Tilden Regional Park — Quarry/Big Springs/Seaview Trail

Date Hiked: 10/5/13
Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Best Season: Any time with a clear view

Can you smell it in the air? Hot apple cider, crispy leaves, and pumpkins — it’s October, and it’s my favorite month and time of the year. Halloween is right around the corner, followed by the feast of Thanksgiving, and then the festivities of the holiday season. October fills me with anticipation for the best time of the year and fills my little apartment with the comforting scent of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which we enjoyed on our Saturday jaunt to Tilden Regional Park.

Despite being a festive and fun season, life can get pretty hectic this time of the year — some of the crew are back in school, while others are working on important applications, studying for big exams, or just getting caught up in the hubbub of life. That’s why on Saturday, when some respite was much needed, we opted for a more abbreviated excursion to qualm our frayed nerves. Tilden Regional Park was the easy choice, since it is conveniently located in our alma mater’s back yard in the Berkeley Hills, and it did not disappoint.

Trail Summary: 1. Begin at the Quarry Trailhead, and hike on the Quarry Trail until reaching a four-way intersection with the Big Springs Trail. 2. Turn right and head up hill onto Big Springs for about three-quarters of a mile where you’ll come across a small parking lot. 3. Cross the lot and continue on Big Springs for another two thirds of a mile. 4. At the intersection with the Seaview/Skyline Trail, turn left and follow Seaview for a mile and a half to the view point, then back down to the Quarry Trailhead.

Tilden - Map

Our stroll began a bit past five o’ clock off Wildcat Canyon Road at the Quarry Trailhead where we saw this little guy:

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LIZARD!!

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Dusk is my favorite time of day — the lighting just creates the perfect, peaceful ambiance. The beginning of this loop takes you through quietly wooded patches where you can enjoy the faint scent of eucalyptus in the air and sunlight filtering through a tangle of branches and foliage.

Fact: The green pigment you see in leaves during spring and summer is called chlorophyll — it’s involved in the leaves’ production of food from water and sunlight. As the days shorten in the fall and there is not enough sunlight or water to produce food, the leaves rest and live off nutrients produced throughout the summer. At this point, the chlorophyll breaks down, and the leaves adorn their autumnal, red and golden garb. For the record, Lisa, in her intuitive ways, guessed this to be the reason for the fall change, and James, in his wise ways, confirmed this to be true. Yea, SCIENCE!

Continuing on the Quarry Trail, we reached the aforementioned four-way junction with the Big Springs Trail where we turned right and headed uphill (onto the Big Springs Trail).

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I always have to include a shot of the crew passionately discussing something! Directions, maybe?

Towards the end of the Big Springs Trail, the climb gets a bit steeper, but not by much. It’s well worth it when you reach the Seaview Trail junction because you’ll get some amazing views from up on the ridge.

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Can you really beat these sun kissed, grassy hills at dusk? This was our view of the San Pablo Dam Reservoir immediately after turning onto Seaview.

This portion of the trail immediately offers spectacular views to the East and, further along, to the West. Making our way along and trying to get to the peak of the hill before sunset, we reached a bench with what we thought was The Spot, but James, in his infinite wisdom, ushered us along a bit further where we found The Actual Spot.

Here, about twenty minutes before sunset, we found two benches along with a picnic table where we unloaded our snacks and sat back in awe of the perfect Bay Area sunset ahead of us.

Tilden - Venus and Sunset
Check this out: James pointed out Venus in the sky, and my iPhone surprisingly captured a fantastic shot of it! Venus appears brighter in the photo than it did in reality, and every time I look at this, I think it’s a mini-moon!

I think on every, single hike, we reflect upon how lucky we are to live here amongst amazing hikes and views and the best of friends.

Tilden - Group Sunset Panorama
Awww, friends4eva. Jarrett captured this scene with the iPhone panorama feature. From this point, we were able to see four of the five major Bay Area bridges, Alcatraz, and Angel Island.

