Friday, January 30, 2015

Gabilan Trail: a hikers-only trail in Garland Ranch Regional Park

Mossy wood next to Gabilan Trail

Gabilan Trail in the southeastern pocket of Garland Ranch Regional Park is a hiking trail through oak forest and patches of chaparral. This single-track trail descends—or ascends, depending on your hiking direction—a northwest-facing slope of the Santa Lucia Range.

Gabilan Trail may be included in a three to four miles long loop hike including Laureles Trail, a few steps on Vasquez Trail and Spring Trail, the lower section of Saddle Trail and the River Trail alongside Carmel River. Gabilian Trail shortcuts the descend from Spring Trail to the River Trail by a fifth of a mile—by comparison with proceeding via the Spring Trail/Saddle Trail junction. Spring Trail and Saddle Trail are open for hiking and equestrian use.

Doing the loop
Once you have climbed the steep Laureles Trail and arrived at the bench overlooking Vasquez Ridge, you want to take Vasquez Trail. At the Y-junction where Vasquez Trail forks left continue on Spring Trail for about hal a mile to its junction with Gabilan Trail. The descend on Gabilan Trail is less than a mile long. Half-way downhill, you will find another bench with magnificent vistas of western Carmel Valley, including the fields of the Carmel Valley Trail & Saddle Club. Continuing downhill, turn right at the junction of Gabilan Trail with Saddle Trail to get to the River Trail.

Larger loops
The topographic park map will help you plan longer loop hikes that may include the upper Vasquez Trail or East Ridge Trail and Veeder Trail. 

Getting to the River Trail 
See the directions for Laureles Trail or take Paso Hondo Road from Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley Village. Find parking near the baseball fields and cross the foot bridge over the Carmel River to access the River Trail.

Western Carmel Valley seen from Gabilan Trail

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vasquez Trail in the southeast section of Garland Ranch Regional Park

Vasquez Ridge in Garland Park, California

Vasquez Trail is a short trail following Vasquez Ridge across a meadow towards a forested hilltop summit at the southeastern boundary of Garland Park. While climbing this trail, hikers and horseback riders enjoy various views of Carmel Valley to the north and into Hitchcock Canyon, cutting the mountain range further east.

Vasquez Trail is best reached by climbing the steep Laureles Trail from the Carmel River up to the forest opening on Vasquez Ridge. Turning right at the junction with the bench, the Vasquez-Spring trail fork is soon reached. Vasquez Trail leads up to Cougar Ridge and to Saddle Trail. The latter trail descends to a junction with East Ridge Trail and further downhill to a junction with Spring Trail, from where one can loop back to the grassy ridge and Laureles Trail or take Saddle Trail all the way down and back to the River Trail alongside Carmel River.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A forested hillside trail in Garland Park: steep Laureles Trail

Ascending on Laureles Trail to a grassy ridge 
in the southeast section of Garland Park
Laureles Trail in Garland Ranch Regional Park, California, connects the Carmel River Trail with the Vasquez Ridge. This one-and-a-quarter-mile-long trail winds uphill through oak and laurel woodland. Forest openings alongside the upper section of the trail offer magnificent views of Carmel Valley Village. Once you are arriving at the grassy ridge, you'll find a bench near the trail junction, from which you may want to check out the short dead-end trail to the left. Otherwise, there are various west-bound hiking options including a Vasquez Trail, Saddle Trail, Spring Trail loop hike and a downhill-and-return hike on Gabilan Trail, leading back to the River Trail. 

Carmel Valley Village seen from Laureles Trail
Getting there
While driving east on Carmel Valley Road, pass the central part of Carmel Valley Village and turn right onto Esquiline Road. Cross the Carmel River via Rosie's Bridge and turn right onto De Los Helechos Road. Find a parking spot close to the end of this dead-end road. Parking space in this residential area is limited. Walk through the Lazy Oaks right-of-way section towards the park entrance. Follow the River Trail until you see the post at which the left-forking Laureles Trail begins.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A perennial hiking & nature-study destination: Garland Ranch Regional Park, California

Garland Ranch Regional Park: Carmel Vally floor and ridges
Open space of Garland Ranch Regional Park

Garland Ranch Regional Park is located about 10 miles southeast of the Monterey Peninsula. The park landscape includes a section of the Carmel Valley floor as well as scenic canyons and ridges of the northern tip of the Santa Lucia Mountains—a coastal mountain range that stretches from Carmel Valley south to San Luis Obispo County. The park was established in 1975 and is preserved and protected by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

The topographic Garland Ranch park map provides an excellent overview of the park trails and locations of interest, including a seasonal waterfall and historic sites. The Garland Visitor Center offers docent-led hikes. Depending on season, plants and mushrooms are featured at the visitor center. On January 25, 2015—a warm and sunny mid-winter day—we found a specimen of the native Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. sanctarum) and of the non-native Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) displayed. The latter was introduced as follows:

This deadly poisonous mushroom is a non-native import from Europe. Its cap grows between 3.5-15 cm, stem 4-18 cm long, 1-3 cm thick. Color is usually olive to yellow, rarely white, often with a metallic sheen.
Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
It occurs scattered to gregarious [open-cluster growth] under coast live oak and other hardwoods, early fall through mid-winter.
The Death Cap contains both phallotoxins and amanitins which are responsible for poisonings in humans and domestic pets. Contrary to popular belief poisonous mushrooms are not dangerous to handle, only to ingest. DO NOT EAT!

Garland Ranch is a dog-friendly park. Just keep your dog away from those mushrooms!

Getting there
The main parking area close to the visitor center is found next to Carmel Valley Road, about 9 miles east of Highway 1. This area includes equestrian parking and also is the starting point for bicyclists, who are—according to the general information given in the foldable park map—only permitted on the 144-acre Cooper Ranch addition west of Lupine Loop and the Kahn Ranch Addition. The park has various other access points for hikers, which can be reached via Robinson Canyon Road (near Carmel Valley Ranch Resort) and via Carmel Valley Village roads: Boronda, Paso Hondo and Esquiline Road.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Icy Hunter Creek Falls near Reno on a warm day in January

Hunter Creek Falls near Reno in winter
So close to Reno in northern Nevada, Hunter Creek Trail from the Michael D. Thompson Trailhead to Hunter Creek Falls is a popular hiking route for people and dogs, any time of the year. In summer, blue bellies watch the hikers and joggers, who climb and pass the many rock outcrops.

It is a five-and-a-half-mile round trip; some say, in unforgiving terrain. But this is not usually the case, unless you are going to hike the trail after lots of rain or during snow melt, when mud or rock avalanches are possible along the steep slopes. Most of the trail is traversing open slope areas. The mostly leveled trail sections make it an enjoyable hike with scenic views of wild ridges—occasionally snow-crusted in winter. 

The final stretch towards the waterfall leads you through dark forest. Finally, after crossing Hunter Creek you will find yourself between high conifers in front of the waterfall. And you will probably not be alone. I wasn't surprised to see so many hikers there around noon on January 18, 2015, a sunny day with temperatures above 60 °F. White water was rushing down the steps of the fall. Snow and ice covered the sides and the wood trunk, which is stubbornly leaning against the middle of the fall channel.

The upper parts of the waterfall are closed. A sign reads “Closed for revegetation. Please help protect and restore sensitive resources in this area. Do not climb to the top of the waterfall and camp at least 200 feet from the creek.” At the east side of the waterfall grove the trail continues on, uphill and deeper into the Mount Rose Wilderness.

The steep slopes of Hunter Creek