Edge to Edge part 4: Montebello Open Space Preserve to Grizzly Flat

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This was the fourth installment in a multi-part group hike from the edge of San Francisco Bay to the edge of the Pacific Ocean.  The group is calling our adventure Edge to Edge to recognize the endpoints.  The previous segment started at Foothills Park in Palo Alto and ended at the main parking area of Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.  In this fourth segment we continued through Monte Bello OSP and Upper Stevens Creek County Park to the Grizzly Flat trailhead along CA-35, Skyline Blvd.

GPS track

GPS track

From the parking area on Page Mill Rd we proceeded roughly southeast until we reached the Canyon Trail, which we followed for about 3 miles.  As we began to descend we enjoyed a distant view of the Santa Cruz Mountains farther down the Peninsula.  The day was largely overcast, due to a low pressure system parked off the coast that resulted in afternoon high temperatures at least 15 degrees cooler than the previous day.  There were even a few raindrops, and the higher-elevation areas were quite windy.  In the picture the sky looks somber, but the cooler weather was actually quite welcome.

image of Santa Cruz Mountains under grey skies

Santa Cruz Mountains under grey skies

Much of the Canyon Trail passes through relatively dense, lovely forest.  In hotter weather the trees would provide nice shade.

photo of Canyon Trail descending gradually toward Stevens Creek at the bottom of the canyon

Canyon Trail descending gradually toward Stevens Creek at the bottom of the canyon

Several tributary creeks join Stevens Creek, though most of them were dry and remain so through the dry summer months.  Near Gold Mine Creek there is a pretty open area with several trees with limbs draped in moss.

picture of moss-draped tree near Gold Mine Creek

Moss-draped tree near Gold Mine Creek

A short distance later there was another beautiful meadow with native grasses and a variety of deciduous and evergreen trees.  Although somewhat muted in the picture, the many shades and textures were quite beautiful.

image of many shades and textures of green in the grasses and trees

Many shades and textures of green in the grasses and trees

We saw a number of different wildflowers along the trail.  Here is one pretty example.

photo of wildflower along the trail

Wildflower along the trail

About 3.5 miles from the trailhead we left Monte Bello OSP and entered Upper Stevens Creek County Park.  Near the park boundary we found a pretty spot trailside for our lunch break.  We noticed a butterfly on the ground and wondered if it had just emerged or was possibly injured, since it seemed to stay in one spot in spite of 8 people moving about finding places to sit down.  Indeed, it was unfazed by the placement of hiking poles on either side, which were intended to serve as a kind of fence to ensure that none of us inadvertently stepped on it.

picture of butterfly encountered at our lunch break

Butterfly encountered at our lunch break

Our break location was also next to a pretty waterfall, we believe in Waterwheel Creek.  I decided to try some photographic experiments, and this picture was taken at a slow ISO setting to force the exposure to be 1/8 of a second.  I didn’t have a tripod, so I was holding my camera in my hands (and holding my breath!).  The long exposure turns the falling droplets into moss-like fronds.

image of pretty waterfall in Waterwheel Creek

Pretty waterfall in Waterwheel Creek

Just past our lunch spot we left the Canyon Trail to take Grizzly Flat Trail.  Before climbing up to Skyline Blvd, this trail descends via several switchbacks to Stevens Creek.  Along the way we passed some pretty feathery moss growing almost at ground level.  The color of the moss was in stark contrast to the bark of a nearby tree.

photo of feathery moss contrasting with tree bark

Feathery moss contrasts with tree bark

This section of Stevens Creek had water (the higher sections seemed to be dry), and the nearby flora seemed more lush.  We saw quite a few red larkspurs – this one was peeking out from between new spring growth of poison oak.

picture of red larkspur growing among poison oak

Red larkspur growing among poison oak

When we finally reached Stevens Creek, I was surprised to discover that the trail simply fords the creek – so we each chose separate routes to cross.  Fortunately, no one got their feet wet (the water was perhaps 6 inches deep).  We did notice a newt alternately swimming and resting in the creek waters.

image of newt swimming along in Stevens Creek

Newt swimming along in Stevens Creek

After crossing Stevens Creek, Grizzly Flat Trail climbs steadily up to the Grizzly Flat trailhead.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Along the way we found a ladybug sunning itself on a fence post.

photo of ladybug sunning on a fence post

Ladybug sunning on a fence post

The ascent up to Skyline Blvd, at ~940 feet over approximately 2 miles, is a steady 9% grade.  Sure enough, as we emerged at the top of the trail at an elevation almost 200 feet higher than the start of the hike, the wind was again evident.  I’m sure it was blowing all day, but we didn’t notice it down in the canyon.  The next section of our hike should take us to Saratoga Gap, the highest point of our entire journey and the beginning of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.  I can hardly wait!

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3 Responses to Edge to Edge part 4: Montebello Open Space Preserve to Grizzly Flat

  1. Pingback: Edge to Edge part 3 | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Edge to Edge part 3 | trailhiker

  3. Pingback: Edge to Edge part 5: Long Ridge OSP to Skyline to the Sea Trail | trailhiker

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