The weather on Sunday couldn’t have been better. Fall in the Bay Area tends to be warmer than summer, and Saturday was a perfect example, gracing us with balmy evening breezes and clear, dry skies. We celebrated with seasonally appropriate oatmeal-pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies and a host of other munchies.

Tilden - Paul and Lisa (and Tanya)
Paul and Lisa (and me). I was going to crop myself out of this, but let’s be honest, this is my phantasy.

We finished the hike by continuing down the Seaview Trail, passing the intersection with Big Springs, and continuing back until reaching our starting point at the Quarry parking lot. During this last leg, the light was fading quickly, and there were swarms of mosquitoes out in full force, which meant… BATS! Bats emerged from their dark lairs, swooping around overhead in search of their next mosquito victim. Ew.

Fact: Paul hates bats.

Fact: Paul made it out alive and well, so I am able to leave you with this triumphant celebration:

Tilden - Paul Silhouette
Good night, Bay Area!!

Castle Rock State Park Loop

Castle Rock State Park Loop

Date Hiked: 9/17/13
Distance: 6.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (learning more towards Moderate)
Best Season: Spring to early Summer in order to enjoy the falls and the greenery

Today (Aug. 18, 2013) is what I like to call a lazy Sunday. Those are the best, yes? I woke up sore from yesterday’s hike, enjoyed some breakfast, and am blogging from the little garden patio behind my building. I love days like this when I can just relax and really take the time to enjoy everything I’m lucky to have.

Yesterday, Hiking Club resumed after a month-long hiatus during the time Jarrett was exploring South America. Apparently, he’s the Hiking Club glue, so pretty much no hikes happened without him! We’d both heard really great things about the Castle Rock State Park Loop, which is in Los Gatos, CA, so we were excited to get started again with a great hike. ┬áBut because I’m directionally challenged, we got a later start than anticipated. For future reference: the main parking lot and Saratoga Gap Trailhead is located in the southeast corner of Castle Rock State Park on Highway 35/Skyline Blvd. It is not the first parking lot you encounter when approaching the park from the north. Who would think that? Not I…

The Castle Rock State Park Loop begins in the aforementioned parking lot on the Saratoga Gap Trail, which heads west for about 3 miles at which point it doubles back to become the Ridge Trail, which goes east back to the parking lot. There are detours throughout the loop where you can explore different points of interest like the Interactive Center, Goat Rock, and Castle Rock, and there are really beautiful vistas to enjoy along the way as well.

We first stopped at Castle Rock Falls, which was more like a teeny, tiny little trickle rather than falls (the result of a dry winter and the fact that we were hiking in late summer). Here, a wooden platform is placed atop a sheer rock face next to the top of the “falls.” I took a moment to hang out on the railing and watch the climbers below.

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Fact: Paul and Jarrett are afraid of heights; more specifically, they’re afraid of people who aren’t afraid of heights and publicly display their fearlessness. They did not enjoy my lackadaisical attitude towards the sheer drop below.

Fact: Major H/T to Paul, our unofficial historian. He has a great eye and knack for capturing the hilarious, beautiful, and striking moments of our trips. Most photos I’ll post will be courtesy of Paul. Thanks, Paul!

This hike had so many interesting points along the way, but I’ll just share some highlights. Towards the end of the loop, we found a crop of boulders that included a super cool cave we just had to explore. This involved climbing up a fallen tree trunk and through a tiny, little opening.

Castle Rock CaveDylan and I high-five our cave success — we made it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful Lisa climbing through the cave opening.

After our cave adventures, we arrived at Castle Rock itself, watched a group of climbers trying to scale it, and saw these neat tafoni formations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATafoni are small, round, cave-like formations that usually occur in granular rocks like sandstone (thanks, Wikipedia). They were neat and reminded me of lung alveoli — nerd alert!

Overall, the hike was a success, despite the super dry, warm weather. Next time around, we’ll probably try it in springtime for cooler weather and a better experience with the falls.

And now I leave you with this gem:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike I said, Paul has a knack for capturing the best moments! Meet Jarrett, the previously mentioned Hiking Club instigator and Inca Trail conqueror.

Happy hiking!