: single track & fire/ranch roads, cow ruts and mud potential, Corduroy Hills Trail steep in spots with rock & gravel.
  • Flora: Oak Woodland & Grassland/Savanna, Chaparral, Riparian (winter/spring)
  • Why Go?: Ridgetop, wide views; Geology, faulting, uplift, fossils; Dog friendly.
  • Caveat: Cows = cattle gates & deep mud when wet
  • Official Website: Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
  • View the entire photo album here at flickr.
Change of Plans
Actually driving to Mount Diablo S.P. for a 7-mile summit loop hike, I noticed that the air quality was lousy and I wanted to reserve that hike for a crisp, clear day. Remembering that Las Trampas was very close to Mount Diablo, I switched on my GPS and told it to lead the way to the Las Trampas trailhead. But after arriving at my new destination, I realized it too might be better on a crystal clear day as most of the trails in Las Trampas head up for the many surrounding ridges with wide-angle views.

Panorama from Eagle Peak on a spur trail that breaks to the right off of Corduroy Hill Trail. There's a little hidden bench here facing east to facilitate taking in the view of Mount Diablo and the San Ramon Valley. (Notice the smog and haze.)

Flora Identification
I brought my pocket-sized Pacific Coast Tree Finder with me this time, as usually I end up not being able to identify a tree after I get home despite taking a photo of it. I was glad I brought this little booklet. Along Bollinger Creek Loop Trail I added two new trees to my native plant repertoire: Northern California Black Walnut and Oregon Ash. Amongst the plants I already recognize were bigleaf maple, California buckeye, plenty of various oaks, bay laurel, and madrone trees. And on the higher trails were coyote brush, chamise, black sage (trail perfume!), lupine, pink flowering current, and toyon a.k.a. christmas berry.

Northern California Black Walnut—Juglans californica var. hindsii
Oregon Ash—Fraxinus latifolia (not the small tree in the foreground. I couldn't figure that one out.)

Fall is Where You Find It
Those that say California doesn't have a fall season don't get out and hike much. California may not have the in-your-face color and temperature drop-off of the East Coast but the seasonal signs are here for those who bother to notice. Besides the quick set-of-the-sun behind Rocky Ridge and yet-to-be-filled, bone-dry Bollinger creek, other fall season signs at Las Trampas included pretty orange bigleaf maple foliage, the above mentioned yellowing walnut and ash trees, naked California buckeyes with their giant fuzzy green splitting seed pods, dangling bunches of dimpled blood-orange madrone berries, the smooth bright-red toyon berry clusters, the fuzzy cream-white blooms of coyote brush, the burnt-orange sprays of spent chamise blooms, even some yellowing cottonwoods.

All-in-all a nice little fall hike in a nice little park. I will definitely return this winter to see Bollinger Creek flowing and what's on the other side of Rocky Ridge.

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