When spring arrives, I often plan a trip to the Carrizo Plain which in some years will have a dazzling display of wildflowers. This year the report was not promising so the idea of the five-hour drive did not bode well. With the hills around the Bay Area showing green, I was reminded about a trip I made to Mount Hamilton some years ago and recalled the green hills and oak trees flush with new leaves.
So on March 28 we jumped in the truck and headed to Joseph D. Grant County Park. We arrived following a light rain with plenty of camping available. We parked our rig in site #9, suggested by the ranger at the entry kiosk. The camp facilities were quite nice, with level parking places well-suited for our camper. The restrooms were clean and even had showers.
Once we had the camper set up, we explored a bit of the trails around the camp, making a 3.5-mile loop via parts of the Hotel Trail, the Barn Trail, and the Snell Trail. There are 51 miles of trails in the park, so no shortage of hiking opportunities.
Dogs are allowed in the park, and we had our dog Carson on a leash as required. With the soft light from the cloud cover, I was intrigued with the oak trees festooned with lichens. The trees reminded me of Druids or Ents (if you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien). One of those photos, Mossy Tree #1, is now available in my art store at store.treve.com. Along our hike we startled a drift of wild pigs. We had seen signs of wild pigs all over the park. Their activities leave the ground looking like a rototiller has passed through.
The next day, March 29, a longer hike was in order. We walked to Grant Lake passing the Grant Ranch House on the way, then over to the lake where we stopped and had lunch.
We returned to camp via the loop trail, passing a couple of ponds along the way. This is pasture land for cattle, so we had our share of gates and styles.
With our meandering we covered 6.7 miles. We did find a number of wildflowers along our walk including poppies, lupine, mustard, shooting stars, and mule’s ears. We also saw a few deer and rabbits. Check out the online gallery for more photos.
On March 30 we awoke to fog and decided we’d take the back road home by going over the top of Mount Hamilton, then following San Antonio Valley Road and Mines Road. This made for an interesting drive. We stopped in the fog for a short walk through the mist shrouded oaks, and then drove up out of the fog to the Lick Observatory.
As we drove down the east side we were impressed by how much fire damage we saw from the SCU Lightning Complex Fire that occurred in August of 2020. The fire threatened the observatory on top of the mountain and burned 396,624 acres. We were driving through the burned area for quite some time.
There seems to be little public space on the east side of the mountain, so when it came time for lunch, we found a side road with space wide enough to park and pull out our camp chairs. This turned out to be a rewarding trip for a quick getaway with much to see.