Challenge Yourself in the East Bay Regional Parks By MARTA YAMAMOTO Special to the Planet

Friday June 10, 2005

January was the time for resolutions: get outside, exercise, eat better food, reduce stress and get healthy. Half way through the year, your resolutions may remain on paper only. If you’re still waiting for the right motivation, an easy solution may be at hand. 

East Bay Regional Parks and Kaiser Permanente are co-sponsoring the 12th Annual Trails Challenge and there’s a “Trail Log” out there with your name on it. If you have children who love to explore, a dog that’s bored with his daily route, a trail bike gathering dust or a spirit who yearns for the smell of pines and the call of birds, read on. 

The parks district has selected specific hikes in twenty of our regional parks. They are challenging you to complete a minimum of five hikes by Dec. 1. How hard can this be? In encouragement, and for a fee of $12, they provide a terrific instruction booklet detailing each hike; a neon lime green t-shirt with the challenge logo that will never allow you to get lost in the woods; and a step pedometer to track your goal of 10,000 steps per day. Filling out your Trail Log and mailing it in rewards you with the official 2005 pin. This is a deal you can’t refuse. 

For the next several months, I’ll stand in for your conscience by describing hikes and adding information to help you better enjoy the outdoors, like tips for smart hiking, taking Fido, and general outdoors information. I’ll also up the challenge by encouraging you to make every hike a real excursion allowing time for a picnic or outdoor reflection. 

Any new experience should be a positive one. The more you are well prepared the better the chances of wanting to repeat the experience. All it takes to be a good hiker is some common sense. Just like the Scouts: be prepared. Carry a backpack with plenty of water, snacks and a hat. Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes with good ankle support.  

Walk with a friend when possible and leave information behind as to where you’re headed. Allow enough time to hike at a reasonable pace. There’s more than just an elevated heart rate waiting for you, be sure you have time to stop, look and revel in what’s around you. 

Pick up a trail map when you get to the park. Read it; know where you’re going. Evaluate the hike you’ve selected and condition you are in. You want to enjoy this. 

Be courteous of others on the trail. If you’re with a loud group, be aware that others may be looking for a different outdoor experience. Don’t leave or remove souvenirs; leave only footprints, take only memories. 


TRAIL CHALLENGE #1: Redwood Regional Park: 3.2 miles, intensity rated easy. 

There are several entrance gates to Redwood Park. This particular hike originates at the Canyon Meadows Staging Area, accessed through Redwood Gate. 

As soon as you exit your car, you’ll know you’re in the right place for an outdoor adventure. Canyon Meadows is lovely, a large grassy expanse with a variety of mature trees, lots of picnic facilities and a small kid’s playground.  

The hike begins on Stream Trail—shaded, broad, paved and level, paralleling Redwood Creek. Stop to read the Interpretive Panel explaining the efforts under way to control erosion of the creek’s banks and restore habitat for newts and trout. A rail fence lines both sides of the creek and dogs must be leashed in this area. Other Panels discuss the ecology of forest streams and the amazing survival story of the redwood, whose habitat has been reduced to a narrow corridor along the Pacific Coast. 

Stream Trail continues for 1 mile bordered by native grasses adorned with huckleberry, wild currant and foxglove. You’ll pass additional picnic areas and facilities as well as groves of the magnificent 100-foot redwoods. Notice their characteristic formation, five to ten sentinels in circular arrangements like mini-cathedrals, filtering the light. 

At trail’s end, paving gives way to dirt and the trail begins to climb. At the trail junction, turn left on Chown Trail. After a short climb, you’ll reach another junction and will need to make a decision. You can turn left onto Bridle Trail to return to Stream Trail and your car. 

If you’re up to the challenge, turn right on Chown Trail and get ready to climb a series of switchbacks. 

Now you’re into the real hiking experience among the redwoods. Notice the bright green tips of new growth on branches and in bright tutus of soft growth at the base of trunks. As you climb up the canyon, you get a better perspective of how tall these trees are. Look up at their straight trunks with branches clustered near the light-providing tops. You can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Strenuous walking in a beautiful setting under ideal conditions—dappled light, well-maintained, wide trail—you can almost ignore your panting. 

After 0.5 miles, a trail marker directs you left onto French Trail, a mostly level path following the ridgeline. 

The hard work is done so now you can take in your surroundings. Leaf litter cushions your feet; sticky monkey flowers, coast oaks, bays and ferns line the trail. Let the cares of life diffuse away, leaving your mind free to soak up nature’s healing. Think about Sequoia sempervirens, surviving adversity for hundreds of years, still around. Leave your watch behind and your cell phone off. Enjoy the moment. 

The next trail marker is at a stand of madrone. He who goes up must come down. Turn left and head down on Orchard Trail, another series of switchbacks. This is steep in some areas so take your time. Try weaving from one side of the trail to the other or turning your feet to the side as you descend. This is where you really appreciate sturdy shoes with good ankle support. The floral variety continues as you head back down to the canyon floor, enough to keep any budding botanist happy. The same is true for birders, who will enjoy identifying the symphony of calls and songs.  

At the bottom, turn left on Bridle Trail, on the far side of the creek. From here, you can see evidence of serious erosion on the banks, entire root masses of large bay and sycamore trees exposed. It’s difficult to predict how many storms will pass before these magnificent trees are uprooted.  

Bridle Trail crossed Redwood Creek at Fern Dell, where you once again pick up Stream Trail, leading you back to Canyon Meadows, now beckoning to extend your excursion with a picnic lunch or a grilled brunch—the smell alone will make the trip worthwhile. 

A most satisfying hike, earning an A rating from this hiker. Keep it on your list and return on a hot Indian summer day or better yet, after a few winter storms. The experience of Redwood Creek swollen with run-off and redwoods softening the force of the rain is a memorable one. 






For more information see www.ebparks.org. or call 562-PARK. 



From Hwy 13, exit on Joaquin Miller Rd. and go east. Joaquin Miller turns into Skyline Blvd. At intersection of Skyline and Redwood Rd. turn left onto Redwood Rd.; Continue on Redwood Rd, park entrance is on your left. Follow entrance road to the last parking lot. 

You can also access Skyline Blvd. from Grizzly Peak Blvd.  

Redwood Regional Park: 5am-10pm, fees: $5/vehicle, $2/dog.Ë