Now that my poison oak episode is complete, I decided to return to the Bay Area Ridge Trail and complete a couple of short sections adjacent to sections I had previously hiked in the Skyline Ridge and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves. In one hike I covered a short section of Skyline Ridge OSP from southeast of Horseshoe Lake to a junction about a mile northwest of the lake. In another hike I went from Borel Hill to a down tree about a half mile from Rapley Ranch Road. Today I planned to connect those two hikes and, if possible, hike the short section beyond the down tree by approaching from the Rapley Ranch Road side. This is what I sometimes call a “fill in the blanks” hike. It was a good choice because of my ongoing hiking distance limitations due to recovery from a broken hip. The main portion of the hike was between the previous 2 hikes and is shown in the GPS track.
The elevation gain and loss is moderate: just over 550 feet for the main portion of the hike and 650 feet for the entire hike.
From the Russian Ridge OSP parking lot on Alpine Rd just west of the junction with Skyline Blvd, I crossed the road and walked down to Alpine Lake, which is pleasant but (at least on this day) unremarkable. It was only about 0.9 mile to the train junction where I had turned around on the previous hike, but the hills were pretty and I am always inspired by views of the Pacific Ocean.
I was pretty sure that the very first part of the trail I hiked on was not actually the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so on the return to the parking area I paid more attention to the signage. Sure enough, the sign pointed along a different trail that I had not noticed from the parking lot. In fact, I wondered how the trail would accomplish the road crossing, since I hadn’t seen another trail crossing between Skyline Blvd and the parking area. Momentarily the mystery was solved: the trail crosses under Alpine Rd.
From the parking area I proceeded northwest into Russian Ridge OSP. The trail climbs gradually and crosses open hillsides. There were a few wildflowers, though not as many as I had expected for the time of year (April). I found several small clusters of pretty poppies.
I was amused to note a Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District vehicle parked along the trail. It reminded me of another vehicle I encountered almost exactly a year ago in Skyline Wilderness Park. In that case, I never did figure out how the vehicle got there – which made the encounter quite startling. In this case, several trails in the area are wide enough for an off-road vehicle to be driven, so this vehicle wasn’t as surprising.
When I arrived at the trail junction where I’d turned around on my previous hike, I again took the short detour to the top of Borel Hill, where there are wonderful 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay, East Bay hills, Santa Cruz Mountains, Peninsula hills, Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco. While returning to the parking area I noticed a coyote run across the trail and into the native grass. Presumably, it was on the lookout for a nice meal.
The entire round trip between my previous turnaround points was only about 3.5 miles, so I drove out to Rapley Ranch Road to look for the far end of the trail through Russian Ridge OSP. I parked, as suggested, next to Skyline Blvd at the Rapley Ranch Rd junction, where I noticed an especially intriguing sign. After I got home I looked on-line to try to find out what business was identified by the sign, and I was unsuccessful.
About 0.1 mile up Rapley Ranch Rd I found the trailhead: it looks like a private driveway, with only a small address sign by the road and a locked gate about 10 yards up the hillside. But there is an opening for hikers to pass through, and later the trail does take off from the gravel driveway-like road. About 0.5 mile from the trailhead I found the place where the down tree had been on my previous hike. Fortunately for other trail users, the tree had been cut into sections and cleared from the trail. I actually proceeded about 100 yards past this area and emerged from the trees into an open area. Approaching the cluster of trees from the other direction they looked familiar, as though I had memorized the image. While passing the exact spot where I went off-trail and stepped into some poison oak (let’s call it “the scene of the crime”) I checked to see if I could specifically identify any poison oak plants. I couldn’t, but I made sure to stay well away from all vegetation on the entire hike. And as soon as I got home I cleaned up thoroughly and washed every bit of clothing I wore that day. Thankfully, but not surprisingly, I’ve had no sign of a recurrence of poison oak.