Up East Ridge Trail to the best view in the park
By Austin Explorer on 6/16/2019
Distance: 5.37 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 36 minutes
Coppertone and I knocked out our third trail in our 2019 Sonoma County Trails Challenge at Tolay Lake Regional Park. Two more to go!
We took the suggested route across the Causeway Trail and uphill on the East Ridge Trail. We were rewarded with spectacular views of a wide swath of San Pablo Bay and even into San Francisco Bay. The earlier clouds and fog were just beginning to clear so visibility was not ideal, but it was still impressive enough for me to consider this the best viewpoint in the park.
We started our day on the flat causeway walking along a dotted line of trees and being buzzed at high speed by acrobatic chimney swifts. Later in the day on the return leg of the hike they had settled down a bit as the temperatures rose.
To our left were some fenced in fields and a low drainage ditch paralleled the dividing fenceline heading away from us. We heard a rustle of grass and brush (more like a crash) and out of the grass emerges a cow. Closer examination showed there to be several additional cows in the low spot. The loud crash of vegetation and the unexpected emergence of large mammal called to mind a hike we had taken in Montana years ago. But unlike the Moose we saw in Glacier National Park the cow here presented no possible danger.
About 1 mile into the hike the flat terrain turns slighty upward. There are several gates that must be opened and closed along the path to keep the roaming cattle in their proper pastures. Unlike the cows we saw in the ditch the ones from this point on up are in the same fields as hikers. They generally clear a path and get well out of your way.
There's little tree cover on the trail, but as East Ridge Trail continues to climb it makes a turn and parallels and seasonal streambed. Here a line oaks, buckeyes and some others provide a brief respite from the Sun. The respite is short as the trail again breaks out into rolling open grassland for the final push.
We found a hiker already at the Three Bridges Vista Point. She had a blanket laid out and has obviously planned to soak in the vista for an extended period of time. We had a nice chat about the park and the things one can normally see to the south on clearer days.
As I said, the view is great but there are some unwelcome reminders we are not terribly far from cities. A high tension powerline can be see along the west ridge on the opposite side of the park. Sonoma Raceway provided near continuous racecar noise. In addition a nearby gun club has a shooting range which projects the sound of gunshots much farther than I would have expected.
Due to plans later in the day we didn't spend too much time admiring the view, so we doubled back down the trail to where we started.