When planning this hike I was looking forward to returning to the area of my most recent hike on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. I decided to hike the northernmost portion of the BART segment, from the Caltrans vista point on Skyline Blvd to Rapley Ranch Rd. This portion of trail is within Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. My planned distance was about 4 miles round trip, a good distance in my current stage of rehab from a hip fracture. As it turns out, I was not able to get all the way to Rapley Ranch Rd, but I’ll come back to that later.
It was a great afternoon for a hike, with sunny and relatively clear weather and comfortable temperatures, particularly for mid-February. When I parked at the vista point I knew I was in for a visual treat, because there was a great panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay. Just across Skyline there is a very short access spur to the trail. My GPS track provides an overview of the hike. The little hook near the lower end of the track actually crosses CA-35 (Skyline Blvd), but the road’s location is not accurately depicted on the map, rather as straight-line segments between isolated points.
The actual name of the trail, within Russian Ridge OSP, is Ridge Trail, and it is an apt name. The trail goes along the ridge-top, with expansive views alternating between the San Francisco Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean (visible on a clear day) on the other side. To me this is the epitome of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.
Unlike my previous hike, when I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at fog or ocean, this time the ocean was clear. I imagined I could see the texture of the waves (though I’m sure it was too far away to see such detail), and the afternoon sunlight was reflected beautifully. The hills were in their springtime brilliant green, though this does not seem as intense in the photo as it was in real-life.
The views across San Francisco Bay were equally fantastic. In this picture the major landmark of Mt. Diablo is in the background, with the Stanford University campus and its famous satellite dish (at the left) in the foreground and the Dumbarton Bridge spanning the bay.
After about a mile the trail begins to descend. After less than a quarter mile, in a location with a pleasant view toward the Pacific Ocean, there is a pretty rock monument dedicated to the memory of Ted Norton. I don’t know a particular story related to the monument, but apparently there is a geocache nearby.
A bit farther, the trail approaches a group of magnificent oak trees which seem to grow at a slight angle from vertical.
After entering a more forested area I encountered a large fallen tree blocking the trail. I was about a quarter mile short of Rapley Road, where I intended to turn around. I could see where the trail emerged on the other side of the blockage, perhaps 15-20 yards away. I even spent 5 minutes or so trying to see if I could bushwhack my way around the tree. Keeping in mind my recovering hip, I decided to abandon my intent to get to Rapley Ranch Road, and I turned around to return to the trailhead – but not before I apparently, inadvertently of course, and realized only several days later, climbed over some poison oak; see my next post for more about this unanticipated adventure.
Because my hike was shorter than I originally planned, I decided to continue past my starting point about a half mile to go up Borel Hill. The elevation profile for the entire hike shows the two sections nicely; the intermediate return-to-trailhead is at about 3.3 miles.
The top of Borel Hill is actually a very short distance, perhaps 0.05 mile, off the Bay Area Ridge Trail on a parallel trail. It is a detour well worth planning into any hike in this area. From the hill-top – the highest named point in San Mateo County – there are 360-degree panoramic views that are, especially on a clear day like the day of this hike, simply spectacular. In addition to the San Francisco Bay (and the entire East Bay Hills) and the Pacific Ocean, to the south are the Santa Cruz Mountains and to the north the northern Peninsula to San Francisco and beyond to Marin County.
There was even a finger of the famous fog coming through the Golden Gate. When I return to this area to hike again, I will connect this hike with my previous one. And I’ll try to choose another day like this one, to make a perfect reason to detour up Borel Hill again.