On the occasion of a trail opening I made a return visit to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. The new section of trail is a 1-mile extension of the Ancient Oaks Trail down the hill to the new (2014) Mindego Gateway staging area. Although this is not a long section of new trail, it does a nice job of connecting the upper and lower portions of the preserve and makes it possible to hike or ride a 4-mile loop from either the main parking area or the Mindego Gateway staging area.
I turned the trail opening celebration into an opportunity to explore the Mindego Hill Trail, which – for now – goes just to the base of Mindego Hill. I ended up hiking the Mindego Hill Trail before the ribbon-cutting ceremony and then hiking the new trail after the ribbon-cutting. The orange dot on the GPS track shows the location of the Mindego Gateway staging area.
The first part of the hike, on the Mindego Hill Trail, was mostly downhill on the outbound leg. Conversely, the new trail was mostly uphill on the outbound leg. Total elevation gain and loss was just over 1000 feet, so the average grade was about 7½ %.
The day was a bit misty and cloudy, and I even encountered light sprinkles on the Mindego Hill Trail part of my hike. Next to the parking area there is abundant owl’s clover and there was some lupine, among other plants and flowers. Not far away I found some gumplant or gumweed (Grindelia). Even before I reached the Mindego Hill Trail, there was a pretty view generally to the southwest toward several successive rows of hills spilling down toward the Pacific Ocean.
I soon passed a beautiful purple salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) next to the trail.
There is quite a bit of winter vetch (Vicia villosa) at Russian Ridge. I was surprised, however, to see some pink blossoms among the more common purple blossoms.
As the trail descended there was a pretty view of Mindego Hill, with the trail – actually a fire road – meandering over the terrain.
Continuing down the trail I passed numerous white globe lilies (Calochortus albus) growing on the uphill side of the trail.
About 0.6 mile from the parking area is a junction with Charquin Trail; to traverse the newly-possible 4-mile loop, you turn right here. I continued straight on Mindego Hill Trail. In this area I noticed some Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), which can be most easily distinguished from the similar slender thistle by the presence of 5 or fewer flower heads on each branch.
In a grassy area I noticed some light purple daisy-like flowers; I think they may be common lessingia. Elsewhere I found hedgenettle (Stachys).
The lower part of Mindego Trail passes through a slight depression, too subtle to be thought of as a valley. In this lower area there was quite a bit of Western vervain (Verbena lasiostachys), whose flowers tend to bloom from the bottom toward the top of the long purplish flower heads.
There were several good-sized patches of scarlet pimpernel (Anagalis arvensis) next to the trail. A close-up picture shows the yellow-tipped anthers on the small (<1 cm diameter) flowers.
There was also a lot of wild radish (Raphanus raphanistratum) in this area.
About 1 mile past Charquin Trail I reached a gate at the current terminus of Mindego Hill Trail and turned around to hike back up to the parking area. I noticed a few common fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia), well into their blooming stage.
I also noted some grassy tarweed (Madia gracilis) and some yarrow. Sometimes I notice different flowers on the return trip compared to the outbound trip!
I stopped to try to photograph some yellow clover that I’d noticed earlier. It is shamrock clover (Trifolium dubium). I’m finding it interesting to try to get good close-up photos of smaller flowers; it is often the case that additional detail is visible in the photos compared to what I see from my normal fully upright hiking stance.
When I reached the Charquin Trail junction I decided to do a brief exploration, since I had a little extra time before the dedication ceremony. Not far along Charquin Trail I noted some common madia (Madia elegans), which has larger flowers than the grassy tarweed type of madia.
The short section of Charquin Trail I explored was shady and moist – at least partly because the brief sprinkles I mentioned had already occurred, and partly because the trail goes along a small stream. There were quite a few delicate forget-me-nots, some star flowers, and horse-tail near the stream. I only spent about 10 minutes on my little detour before continuing to climb up the hill to the parking area.
Along the way I noticed a flower I’d missed on the way downhill: imbricate phacelia (Phacelia imbricata). Due to the greenish color of the buds, this pretty flower would be easy to miss entirely.
After the dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting there was an official first hike on the Ancient Oaks Trail extension. The lower part of the trail winds through a forested area, here with a broad, gentle curve.
In the forested area there was miner’s lettuce, Fernald’s iris, some white blue-eyed Mary, and a patch of pretty, small, white lily-like flowers.
Perhaps 2/3 of the way along the new trail it rather suddenly emerges from the forested area onto a grassy hillside. Here I found two types of clarkia: probably chaparral clarkia (Clarkia affinis), though difficult for me to be sure since the blossom was mostly closed, and four-spot clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera). The four-spot clarkia is a lighter color and has a distinguishing spot on each of its 4 petals.
When I reached the upper end of the new trail, essentially at the east end of the Ancient Oaks Trail, which I passed on a recent hike, I turned around and returned to the Mindego Gateway parking area. Just as I reached the parking area I made one last “new find,” some common coyotemint (Monardella villosa ssp villosa).
This hike was quite enjoyable and, once again, I encountered a nice variety of spring wildflowers at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.