Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Edifying Run for Nerds...

Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve
/Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
(Skyline Gate- Skyline- Huckleberry Path- Skyline Boulevard (whoops)- Round Top- Quarry Trail- Pond Trail- Volcanic Trail- Round Top Loop- Bay Area Ridge Trail- Skyline)
(8.6 miles)

While neither Huckleberry nor Sibley have enough trails individually to warrant a run, this was an exquisite combination of trails, and includes plenty of learning opportunities for the inner nerd in you.

We started Easter morning from Redwood's Skyline Gate around 9:30, and barely got parking. If you are trying this hike on a weekend, come early or be prepared to be creative in your parking search. (Alternatively, if you wanted to do a little less mileage, it's possible to start from the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve trailhead, just up Skyline Boulevard-- far less cars will be parked there, I'm sure.)

We started out on the East Ridge Trail (take the big fire road to the left) but very quickly turned off on Skyline Trail. This leads to Huckleberry, a great little botanic wonder that I have covered here. This morning, the views were outstanding, as can be seen from this vista of Mt. Diablo.

We took the upper path through Huckleberry, planning on coming back on the lower loop on our return. This was a great plan, but it meant we accidentally missed the turn off to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and we ended up on Skyline Boulevard for a short moment (1/4 mile?) until we reached the entrance to Sibley. Getting on to the Bay Area Ridge Trail would have added another 1/2 a mile and a very steep section of trail.

However, if we had done that, we would have missed the informational kiosk at the entrance to Sibley. Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve was, to quote the informational brochure, "a complex volcanic center that was the source, 10 million years ago, of most of the lavas that underlie the ridges from Inspiration Point in Tilden Regional Park to Moraga." Perhaps you are not as nerdy as me, but I love learning different historical facts about the trails I am running on. Plus, there was a John McPhee quote included in the park information. John McPhee is one of my favorite writers-- I was convinced, simply through the strength of his writing--that geology is a fascinating subject. I will read anything John McPhee writes.

The trails in Sibley are very flat, so do not come expecting huge elevation gain/loss. However, Sibley has a high ratio of gorgeous-views-to-miles of trail. It was possible to see the Bay on one side and Mt. Diablo on the other. Mining practices have carved out hillsides in dramatic relief, exposing layers of geologic history (nerds, get out your natural history books!). Finally, Sibley is an explosion of color at the moment-- hillsides are covered with lupine, accented with California Poppies. I highly recommend running here in the next couple of weeks. Sibley will be beautiful even with the characteristic East Bay golden-brown hills of summer, but it's stunning at the moment.

We took Round Top to Quarry, and then decided to take the tiny Pond Trail loop. By itself, the little pond is quite beguiling-- a little spot of peacefulness tucked away on the hill. As we started around the pond though, frogs started jumping off the side of the pond into the water--lots of frogs! Jen took a video to try and capture the noise the frogs made as they jumped in- it sounded like a partial duck-quack, only shorter and quieter. Dogs aren't supposed to be at the pond, and while I'm clearly a dogs-on-trail kind of person, I was happy Neko wasn't there to scare the frogs. Some of them were quite large, too.

After the thrilling frog-sighting, we took Volcanic Trail back to Round Top. Volcanic Trail winds through a huge basalt lava flow--the brochure for the self-guided tour drops names like "chalcedony" and "zeolites" in its description-- how's THAT for nerdy?

Once past Round Top, we took the Bay Area Ridge Trail back towards Huckleberry. This is a great stretch of trail as well-- it drops very steeply down off the ridge, winding through shady oak trees and lots of poison oak, crossing an unnamed creek and then climbing back up the canyon to Huckleberry.

In short, a great option for a meandering run on a Sunday morning. This run has too many beautiful corners to rush. It would also be possible to start at Joaquin Miller or another gate in Redwood to add some more mileage on, if 8.6 were feeling short.

No dogs at Huckleberry, and dogs only at parts of Sibley, so I wouldn't recommend taking the pooches on this run.


Jo Lynn said...

Those frogs are awesome! I had to laugh though -- I wonder what Boomer would do if he saw them? He's probably look at them, then at me like "WTF?"

René said...

Love the frog! I biked up there in the heat yesterday and was so grateful to find the shady kiosk with water fountain and bathrooms. It was like an oasis. Trails are so beautiful sometimes running through them doesn't give enough time to fully enjoy the details. I like to stop and take photos and listen to the sounds.

Gambolin' Man said...


I just posted my narrative on these two parks, plus two others! Hope you get a chance to enjoy!

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot