Saturday, March 30, 2013

Little Yosemite at Sunol: a local treat

Date: March 15, 2013
Place: Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol, California
Coordinates: 37.50773, -121.82875
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

My friend came all the way from overseas to witness the great desert bloom. The hike we started with at Mount Tamalpais State Park was a very promising start. Our big desert trip, of which I will write separate posts, although rewarding in many ways, was a bit disappointing in regard of blooming, since winter had arrived late to Southern California and with insufficient precipitation.
The bay area, on the other hand, provided my friend with more than enough compensation. Springtime here this year is truly sensational. So I once again jump ahead my posting timeline to share the final hikes we did in the Bay Area before she got on the plane. 

Choosing of Sunol Regional Wilderness was almost instinctive. This park is just about the top of my list when it comes to adventurous solo hiking in the East Bay. Some of my most memorable wildlife encounters happened there, as well as my first (and hopefully last) encounter with an aggressive cow who didn't like to share the trail.

The boldest evidence for spring we met even before we entered the park itself: on the turn to Geary Rd. there is a regular flock of Wild Turkey. I see them nearly every time I go there. This time, however, they were busy courting.
Here's one of the males, showing off what he's got. As a mamma quail, I find him really cute :-) 
Wild Turkey, male, in display. Isn't he a hunk?
The girls didn't seem very impressed though. Considering, though, that new turkey chicks hatch each spring, I assume that some of the puffed-up males do get their way with the females. 
Wild turkey, females.
We didn't go an any adventurous trail this time, just walked along the Alameda Creek on the wide and comfortable Ohlone Camp trail. The trailhead is at the farthest parking lot in the park, right next to the woodpeckers' tree. There always there, the Acorn woodpeckers. This time, however, they didn't pose to the camera so I had to upload another woodpecker from a different tree, further down the trail.
Acorn woodpecker

Early on the trail we saw many wildflowers. I liked this shooting star most :-) 
Dodecantheon hendersonii
Next to the pinks there were also purples:
Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum)
And blues too:
There were also yellows and whites and everything surrounded by 50 shades of green, just as a good spring should be!

There were quite a few more hikers on that trail. Even though we could see many birds very very close. This hawk, for example, only hopped to the next tree over when we approached. It has a regular nest there on one of these trees. I've seen it populated a couple of years in a row.
Red-tailed hawk
After about a mile of walking we arrived the area called 'Little Yosemite'. The name might get some giggles from people who've been to The Yosemite, but seeing that park of the creek from up close it is clear why it is so named.
Some of the cascades of the Little Yosemite area. 
Other hikers that came down to the creek actually climbed the rocky cascades to explore further, but my friend and I were  happy just sitting on the rocks and enjoying the watery view. It was a great sight, particularly in comparison to the same time last year, when the Alameda Creek was reduced by the draught to a mere trickle.  
A water pool between the cascades.  
Beyond the Little Yosemite area the trail continues into the Ohlone Wilderness - an area that requires a wilderness permit. At that point we turned around and started back.
Fern on the rocky canyon walls
We encountered this little Dark-eyed Junco as we scrambled back from the creek to the main trail. It is a very common bird in the Bay Area.
Dark-eyed junco
A little less common, and much more exciting - a Golden Eagle glided above. A truly majestic bird.
Golden Eagle
Spring time is flower time. Flower time is butterfly time!
Sara Orangetip (Anthocharis sara)
My friend specializes in photographing butterflies. After chasing the Orangetip myself for some time, trying to catch it in a restful second for a good shot, I could really appreciate her patience and skill.  The  Blue was easier to photograph. It is territorial, said my friend, and always comes back to the same spot.
Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)
The Little Yosemite of Sunol is a beautiful trail, about 2 miles in and out, also passable by large-wheeled strollers. It is an excellent choice for a family outing any time of year, but this spring it is absolutely gorgeous!