Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lake Chabot: West Shore trail to Goldenrod-Cascade Trail loop.

Hike date: April 17, 2012
Place: Lake Chabot Regional Park, the East Bay, California
Coordinates: 37.71501 -122.10203
Difficulty level: moderate to strenuous. 
Trail is highlighted on the map below, which I downloaded from the Anthony Chabot Regional Park page of the East Bay Regional Parks District site.

Lake Chabot Regional Park is one of my favorite places to hike. It's proximity to my former home in Castro Valley has made it an easy getaway whenever I found the need to escape life's rat race, if only for a little while.
My first time at the park, nearly twelve years ago, was also the grandest. Together with Papa Quail and another friend I hiked the entire loop trail around the lake. I've been wanting to repeat this hike ever since and Earlier this week I found myself with the time and the energy and I was finally set on doing it.

Or so I thought. When I came to the park after dropping off the Quail Chikas at their school I found out that the 9 mile loop is temporarily closed and I was not prepared to do the 13 mile loop. So I hiked another trail, Suggested by the ranger at the entrance booth, which proved to be a fantastic choice.


I began my walk at 9:15 am, starting at Lake Chabot Marina and heading north, along the West Shore Trail. The weather was overcast and chilly, but after five minutes of walking my sweatshirt came off and into my backpack. The West Shore Trail runs right besides the lake, is paved with asphalt all the way to the dam (about 1.8 miles) and is easy to walk.


After crossing the dam I turned onto Bass Cove Trail, which is a wide dirt trail shared by bikers and equestrian. On that morning I was all alone on that trail. All alone, save for the birds, of course. And there were many of them. There were the usual water fowl: ducks, Canada geese, coots and cormorants. There were also plenty of bush birds chirping all around me. There is also a firing range on the other side of the park. I heard them, too.


The park is really green and lush right now. After last week's rains the trail was quite muddy and little brooks crossed it every now and then. I was glad I opted for closed shoes.

After a 1/3 miles on Bass Cove trail I turned left onto Goldenrod trail, which climbs uphill towards Grass Valley staging area, right above the Oakland Zoo. This trail is steep and walking it was quite strenuous. On top, though, there is a lovely view of the San Fancisco Bay.


The Goldenrod trail tangents the point where Grass Valley Rd curves into Skyline Blvd. There is a small parking lot there and an easy access to the trailhead. At that point I turned right onto the Jackson Grade trail that took me all the way down to the Grass Valley Creek. There, by the stone bridge, there is a bench and I sat there for a snack and a short rest. Then I turned right onto the Cascade Trail and entered a truly magical place.


Did I mention already that everything is green and lush right now? Well, the cascade trail is also aflame with magnificent spring blossom.




So many flowers are blooming there right now! Numerous species of ferns are unfurling their leaves under the oaks and laurels. Some places are covered with 'snowflakes' of fallen Madrone petals. Sweet honey smell emanating from blackberry vines in full bloom filled the air with promises of delicious harvest yet to come.











Intoxicated like the bees, I made my way slowly, stopping often to take a photograph and being careful not to step on any of the giant slugs that crossed my path:











At one point I stopped to photograph a tree root running through a nice conglomerate rock when I noticed this cute little guy curled right underneath, an aquatic garter snake:


The creek itself was flowing with so much water! On some stretches, the creek flowed slowly and lazily. On others, it was cascading noisily down some narrow rocky passages. Past the junction with the Columbine trail, the cascade trail becomes somewhat challenging. I had to crawl under a fallen tree, ford the creek twice (a long stick I found along the way was really helpful there!), and push through the bushes at one point. It was all worth it, though, because this part of the Grass Valley Creek is the loveliest point on the entire trail!


At its end, the creek enters Lake Chabot and I met Bass Cove Trail once more, going south, back to the marina. Heading back I took the time to photograph more flowers and birds, and the image of the peaceful lake nestled between the hills. I arrived at the marina at 1:25 pm. Walking at a moderate pace it took me a little over 4 hours to hike a little over 9 miles of some really gorgeous trails.

And as a last comment, anyone who'd like to hike just the Goldenrod-Cascade trail loop can begin at the trailhead by the Grass Valley Rd/Skyline Blvd curve. I strongly recommend wearing closed shoes and long pants on that trail because it's narrow and it's very difficult to avoid contact with poison oak, which is highly abundant there, and grows right into the trail in many places.

Spring 2014 update: the Poison Oak on this loop trail had been completely cleared away. I mean, completely. There's not even a sample left to show people what to avoid ...





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