Trail Review: Tafoni Sandstone Formation

We managed to pull ourselves away from our kitten to go for a little hike the other day! I haven’t been out in the woods for a long time, and it felt so good to get some fresh air.

We didn’t have much time, and just went a few miles out to see the Tafoni Sandstone Formation. The trail starts off of Skyline Boulevard in the mountains near Woodside. It’s just three or four miles round trip with a little gain, and makes for a nice walk. The sandstone formation is quite impressive, and there’s also a little viewpoint picnic area just a little further on where you can see out to the ocean on a clear day.


When we got back to the parking lot, we saw a sign directing us to the Methuselah Tree right across the highway and we decided to check it out. I’m not sure why our guidebook doesn’t mention that it’s worth it to take that extra .1 mile walk to see this enormous tree, because it really is! Most of the redwoods in this forest were cut down to build San Francisco, but a few old trees still exist. It’s a treat to see them, but it always makes me a little sad wondering what this forest would have looked like if it hadn’t been so intensely logged. This tree is estimated to be 1,800 years old and has a trunk diameter of 14 feet!




Trail Review: Local Beaches

We haven’t been hiking in so long! Well, we actually did take a couple nice, camera-free trips to Mt. Tam and the Purisima Redwoods since I last posted a trail review, but even that was a long time ago. Sadly, there are no real plans for hiking in the near future either, but even when we can’t find a moment to get out of our little corner of the peninsula, there is always time to go to the local beach!

I can hardly even believe that I have a neighborhood beach. How did I get so lucky? Our home is at 500 ft. above sea level, and though the beach is only a quarter mile away as the seagull flies, there is a steep, dangerous, eroded cliff to get down and I only found a good way down that doesn’t involve driving a couple weeks ago. It is certainly a good way too, with the *best* wildflower display I’ve seen in the Bay Area yet. It’s not even really wildflower season anymore! I can’t wait until next spring.
Monkeyflower | Paintbrush
Buckwheat | Milk Thistle | Moonwort
Birdsfoot Lotus | Yarrow

Trail Review: Russian Ridge

Last weekend we took a great hike at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. I heard this area was good for spring wildflowers, and, my goodness, was it ever! Russian Ridge is located in the hills over Palo Alto, and though it’s just a few miles south of the Purisima Redwoods area, this preserve consists of grasslands with a few groves of old oaks and firs.

California flowers
It was very sunny and bright, and we had a great time looking at flowers that aren’t seen as much in the forests and foggy areas. California Poppies and lupine dominated the landscape, growing everywhere. I really wish I could capture the look of a glittering grassland covered with flowers in a photograph! Newly identified flowers included Woodland Stars, California Buttercups, and Johnny-Jump-Ups.

Woodland Star | California Buttercup
Views were good, and on a very clear fall day the ocean would probably be bright and blue. These photos may look clear, but there’s almost always some water in the air along the coast these days! The bay is visible along much of the Ridge Trail, and at times you can make out the SF skyline in the distance.


My mom is a forest person and my dad is a rock person, and though I love forests, and rocks to a lesser extent, the wide views, birds, flowers, and intense complexity of a natural grassland has always been strangely special to me. I will definitely be coming back to this wonderful spot.


Trail Review: Purisima Creek Redwoods

Tall, tall trees

10 miles, 1600 feet. Recommended, with modifications.

My parents came up to visit at the end of last week, and Friday we went out on a hike in the redwoods at Purisima Creek Redwood Open Space Preserve, located in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains. We had a great time but it was a long ten miles, even for my ultra-marathoner parents! The redwoods are spectacular, though, and it’s definitely worth a trip. Nearly all of the redwoods in this forest were logged in the late 1800’s, so the current forest is relatively young, but stumps show you how big the original trees once were. Amazing! Though there are a few views of Half Moon Bay from the trail, the trees and wildflowers are the main sights here, and it would be a nice hike on a foggy day.



Looking out to Half Moon Bay

I’m just a beginner naturalist, but I’m trying to learn. Someday I’d like to be able to recognize all the plants and animals out there! Anyway, I could be wrong with these identifications… Flowers spotted, clockwise from the big photo: Hound’s Tongue, California Manroot, Giant Trillium, Woodland Strawberry, Milkmaids, and Redwood Sorrel.

Details: We did the “grand loop” trail, starting from the North Ridge parking lot, heading down to Purisima Creek Trail, then back up via Craig Britton Trail. It was nice going down, until it sinks in that you’ve really gone downhill a lot, you’ve only done 4/10 miles, and you are already getting tired. Not to mention you’re in the bottom of a gully and it’s gotten hot and humid. It’s only a short way to the single-track Craig Britton Trail, though, which I thought was the most scenic part of the hike. Next time I think it would be best to park at the lower Purisima Creek Road lot, then go up the Harkins Ridge Trail, bypass the North Ridge section altogether, and head back down on the Craig Britton Trail. This would cut off three miles and about 500 feet of gain, which I think would make all the difference between a great hike and a nice, but seemingly endless one.