Whatever you do, breath through your nose! It’s summer and that means mosquitoes and various other unidentified flying bugs that could land in your mouth if you aren’t careful while huffing and puffing up the hill!
The hubs and I are doing the Sonoma County Parks Trails Challenge again this year. Love they do this and encourage locals to get out and enjoy the beautiful parks we have in our backyard! Our first one for the season was on Hood Mountain out to the Grandmother tree, the oldest coast live oak in Sonoma County. It’s been hot here so we are on summer hiking hours again. Early out on the trails, naps in the afternoon and nice long evenings.
Absolutely love the drive up to Los Alamos Road! From the winding road you can see for days on a clear day and you don’t even have to hike! It always amazes me how expansive the open land is around here. We were the second people at the parking lot behind some runners who coincidentally finished at the same time as us but went twice as far. Totally aspire to be in fabulous shape like they are at their age! The hike starts off downhill on Hood Mountain Trail and in the shade. It then opens up into a beautiful meadow before you get to the bottom of your hike at Santa Rosa Creek Trail. We had done this part in the spring out to Gunsight Rock when it was lush and green and the creek was flowing. Now it is summer and the meadow has turned the beautiful golden color we see everywhere on our hillsides and the creek is finally passable.
Take a break at the creek and enjoy the shade and the beauty before you head left up toward McCormick Ranch on Quercus Trail. On this you will be in and out of shade while climbing at a decent ascent. Bugs love shade and swarm around like crazy insects and attempt to land on or in wherever they can! Spiders know this so there’s lots of lovely spider webs crossing the path. This is the bonus of being the first on the trail…spider webs and tons of flying insects. Seriously, they landed on my nose, in my ear and even though I looked a little crazy with my deet sprayed arms swatting them away they still came after me! So we were rushing through the lovely shade to get to the super sunny spots on the trail.
Insect free, you will find yourself standing at another huge open meadow at the intersection for Headwaters Trail. Your brain will tell you to go right because it is the path of least resistance but to get to the Grandmother Tree, you must go left and head up the hill…no shade, no bugs, and tons of sun. Start climbing up the dirt path, take it easy and drink lots of water. Pretend to want to take a lot of photos or enjoy the view like I do when the hill is steep so you can catch your breath!
Careful not to miss the little trail that veers off to the right with a small sign that says Grandmother Tree Trail. The trail is a single track, rocky and steep in some areas so take your time and head on up! The Grandmother Tree is about 1/2 mile from the start of the trail. Enjoy the views of Hood Mountain’s peak to your right, valleys to your left and Santa Rosa in the distance behind you. You can’t miss the old Grandmother Tree on this trail (unless of course you are us and we see a giant tree and wonder if this is it or keep going on the “trail”). She’s big and beautiful! If you do happen to miss it and keep going on the deer trail to the three trees, enjoy the extra little adventure and great views!
From here, turn around and head back the way you came. We prefer trails that loop but this unfortunately meets up with private property if you continue on the Headwaters Trail and you have to turn around anyway. We wanted to continue on to the newer part of the park but I have been nursing tendinitis in my left heel and a really gnarly bone bruise on my right leg (done while sober and not hiking…I am just a klutz) so we kept it shorter this time. It was incredibly hot too and that seems to zap any extra exploration energy!
Parking fee $7 or regional pass, portable toilet in parking lot, plenty of parking, take bug spray for the shade, 50/50 shade and sun, moderately strenuous 5 miles with approx 800 ft elevation loss, gain, loss, gain (you will be going up and down), summer is hot!