Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Cerrito Trail, Calero County Park

Calero Reservoir and the Sierra Azul visible from a high ridge.

Dark, dead, and gray, is how I would describe Calero County Park in the late fall. The bright fall colors vanished, the green leaves of summer long gone, the lush grasses of winter yet to arrive. Grey storm clouds amassed over the park, a prelude to the first big winter storm. Yet there was something remarkably beautiful about the afternoon. Perhaps in the absence of color came a heightened appreciation of texture.

Rodent Skull near the lake shore.

I started out from the park headquarters and kept right through several trail junctions until arriving at the El Cerrito trai junction just within viewing distance of the shore of the reservoir (or at least I would have been had that end of the lake not dried up over the summer). The trail ungulated rather wildly, ascending up steep hills, then right back down the other side before finally flatting out near the shore.

Oak Tree on the Pena trail.

The park is really intended for equestrian use (horses) and not for hikers, and by midwinter it becomes almost unhikeable because of the muddy, badly pitted trail left behind by horse hooves. More importantly the trail grades are very severe throughout the park, and while it does cover some beautiful country you can always expect a little bit of soreness.

fresh grasses near the dry shore of the reservoir.

Wild Turkey grazing below the main trail.

After walking along the reservoir for a short distance, exploring the shore line the trail heads up steeply around a long bend which offers some of the best views of the surrounding area. The trail then continues to climb steeply to the top of the ridge. A group of about 15 turkeys had congregated on the slope, browsing the grass under a large oak. Behind them the foothills, and the highest parts of the Santa Cruz mountains.

Trailside Oak Tree along the Pena Trail.

I continued on to where the trail joins a larger ridge, climbing up yet another steep ascent. At the top the ridge is fairly barren and the views in all directions are incrediable. The storm was begining to intensify in the upper reaches of the mountains and the once clear summit of Mt. Umunhum quickly became obscured by clouds and a blanket of grey consumed the ridge tops. I was curious to continue on exploring the park but decided in light of the weather to turn back, decend the steep trail down and return to my car.

Oak trees near the park headquarters.

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