Our first Fall excursion of 2013 offers a win-win response to an age-old question: What's more important -- length or girth?
At Redwood Regional Park, there's no need to compromise. Home of the East Bay's largest (and thickest) growth of Coastal Redwoods, the mighty trees on this land -- which 200 years ago grew past heights of 100 feet -- once served as a guideposts to help sailors navigate through the treacherous Golden Gate, 16 miles away.
NOTE: This hike is now closed to RSVPs. If you're on the Waiting List, here's how it works.
A series of bright blue signs to "Chabot Space & Science Center" guide you from either of two exits off of Highway 13 -- Joaquin Miller or Redwood Rd. -- right into the parking lot at 10000 (Ten Thousand) Skyline Blvd. in Oakland. How easy is that?
Important: Our Meetup point is in the BACK PARKING LOT of the Space Center. As the steep driveway from Skyline Blvd. levels off and the Space Center comes into view, you'll see a parking garage on your right and a dozen head-in parking spots on your left. Pass them up and follow the driveway that swings to the right of the Space Center (ignore the signs that tell visitor's not to drive beyond that point). You'll pass employee parking on your right -- keep going to the back parking lot, which sits just below the observatory plaza. The back parking lot will be empty except for Trustees, it's free, and it's where our trail starts.
The comment I invariably hear when I lead first-timers into Redwood Regional Park goes something like this: "Wow. I can't believe this is Oakland! Has this always been here?"
You betcha. Much of boomtown San Francisco was built from the first-growth redwoods which once towered here (no worries; today's second-growth trees are nearly as majestic). When Alameda County broke off from Contra Costa County 160 years in order to gain more influence in state politics, the counties divided the precious resources of what is now Redwood Regional Park right down the middle. One more geeky factoid: The term "rainbow trout" was coined in this park, where the species spawns.
But you don't have to care about the history to dig this wondrous place. Redwood sits atop the Oakland Hills, perched high above downtown Oakland, Alameda and the bay. Much of this hike takes place under a canopy of redwoods so thick that it's often hard to tell when it's raining. And when it's foggy, this place is hauntingly beautiful. Even on the brightest days, the dappled sunlight plays tricks on the eye and the mossy branches can appear to be fog-shrouded.
This hike differs from any of other Circle of Trust & Beer outings on a number of fronts: we start the hike going downhill; it's less than 6 miles; and, just over an hour into the hike, we'll push the pause button at an awesome meadow called Redwood Bowl to munch, explore and socialize. In fact, the entire hike, even with the Redwood Bowl hiatus, should be complete in 3 hours.
But don't be lulled into thinking this is a walk in the park. We're going to climb, baby -- about 1,200 feet on two leg-burning hilles. After a couple of relatively soft hikes (Wildcat Canyon & Portola Redwoods State Park) to recruit fresh blood for The Circle, it's time to start gearing up for our fall climbing season - our most intense yet - which will culminate in a trip to the summit of Lake Tahoe's Mount Tallac in late October.
Monaghan's On The Hill is conveniently located right around the corner from the Joaquin Miller exit on Highway 13, just 2 miles from our trailhead. It's a hybrid place that's not sure whether it wants to be a nice restaurant or a sports bar, but the split personality works -- this place is immensely popular among the highlanders in (Oakland's) Westminster/Montclair area. We'll take over the outside deck - and let the Circulating begin!