This was the first hike in my recently-identified “project” to hike as much as possible of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and it was my first substantial (over 10-mile) hike since completing my circuit of the Tahoe Rim Trail in October. I’d taken a bit of a winter break from hiking new trails and, following a two-week break in the usual winter rains, I was ready for an adventure. The full segment through the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve is actually 11.8 miles, so I had pre-determined that I would hike it in two parts, out-and-back from each end.
Having studied the description in the Bay Area Ridge Trail guide, I also knew that there would be a fair amount of climbing. I was glad, then, that I’d been doing some hill training on the PG&E Trail in Rancho San Antonio. In fact, the terrain was reminiscent of the PG&E Trail. There had been a pretty thick layer of morning fog near the Bay, so I purposely started out rather late in the morning in hopes of having nice views (rather than being within the cloud cover) from the higher elevations.
It turns out that the trail was far enough from the Bay that the fog was nearly gone by the time I got onto the trail. As I continued to climb (Priest Rock Trail to Kennedy Trail to Woods Trail) I discovered that there were a few pockets of fog below in the valleys. Usually the only opportunity to look down on fog is from an airplane, so it was interesting to be able to walk to such a place. And it seemed that Sierra Azul (blue sky) was really living up to its name.
This segment starts near the Lexington Reservoir and goes generally east. When I hike a long segment in two parts I like to identify a distinctive landmark to use as a turnaround point. A trail intersection is best, but I decided to try going farther than the intersection with the Limekiln trail. Fortunately I found a side trail used for maintenance access to a power line tower, with a nearby view of distinctive Mt. Umunhum, and it turned out that this was the highest point of the entire Sierra Azul segment near the top of El Sombroso. This worked very well as a turnaround point.
I always record a GPS track and elevation profile of my hikes, and I include both here as examples.
The elevation profile emphasizes that the outbound portion really was a steady climb.