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.
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.
Much of the Canyon Trail passes through relatively dense, lovely forest. In hotter weather the trees would provide nice shade.
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.
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.
We saw a number of different wildflowers along the trail. Here is one pretty example.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After crossing Stevens Creek, Grizzly Flat Trail climbs steadily up to the Grizzly Flat trailhead.
Along the way we found a ladybug sunning itself 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!