Dates: February 5 and 10, 2018
Place: Round Valley Regional Preserve, Clayton, California
Coordinates: 37.867574, -121.751491
Length: 4.5 miles
A couple of years ago a fellow member of the California Native Plants Society posted online photos from Round Valley Regional Preserve. Those photos were taken early in the morning and featured oak trees in the mist and dew drips hanging from leaves. I promptly added Round Valley to my hiking wish list.
This year I realized that to make this wish happen I needed some sort of commitment. I therefore added Round Valley to the list of hikes I planned for the Redwood 4-H Hiking Project that I lead. Comes February, and I dedicated a morning for a solo prep hike. Five days later I was there with the group. Most photos here are from my solo hike on February 5. The others were taken on February 10 during the group hike. Pappa Quail did not join us this time, but my elder chika is now a full-blown birder and is becoming better at taking wildlife photos with every hike. I included here some of her photos too.
Below is a mockingbird that my elder chika photographed by the parking lot.
There are many oak trees at the Round Valley preserve, and nearly all of them deciduous. I was walking by completely naked trees. The buckeye trees however, were budding their leaves already.
|California Buckeye, Aesculus californica|
I continued on and before long I was walking into and up the narrow canyon of High Creek.
|California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus|
|A dried pond behind a little dam.|
I would have loved to see the creek running with water but the rains up to that day were not sufficient. Perhaps next time I could see the cascades of High Creek.
While the youths snacked and chatted I found a pretty buckeye sprout to appreciate.
|Looking back: Brentwood below|
Red stands out really nicely against the green background. Even if there's not much of it over all, it catches the eye immediately.
|Fruit-bearing Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia|
Over the pass i finally got to see Round Valley itself. I guess that with some loose geometry it can be taken for round. I was quite excited to see the double peaks of Mount Diablo peeking behind the next ridge.
|Round Valley and Mt. Diablo.|
|Round Valley, Murray Meadow|
|Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, buds February 5.|
|Same Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, buds February 10.|
|Western Bluebird, male|
|Wind turbines north of the Sacramento River|
I encountered more cattle on the way down. This time - bulls. Contrary to their reputations bulls are the least likely to be aggressive of all cattle. They didn't experience having their calves taken from them and they didn't experience the pain of castration. Calm and indifferent the bull went on with his lunch as I walked by.
There was a small bridge across the creek and a few small rocks near it. A air of wren were jumping and making funny dance moves on top of these rocks. My chika caught one of them on camera.
|Round Valley Creek|
California Man-root, Marah fabacea
From the upper trail I could see the white limestone layer just above the creek, standing out like a scar.
On the 4H hike three days later we were walking the wide, lower dirt road that followed the creek much more closely.
Nearing the end of the hike the trail curves up the hill and then down again. We took a lower shortcut that run near a fence - possibly the fence of a farm on the other side. There was an agriculture field over below, and beautiful- blossomed almond trees right at the fence. They are invasive plants here but their bloom smells wonderful.
|Sweet Almond, Prunus dulcis|
That would have been the end of excitement for the group hike too but my elder chika made a discovery: inside a hole in the ground, very close to the parking lot, was a large toad. We all crouched near the hole to appreciate the amphibian, who didn't even flinch.