For this year’s National Trails Day, I decided to celebrate the wonderful selection and variety of trails in the San Francisco Bay Area by going on two hikes. The first was at Chabot Regional Park in the Oakland – San Leandro – Castro Valley area. I decided to follow what turned out to be a 5.8-mile loop beginning at the Bort Meadow Staging Area, going south-southeast along the Grass Valley Trail, crossing Grass Valley Creek to follow the Goldenrod Trail, and finally descending on Buckeye Trail to Bort Meadow and the staging area.
On the GPS track the orange dot denotes the staging area, or trailhead. I hiked the loop clockwise.
The first part of the loop is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and I hiked it as part of my Ridge Trail circumnavigation. This time I was more aware of the wildflowers I saw along the way. In fact, I had been hiking less than 5 minutes when I noticed a wildflower I didn’t think I had seen before. It turned out to be ruby sand-spurrey (Spergularia rubra), which was growing like ground cover next to the trail. The blossoms are only about ½ cm across.
The Grass Valley Trail basically descends for about 1.5 miles before reaching a stone bridge that crosses Grass Valley Creek. Wildflowers I saw along the trail included poison hemlock, Italian thistle, morning glories, pink clover, wild mustard, scarlet pimpernel, pineapple weed, filaree, Scotch broom, blue-eyed grass, and a few poppies. In spite of the number of different wildflowers, the golden grass signified that the spring wildflower season was essentially over. I could hear a few birds calling out in the trees along the creek, and a few times I heard the eerily beautiful song of a Swainson’s thrush.
In the shaded area near the creek I noticed some late-season elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata). There was also blackberry, a bit of vetch, and of course very healthy-looking poison oak.
After crossing the creek on the stone bridge, I turned left on Jackson Grade to climb up to Goldenrod Trail, which gains elevation as it winds along the hillside above and on the west side of Grass Valley Creek.
Coming up Jackson Grade I was aware of being able to hear activity at the marksmanship range that is in the park. There was milk thistle and yellow sticky monkeyflower along the trail here, and elsewhere.
I saw buckeye butterflies several times during the hike, but one sighting involved a pair. They were certainly not interested in posing for a picture! – but I was eventually able to get a picture of them when they were both relatively stationary, though obscured by some plants. (The one at the right is more obscured than the one at the left.)
As I hiked up Goldenrod Trail I noted some brodiaea, which I later tentatively identified as harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans). To me the flowers look similar to Ithuriel’s spear, but the brodiaea seems to occur at least sometimes as individual blossoms, while Ithuriel’s spear is usually seen in clusters, with each blossom on a stem several cm long.
Along this part of the trail, especially above 800 feet elevation, there were pretty views to the east of the hills beyond San Leandro Reservoir, which is hidden between rows of hills.
I happened to notice several interesting-looking native grasses and other plants. This one had rather long hairs, which nicely reflected the sunlight.
About 4 miles from the start, as the trail passed close to Skyline Blvd, I reached the Chabot Equestrian Center. I ended up going into the center instead of leaving it to my right. After a quick inquiry I was redirected back to Goldenrod Trail. There was quite a bit of creambush (Holodiscus discolor) along the trail.
The trail seemed to alternate between shady and sunny areas. In the shady areas there were pretty ferns and some hedge nettle. In the sunny areas there were some poppies, along with rattlesnake grass (Briza maxima) and cow parsnip. About 0.4 mile past the Equestrian Center there was a particularly nice view looking down at Grass Valley and the trail I’d hiked earlier.
About 0.8 mile past the Equestrian Center the trail appears to tee at a road not shown on the park’s trail map. I turned right at the tee and, another few tenths of a mile later, right again on Buckeye Trail. Near the tee intersection I came across a few daisy-like flowers that turned out to be mayweed (Anthemis cotula).
In nearby shady areas there were quite a few forget-me-nots (Myosotis latifolia).
The Buckeye Trail is for hikers only and descends fairly steeply, almost 200 feet in about ¼ mile. This trail is in the forest until Bort Meadow is reached. Along the way some of the trees have interesting shapes, with branches like long arms reaching for sunlight.
The trail crosses a small gully, perhaps with a seasonal stream but now dry for the summer. I have never seen another footbridge that was constructed to ensure that only foot traffic could pass: it was very narrow.
At the bottom of the hill the trail simply pops out at the edge of Bort Meadow and tees at Grass Valley Trail, where I turned right. Along Grass Valley Trail I noted some California everlasting (Pseudognaphalium californicum), which I had seen elsewhere but mis-identified.
To return to the parking area I turned left to follow MacDonald Trail for a short distance, then turned right to reach my car. Although I had hiked a portion of this loop previously, it had been long enough in the past that there was a newness to the hike. It was an enjoyable way to spend part of my afternoon on National Trails Day, and I proceeded to nearby Garin Regional Park for a bonus second hike of the day.