Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, June 2021

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #264. June 2021
View from Berryessa Peak Trail, CA
View from Berryessa Peak Trail, CA #NiftyNinety (Ralph Alcorn)

For all its material advantage, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled.  Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten.  The open road still softly calls. Carl Sagan 
(Thanks, Marcia Powers, for reminding us of this great quotation.)


1. Redwood SkyWalk, Eureka, CA
2. Jenner Headland Preserve
3. REI opening up more classes and events
4. Strength training and you
5. Food for thought — healthy hiking
6. No ferry across Edison Lake to Vermilion resort
7. Colour the trails
8. Update on our Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge
9. Dirty Girl Gaiters 
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Mount Sizer makes it 88 peaks on the Nifty Ninety

Mount Sizer, Henry Coe SP

There are several reasons why we waited until near the end of the list of 90 peaks on the Ninety Nifty Peak challenge to do Sizer. The first was that we figured we’d need to backpack in instead of doing the peak as a day hike. Second, everyone says it is hard — no matter their age. Third, we wanted to be stronger than when we started this whole  challenge (to work our way up). I wasn’t confident I could do it. 

Upper Camp

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The Ridge Trail Beckons!

Ridges to Bridges 2021

Ridge Trail hike near Carquinez Strait

The Bay Area Ridge Trail is an ambitious goal. As envisioned, it would circumnavigate San Francisco Bay with a continuous trail — for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians — of 550 miles. Currently, 390 miles have been acquired and made available to the public. 

2021’s Ridge to Bridges
Because of precautions and restrictions due to due to COVID-19, the annual Ridge to Bridges this year is self-guided. Participants choose from “curated Ridge Trail options in 4 locations around the Bay Area” and complete their outings on their own schedule, at their own pace.
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Hmm, where is Vasquez Peak?

Where’s our peak? 

Woo hoo! For us, Vasquez Peak in Henry Coe State Park was our 84th peak of the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge.

It was supposed to be 10.2 miles rt., but my friend Patricia and I were ahead of the guys and we didn’t have any navigational devices. We thought Ralph was keeping track on the GPS. Every time I looked back to see if he was signaling me we were close, he was engrossed with walking and talking with our friend Tom.

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It turned out Vasquez Peak was not marked — and there were several high points nearby so you wouldn’t just know by looking around. About a mile past Vasquez, we all stopped to assess exactly where we were. We had reached Rock Springs.

Our route out and back

We walked out on the Hunting Hollow (dirt) road from the parking area at the Hunting Hollow entrance (fee or State Park pass required). There were five creek crossings, but none even ankle deep and rocks had been placed that made it easy.

We turned left and up the hill on the Lyman Willson Ridge Trail. This was the steepest park of the hike, but we stopped tons of times to photograph wildflowers so we didn’t care. We turned right onto Bowl Trail, which took us past Willson Camp.

Willson Camp, as the name implies, allows camping, but there was no one there. The wooden buildings were in disrepair. The large shed was in the worst condition, but it provided some shelter from the strong wind as we ate our snacks. We appreciated the fact that there was a porta-potty available that was being maintained. The water faucet had been turned off. So this is a reminder to either carry all the water you need or be certain there is a source within the park when you hike or camp here!

Past the camp we made our way onto Vasquez Road, which took us past several high points — one, as I noted, was Vasquez itself and Rock Springs!

It was a great hike and I had the feeling that the display of wildflowers was just beginning. Among others, we saw California Poppies, Buttercups, Vetch, Lupine, Hounds Tongue, Baby Blue Eyes, and Fiddlenecks in profusion! Gorgeous!

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Getaway to Montara Mountain, North Peak

Encompassing Views of Montara Mountain, North Peak

Looking west at Pacifica and the Pacific Ocean

Our little team has been wanting to do some more #Nifty Ninety Peaks, but we were in agreement that we didn’t want to do them in the 90+ degree conditions of the inland valleys. Since the weather pattern of the S.F. Bay Area brings fog to  San Francisco and nearby coastal areas during the summer, we just had to wait for our opportunity. That happened the last weekend of July.  

There were two peaks down the S.F. Peninsula that were reasonably close together — Montara Mountain (North Peak) and Chalk Mountain. These would be peaks #74 and #75 for us. And since driving to either one involved a long drive from where we live, we decided to do the two peaks on one trip. That necessitated finding a place to stay overnight. Our hiking partner Tom, made reservations for all of us at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, near Pescadero. 
We elected to hike Montara Mountain along the San Mateo coast first. Another friend, Patricia, had researched various roads into the hills and had selected the trails that we would follow.
Finding the trail head wasn’t difficult — from Highway I, the Coast Highway, we turned east onto Linda Mar Blvd. As we drove up the hill to San Pedro Valley County Park, we appreciated that starting from the park would save us about 400 feet of the climb to the 1,898′ summit.
We paid our $6 parking fee (free weekdays for seniors) and parked. We had a two trails to choose from initially. The Trout Farm and the Brooks Creek were basically parallel and about the same length, so we decided to start of the Trout Farm and end on the Brooks Creek. Most of our route, however, was an out and back one. 

A bit of history 

The Trout Farm Trail took us past a few picnic table and benches. We found some informational signs that described what the Trout Farm had been — a place where visitors could come to picnic and fish. John and Mary Gay ran the farm. John built several round tanks for raising fish, and a fishing pond. Families rented poles, then stood or sat on logs alongside a pond, and would be charged according to the size of any fish caught. The trout farm was operated by John Gay until 1962, when storm rains washed out the operation; today, only a few pieces of the breeding ponds remain.

Back on the trail

The trail ascended alongside the south fork of San Pedro Creek for a while. We could hear, but rarely see the water, but assume it would be roaring during the rainy season. The seasonal water is part of Pacifica’s water supply and is a major steelhead trout habitat.  

At 0.5 miles along, our trail met the Brook Creek Trail. Turning left, we continued uphill. I was impressed at how well maintained the trail was and appreciated the fact that we had switchbacks to make it easy. Another 0.7 miles uphill, we met the Montara Mountain Trail, and turned left, uphill again.

The Montara Mtn. Trail took us out of the county park and into McNee Ranch State Park. The trail was still fairly good and it took us up to Montara Mountain Road. We turned left on the wide fire road to ascend the final mile to Montara Mountain North Peak. As has frequently been the case, the very top of the mountain was surrounded by a chain link fence keeping visitors from a cell tower. Nevertheless, we were stop for a break and eat our lunches. 

Views from the peak and along the way, had been great — depending where we were standing, we could see down into Pacifica, out to sea, miles of wild open space, across the the channel to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, and across San Francisco Bay to Mount Diablo. 

Back downhill

The descent was easy — we retraced our steps until we came to the intersection of Brooks Creek and Trout Farm where we kept left to stay on Brooks Creek. Total distance was 8-8.5 miles. 

Then we headed for our accommodations for the night — the Pigeon Point Hostel & Lighthouse. The following day we were set to go on Peak #75— Chalk Mountain, a bit further south on Highway 1. Link is here

hiked: 7/28/2019 Peak #74 for us