While there's no end of hiking around the Sierra Nevada, once in a while one gets the urge to try something a little different. Say a jaunt to the California coastal areas for more green and often cooler temperatures.
Last weekend we did a couple of treks in Santa Clara County, one to St. Joseph's Hill out of Los Gatos on Highway 17 to the Lexington Reservoir. The other was from Santa Cruz via Highway 9 to Felton and along Highway 9 to the Fall Creek parking lot. (You'll need a highway map to find it.)
At both trails you'll probably be surprised by the crowds. Compared to the isolation on most Sierra Nevada trails, it's Times Square on New Year's Eve. And you'll find the trails in excellent condition -- mostly dirt or decomposed granite with few rocks. You can do both of these in one day.
For St. Joseph's you cut off Highway 17 at the reservoir on Alma Bridge Road. The parking area is on the right, facing the reservoir. The trailhead is at about 700 feet above sea level; St. Joseph's Hill is 1,253 feet. Jones Trail takes you to the Novitiate stretch. At the intersection with the Manzanita trail you can continue or branch off and return the other way on the back track.
Lots of history here, the Jones Trail used in the 1800s by stage coaches and pack trains. In 1888 Jesuits lived atop St. Joseph's Hill, growing grapes and making wine.
This is a short hike, not terribly demanding of about 1.2 miles. But the views are fine, particularly of the reservoir and the Sierra Azul mountain range.
The Fall Creek area is a 2,335-acre preserve, a steeply forested park in a canyon northwest of Felton. Lots of second-growth redwoods, Fall Creek, a year-round splashing, waterway with plenty of places to stop and dip hot feet, ferns, maples, wild ginger and chaparral in dry areas.
Grab the Bennett Creek trail to the North Fork path and pick up the Kiln Road. That will take you to the remains of three large kilns used to make lime in the 1870s. The kilns are still standing as are stacks of old redwood timber used to fire the kilns. Above the kilns is Blue Cliff, an abandoned limestone quarry.
From the kilns you can hike the Cape Horn trail to the North Fork Trail and follow the creek upstream to the scattered remains of a barrel mill which was built in 1912.
This is an easy to moderate hike with lots of shadows on the trails. You'll see more people on this trail in a day than in a month of hiking the Sierra Nevada. It's a nice change of pace from our dry hills.
Rim Trail Update
For a modest $5,000, donors can select a vista of choice and have a kiosk with their names displayed at a point along the Rim Trail. They also receive a framed certificate and photograph that includes a picture of the vista and a map showing the GPS coordinate.
John and Diane McCall recently adopted a vista above Marlette Lake 1,100 feet below and Lake Tahoe 1,600 feet below that.
The money goes toward the $200,00 annual budget required to maintain the rim trail. To adopt a vista, call (775) 588-0686.
One more season pass offer
From opposite sides of the lake, Homewood Mountain Resort and Diamond Peak have joined to offer the Lakeview Pass II. This is a midweek ticket that combined more than 1,900 acres, 14 lifts and 86 runs for $299. While neither resort is a biggie, both offer fine skiing and boarding. If interested call (530) 525-2992 for the west short, (775) 832-1177 for the east.
Hikes on tap
The Carson Ranger District has a couple of outings coming up. On Friday and Sat. Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. and noon, join a ranger on a hike around the Tahoe Meadows. Lectures will be on how logging fueled the Comstock mining era and the effect on today's forest. All ages are welcome on this 90-minute walk. Take Highway 395 to Mt. Rose Highway, then west. At mile 17 you're at the Mt. Rose summit; drive .6 more miles to the parking area on the south side of the road. Look for a large brown building on the left and park there.
For a hike into Snowshoe Thompson territory, join a ranger at Horsethief Canyon off Highway 88 about 4 miles past Woodfords. Look for a small brown sign on the right.
This is a short hike but has its moments so wear good shoes. Along the trail you'll see a natural rock shelter where the old mailman was thought to use in his travels. And if you're game for a steep trek, try the Horsethief Canyon trail.
Then there's a visit to Swift's Station at Spooner Summit. This trip takes guests to the ruins of the station which was an important stop during the Comstock mining era. More on logging and mining of those days. A lunch is suggested for the 2-mile trek.
Questions, call the rangers at 882-2766.
The Great Basin Unit of the Sierra Club offers these outings:
Saturday, Half Moon Lake. A moderately easy 8-mile hike with a 1,400-foot gain in elevation. Spectacular setting in Desolation Wilderness on the way to Mt. Tallac from Glen Alpine. A cold swim, but a great lunch spot. Leader: Craig Mastos (775) 786-7742, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, Twin Lakes/Island Lake. The hike begins at the Wright's Lake Trailhead in the stunning Crystal Range of the western area of the Desolation Wilderness/Eldorado National Forest. Granite mountains, alpine lakes, waterfalls and wildflowers will enhance outdoor mental channels. Moderate difficulty, 8 miles round trip, 1,000-foot gain. Full day hike. Leader: Lang Milligan (775) 787-2478, Trudy Miller (775) 787-9010.
Wednesday, Wednesday in the Mountains. This hike takes the Tahoe Rim Trail from Barker Pass to Miller meadow, and returns. Round trip is about 9 miles for a moderate hike. Leader: Terri Sutor (775) 267-5366. Call for further details.
The Sporting Rage's kayak calendar for August includes a Silver Lake tour Sunday, a Caples Lake outing Aug. 11, another Silver Lake trip Aug. 16 and Caples Lake Aug. 25. Call Saturday before the outing to make a resesrevation, 720-1675. Lunch, guides and gear included for $69.95.
Kayak lessons will be offered Aug. 13 and Aug. 24.
Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.