By Out There Guest Blogger Molly Stokeld
Living here in Santa Rosa we are spoiled. I mean not rotten or anything, just spoiled with an abundance of choices: Like, where to hike?
For me the choice is dependent on my mood. Do I want to meander around Spring Lake? Or do I want to huff and puff my way to the top of Taylor Mountain? Perhaps I feel like hopping rocks to the upper ridges of Annadel? Whatever I choose I know I will not be disappointed with the abundance of eye-popping vistas our beautiful Sonoma County local scenery has to offer. So let’s get in the mood and review some options.
Mood 1: mellow and a bit lazy. A brisk jaunt around Spring Lake is just the thing when I want some fresh air but am not completely in the mood for hiking.
I love how this park features a paved boulevard with options of more natural mini-hikes in between. Marked by trail numbers at their heads, these dirt paths with blackberry bramble walls will lead you back to the paved road after a few minutes. At Spring Lake you are in nature but also not too far from the hustle and bustle of town. It’s a lesser commitment to both physical exertion and time away.
Spring Lake is also perfect for bringing your kids and your pooch. The kids enjoy the on again off again discovery of secret passages, leaving them with a sense that they too have discovered the hidden nature that is within the well-kept park.
Mood 2: Ambitious. In this mood, I’ll drive myself to the eastside neighborhood that borders Annadel Park.
The neighborhood at Stonehedge Drive serves as the gateway to the West side of Annadel State Park. (Be respectful of the residential neighborhood and park accordingly and don’t leave valuables in your car (duh).) This is a perfect hike to get the blood pumping and also be rewarded by spectacular views of Santa Rosa. Once you reach the upper ridges and look westerly, you completely get why Santa Rosa is called the city of trees. There are many paths to take. My favorites are Rough Go, Spring Creek or Canyon trail. On each of these trails you are sure to be greeted by mountain bikers, other hikers, and an occasional horse, and all lead to a beautiful meadow that is the home to Lake Ilsanjo.
The lake is a perfect spot to picnic or rest after climbing up an estimated 1400 feet in elevation. The beauty doesn’t stop, whether it is a lizard leaping, a snake slithering (warning: rattlesnake territory) or perhaps a fox scampering, you are bound to be exposed to raw nature doing what it does best: living organically. This is an “any time of year” hike that will not disappoint. Bring your kids if you like whining and “are we there yet” questions. Otherwise enjoy this hike alone or with other like-minded adults.
Mood 3: Exploratory. Another hike I like to take is on Taylor Mountain.
I’m not clear on why they call it Taylor Mountain because it is more like a hill, but it is steep and it is superb for getting your heart beating hard. This is a new park for Sonoma County and it is a bit challenging to find because it is tucked away off of Kawana Springs road. This is a Sonoma County regional park so there is a parking fee. Or, you can opt to find a free spot to the left of the driveway before you enter but you will pay in the way of a 45 degree walk up the driveway to reach the trailhead. At the trailhead, there is a frisbee golf course (newly established) on one side and a large cattle gate on the other. Be sure to lock the gate behind you, as there are loose cattle on the trail. This fact of “loose cattle” can be intimidating or amusing. Either way be sure to look out for meadow muffins as they are literally everywhere.
I love this hike because of the bucolic meadows and the beautiful old growth oaks. Also, the fact that there are free ranging cattle means you get to see calves and momma cows along the way. There a few choices to make when choosing your desired path, but all are circular and lead back to where you started at the cattle gate. My favorite part is the payoff once you reach the outer western ridge section of the hike; you will gasp at the vista and the beauty of Santa Rosa valley. The kids love this hike. It is a fun exploratory hike that will be sure to please all of your family, even your dogs.
Finding a hiking spot in Santa Rosa is not hard, it is a matter of mood. When we follow the unspoken rules of trash-in trash-out, scoop your poop, and yield to others, we are doing our part to keep our parks clean and hiker-friendly. So do what your Momma told you and: Go take a hike!
Local girl turned realtor, Molly works with Century 21 Valley of the Moon and loves all things Sonoma County. A mother of two ( 1 teen + 1 tween) both of whom attend Santa Rosa city schools, she’s an Alumnus of Sonoma State University. Her fascination with social media began about 10 years ago, and most recently (2 years ago) Molly developed a Facebook, Instagram and twitter profile named eyesonsonoma. The goal for those sites is to enlighten people with her “eyes” on our county, basically why she love living here.
Her new web site at www.makesonomahome.com will be an interactive online destination where visitors can search for homes and learn about the county.
Meanwhile you can find Molly on Facebook or www.mollystokeld.c21.com.