This was my first hike on the Bay Area Ridge Trail in 4½ months. During the hiatus I completed two “endurance” walking events, a half marathon and a full marathon, and, in a separate incident, broke my hip. Now in recovery, I have graduated to taking short hikes. I decided to finish the last portion of the segment from Saratoga Gap to Horseshoe Lake and, if I had time and energy, explore the first part of the next segment from Horseshoe Lake to Rapley Ranch Road. All of this hike was within Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.
The trailhead is along Skyline Blvd. near Horseshoe Lake. There are two trails leading away from the parking area, both clearly marked for the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The trail to the left goes generally southeast toward Saratoga Gap while the trail to the right eventually goes generally northwest toward Russian Ridge OSP. An overview of the hike is in the GPS track; the trailhead is at the top.
The first part of the trail passes Horseshoe Lake, a small, pretty lake named for its shape.
There were a number of ducks swimming in the lake, feeding and pruning themselves. I realized that there were at least two species; the ones shown in this picture are distinctively different.
I believe that the one on the left is a Coot and the one on the right is a Ring-Necked Duck. Every so often one would dive under water to feed, and I didn’t pay quite enough attention to notice how many species were diving.
After leaving the lake behind, the trail goes over a small ridge through a pretty forested area.
Shortly thereafter there is a Christmas tree farm. In this area is the trail junction where I had turned around in my late August hike. Since I had replaced my GPS unit shortly after the earlier hike, I no longer had the waypoint stored where I’d turned around. However, I’d made careful notes that I brought with me of the GPS coordinates, in case I wasn’t sure I’d reached the correct junction. Fortunately, the area around the junction looked familiar – and the GPS coordinates agreed. So I’m quite confident that I successfully met up with the turnaround point of my previous hike, as intended.
After I documented the junction I took a short detour to see if the trail went to Skyline Blvd as I had surmised in my earlier hike. Just a short distance later I encountered what appeared to be the Christmas tree farm’s display area for cut trees. Since it was 2 weeks after Christmas, the display area was completely empty, in hibernation (of sorts) until next Christmas tree season.
(Skyline was a stone’s throw across a fence from the dirt road, but I didn’t go far enough to determine where customers would actually depart from Skyline to get to the display area.)
After returning to the trailhead I had enough time to explore the first mile or so of other trail that, after starting south and climbing a bit of a hill, turns around and heads northwest. As I started up the trail I encountered a regular hiker who advised me that, after the trail turned the corner, it would get 10 degrees warmer and there might be an ocean view. I certainly noticed the warmer temperature. The hills to the west were very pretty but I’m not sure whether the ocean is under the fog or not.
As a recovery hike after my hip fracture, this section was suitable because there wasn’t much elevation change: just over 800 feet of gain and loss.
I will return another day to hike the next section to the northwest, and perhaps that day the coastal fog will be farther off-shore, revealing the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, this was a very pleasant return to the Bay Area Ridge Trail after a longer-than-planned break.