HOOD MOUNTAIN (2,730') 4X, RUSSIAN GULCH STATE PARK, AND SALT POINT STATE PARK HIKES February 2-3, 2005
Warmer weather heralded this short North Coast road trip. I motored west on Interstate 80 to take CA 12 through Sonoma, CA, then north to Adobe Canyon Road and the southern trailhead for Hood Mountain, or Mt. Hood.
Beginning my first hike at 10:10 a.m., I summited Hood Mountain in 97 minutes, by the steep, and often rocky, trail. It starts from a mile or two, down the Adobe Canyon Road, from Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. No fee is necessary to use this trail. This route offers many trail signs for directions, with a bench and parks map about half way up. There were two footbridges to cross, near the start, and a rock hop to get across one stream.
The view isn't very good from the summit proper, which is not marked well. It is a clearing in the trees with the highpoint apparently a sharp rock, in brush, on the south side of the clearing. I hiked back down, southbound, to the signed, side trail for "Gunsight Rock." This is a rocky prominence that is roughly the outline of a notch. A big subdivision in the Valley of the Moon, with distant views of Santa Rosa, CA, are seen from this set of rocks. I started back down after photos and a drink of water. The trail runs partly on a steep, grassy green, hillside.
Getting back to my car by 1:38 p.m., I drove off quickly. Motoring back to CA 12, I headed north into the town of Santa Rosa, CA. Meandering about, I came to the downtown section. Parking my car, I strolled about a bit, seeing what more I have never seen before, at least so closely. The downtown area seems pretty vibrant, and I snapped photos of the old and new buildings. Enjoying a deli salad and drink, I relaxed, looking forward to a good, multiple, set of hikes, the next day.
Finding the old Santa Rosa railroad square, I walked about a bit there, too. Here is a statue devoted to the "Peanuts" characters, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. They are from a newspaper cartoon, whose author is now gone, but which enjoyed immense popularity in the 20th Century. Some reconstruction is ongoing on side streets.
I took U.S. 101 north, stuck at first in a rush hour traffic jam, and passed through various small towns. Coming to Ukiah, CA, I took a motel room. Looking for dinner, I found a sandwich shop, then also had some supermarket deli food as well. I seek to reduce my girth by dieting a bit, along with the exercise.
Awakened early the next morning by my watch alarm, and after a hot cakes breakfast, I zoomed north on 101. My biggest regret of this trip was not stopping for a few photos of the Willits, CA, neon "Gateway to the Redwoods" sign above the road. The dawn light made it a super subject for an early morning magic hour.
Taking CA 20 west, I passed through much of old Redwood country, with hills and canyons once filled with these magnificent trees, I'd imagine. No great vista points are built along this road, so I contented myself with the challenging drive, with many sharp curves.
Coming to CA 1, the Shoreline Highway, I turned left and went south. Shortly, I looked for the Jughandle State Preserve, but couldn't find it. The signs must need some work or better, clearer placements. Motoring on to Russian Gulch State Park, I paid the self-pay $6 day-use fee, and parked at the end of a side road east.
Using the facility, I began my hike to the waterfall, by 8:40 a.m. An asphalt trail, covered by wet, decomposing leaves and needles, leads up the canyon. This is very much temperate rain forest, with mosses, ferns, and luxuriant growth. It was dim in the canyon, but I ventured to try some handheld shooting. Some photos came out well enough. Mountain bikers have it easier than hikers, with mostly flat pavement, and a bike rack at the end of the flat trail.
A jogger ran past, and I started up the footpath to the falls. Some stairs made a short climb easier, and I anticipated seeing this scenic feature.
The falls area was pretty dark, by my camera auto settings, as for all of this hike. My camera readings gave exposures at 1/4 to 1/60 of a second. I used my flash a lot. I shot some short movie clips, as well. The third photo, here, shows myself using a timer and flash setting, with part of the falls in the background. I worked on this image with my newest photo editing software, using layers and a selection tool. Amazing what you can do with a computer and software!
The falls are a multi-ribboned stream with a dead, fallen, tree trunk set up against it. It is about thirty feet high. I was able to use the walkway railing, a bench, and even a tree, to brace my camera for a sharper photo. Due to the longer exposures, the water appears to be a veil, in some of my photos. This unnamed falls is a fine sight to hike to, my hiking time to here being about an hour.
There are other trails to take, but rushed a bit on time, I chose to return the same way. The sun now lit up some parts of the canyon, and I shot a few more photos.
Back to my car at 10:57 a.m., I shortly motored off to another road, here in this State Park, to hike about the headlands. I wanted a photo of the cove formed by the river and ocean, with the highway bridge over the water. I got this shot, by walking over from a picnic area.
On my way south again, I passed on Van Damme State Park. I think that each separate park unit has its own entry and day-use fee, none applicable to the next park. This will be something to hike at a later date. Little River, Elk, and Gualala, CA, made for photo stops.
Coming now to Salt Point State Park, I paid another $6 fee, and parked at the Woodside Campground entrance area lot. I had faint memories of hiking once to the Pygmy Forest, but could not find my own pictures. Hiking up through the dense forest, my recollections came back to me as I arrived at the signed Pygmy Forest. This must be of prime interest to a botanist, but I only read the several, enroute, trailside placements describing each natural history feature, nearby.
My hike to this pygmy forest took only about a half hour up. A dense stand of scraggly pines, above the brush, didn't allow for many great photos. There is no great vista or view of the area, from any part of this trail I hiked. I tried a small hiking loop on the way down, but noted not much of good photographic potential. Without the harsh light of the bright sun, it would require a tripod to capture good images of the then low lighting on the trees and shrubs, should some fog or clouds provide some diffuse light.
I looked for more good places to stop and shoot on my drive south. Some new highway work, finished since my January, 2003, drive, seemed quite impressive.
Jenner, CA, provided a place to stop shortly, then CA 116 heads east. I stopped in Monte Rio, then Guerneville, CA, for some more photos. Cutting over, then, to Santa Rosa, I motored south on U.S. 101.
Petaluma, CA, provided a nice historic town to capture magic hour. There are old buildings, and enough neon, for me. I walked about, looking for good restaurants, to dine, sometime. I shot more images with my camera, braced against light poles or such.
Needing a rest, I motored off on city streets, intent on finding CA 116 east, to sup, perhaps, in Sonoma, CA. I got lost in the dark, and some signs were not placed as I thought they would be, or should be.
Finally getting back on the freeway, I found the right road, and thusly, I came back to CA 12, and then to Interstate 80. The traffic moved well, and I stopped to get some fries. It was still pretty early in the night, so I knew I'd get home at a good hour, and stay up to work on my computer.
I had hiked about 16 miles, with 3,000' gain, total. I shot nearly 550 images and movie clips. I spent about 90 dollars. The drive was under 500 miles.
I saw one tick, with a few mosquitoes and other bugs. Very few wildflowers were seen along the trails. Gardens were blooming in the towns, though. The trails were O.K., with a few short stretches of puddles and muddy spots, at worst, all mostly avoidable.
Wearing mainly my polyester T with a vest, I used a pullover over all that, at most. It was always warm enough so I didn't need my EW bottoms. Old jeans did fine, and neck gaitors, gloves, and warm cap completed my clothing choices. I used an old and worn pair of low cut boots, expecting more mud than I actually encountered.
BACK TO PETE'S THOUSAND PEAKS HOME PAGE