Posts Tagged ‘Sanborn county park’

New Nicholas trail at Sanborn

March 15, 2015

Sunday, the Ides of March 2015

I haven’t been to Sanborn county park for several years. It’s a bit out of the way, and pretty much out and back. But there is a segment of trail that I have never visited, the John Nicholas trail, isolated off in the southeast corner of the park. They have now built a 3.4 mile connector from Skyline, part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system. The grand opening is in a couple weeks, but not being one for ceremonies and crowds, I thought I’d check it out today.

It takes a couple hours to grunt to the top of Sunnyvale mountain, where the new trail begins. Cool and pleasant, several newts out on the trail, Todd creek redwoods pretty, and some water running in Todd creek. All is right with the world.


The new trail is heavily switched back and wide, the forest is open. The first thing of note was this schöne Aussicht, where I decided not to embarrass myself trying to speak German with the three German mountain bikies there.


The upper reaches of the trail go past some of the rock that also contributes to Castle Rock state park on the other side of the ridge. Split redwood logs form benches here and there.


The letterbox formations are called tafoni. We think of rock as gray, but there is a lot of color here (compare below, B&W by Photoshop).



Mountain bikies everywhere. The trail is wide enough that there are few hassles. It is also the best graded trail I have ever seen, almost a constant 6.6% grade (according to Excel based on the topo map), not steep enough to really go crazy downhill, not steep enough to die going uphill.


At the bottom is a dam and Lake Ranch Reservoir, of which I had never heard. And yes, that’s broom. Really nice to see broom and think, “Not my problem!”


The water level is well below the fill mark and we see dried mineral deposits from previous years.


John Nicholas trail – the old part – continues for another 2 miles. An amazing chunk of rock here.

The previous trail ends at Black road, a side road that I believe I have never taken. I was surprised to see what is actually a pretty good road; it’s even wide enough for a yellow line down the center.

I returned to the dam, and took the Lake Ranch road trail down to Sanborn road. It’s out and back, of no particular interest, but I may never be here again, so now is the time. It’s only 0.6 miles, but it turns out to have an average grade of almost 18%, almost 400 feet of descent, very steep. And of course returning from the bottom, grunting back up. The old map says there is no parking there, but there is in fact roadside parking and there were half a dozen cars.

Speaking of which, these trails really are pretty popular, and not just with the mountain bikies. Not jam-packed, but certainly not deserted, especially along the flat around the reservoir. Met several groups twice and one group three times, as we did our outs and backs.


Well, I could have walked about 3/4 mile on Sanborn road and been back at the park entrance, but of course that would never do. Back up the hill, along Skyline ridge, and down by way of the trail (19.4 miles for the day, 3850 vertical feet).


I am impressed with this trail; it’s wonderful. But I can’t help thinking that if the trail designer had been spending his own money, or even a foundation grant (John Nicholas foundation maybe?), rather than unaccountable taxpayer funds, likely funneled through Washington, he could have made some more economical choices.

Sanborn and Castle Rock: newts and scorpions

March 30, 2013

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I have been having some muscle pain that has inhibited running. Left leg, either the soleus or the medial belly of the gastrocnemius, or maybe both. But interestingly enough, I can walk without much pain. So I drove to Saratoga, went halfway up the hill and left the car at Sanborn county park. If I’m sore, I’ll do a short to moderate hike, and if I’m okay, maybe I’ll go check out Travertine springs in Castle Rock state park.

I don’t know exactly how far that would be; at least an industrial grade hike, and if it’s a bit more and becomes a killer hike, well, there is an extra hour of daylight now. As it happened, it was 23 miles, well over 5000 vertical feet. Definitely a killer hike.

Heavy forest, cloudy and chilly, and the newts were out in force. I had to watch where I was stepping to be sure I didn’t squash any of them.


But newts are a dime a dozen around here. What I’m hoping to find is a scorpion. This is the season, and this is the place. I spent the day pulling up slabs of loose bark from dead trees. Et voila … !



It has been two or three years since I found a scorpion. I don’t recall why the dearth; maybe I just didn’t get up into this area during the right season.


This one is a juvenile, about 1 cm long, not counting the tail. Very little pigmentation as yet; you can see its alimentary canal.


All told, I saw four scorpions, although I only got photos of these two. But under slabs of bark, we find more than scorpions. I have a mental image of something large, red, blue, white, gyrating violently and vanishing under the log, before I could even get a good look at it, much less bring the camera to bear. A snake, I think, but I’m not sure. Too bad it wouldn’t pose for a photo.


Centipedes usually scurry away too fast for photos, too, but I did pretty well today.


It’s not impossible that these are juveniles and will all grow up to be big and red like the one above, but my bet is that we have at least two and possibly three different centipede species here.


As we gain elevation, we start seeing the exposed rock. The soft colours are beautiful; I cannot but think these would make wonderful bases for fabric designs or wall hangings.



All this is before we reach the top (well, the baby scorpion was on the west side, but I grouped it with the first one). I met no one in Sanborn park, but Castle Rock is far more popular, and although the trees were raining a little, the day was clearing up. So there were quite a few people around.


This is rock climber paradise. Everything from serious climbers down to girlfriends who just came along so they could climb onto something hard. The shots below would suggest a fairly serious climber.



I think this is the one they call goat rock.



The tree is determined to grow here, regardless of having to carry around a couple tons of rock.


The formations are wonderful, and make the site a real attraction, even for non-climbers such as I.


Here’s how it looks from some distance away, as I hiked around the San Lorenzo basin toward Travertine springs.


Twice today, I surprised pairs of deer — well, one of those times, the pair of deer surprised me! large animals bursting out of the bush right in front of me — be still, my beating heart! What I was going to say was that, in both cases, the deer ran off in different directions after the encounter. It seems doubtful they have a way of hooking up with each other again, which leads me to conject that the social groupings of deer are random, rather than continuing associations with friends.

The name Travertine springs suggests a picturesque cliff of clean and well-cleaved rock, but what it actually is, is an overgrown marsh of horsetail ferns. Now, horsetails are attractive enough in their own right, but it is always a disappointment to go past the springs and see nary an interesting rock.

It was already mid-afternoon, and I realized that I needed to get moving if I was to get back to the car by nightfall. Took the Saratoga toll road trail to Saratoga gap, then Skyline trail back to Sanborn trail and down. It was getting quite chilly, windy, dark; the rain had begun, and I scurried along as fast as I could, still carefully watching to avoid stepping on the newts, which were even more numerous as the day waned.

Another really good day.