Saturday, April 20, 2019
JENNER HEADLANDS PRESERVE
a tale of two visits
I like discovering a new road and I like discovering a new trail. This is about the latter.
We hadn’t enjoyed too many sunny seventy-degree days this wet spring, so at the crack of 9:15 one recent Wednesday, I hopped on Enrico, the Yamaha, for a return trip to the Sonoma Coast.
A late start, it may seem, but a favored breakfast spot in Duncan’s Mills doesn’t open ‘til 9:00 and job one would be to enjoy some Bella Rosa coffee (local to Sonoma County) and a perfectly-turned omelet.
[Note to self: Must return for the Cape Fear Café’s Sunday Brunch.]
West on CA 116 and north on CA 1, a cluster of automobiles are pulled off to the coast side of the highway. A new sign indicates that at the base of the cliff and at the mouth of the Russian River, harbor seals calve. This was their nursery. Nice to know. Lots of pups this morning but too far away for a picture. I’d left my long lens home.
So I took a picture of the bike.
A couple of clicks further north, the gates to the Jenner Headlands Preserve were open. These coastal hillsides were dedicated by the Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District as a space for exploration and enjoyment. Now administered by the Wildlands Conservancy, I motored in for a look.
A lovely green promontory north and slightly east of the parking area beckoned.
And the wild flowers were profuse.
But this was to be a day on the motorcycle, not on shank’s mare. I cataloged the spot as a place to return with my spouse and Edward, the lab mix. [Leashed dogs are welcome on the park’s trails.]
The return visit would be only two days later…
… and the morning coastal fog which had crept in on little cat’s feet the night before, chose not to creep away this afternoon.
But the profusion of wildflowers would not disappoint. Here are a few clusters and portraits.
The Sea to Sky Trail winds 7.5 miles over coast prairie and through mixed woodlands ending at Pole Mountain.
With lots of up and down, the hike is a bit strenuous but with afternoon mist, never too heated.
The route is a combination of rutted ranch roads and glorified - but glorious, given the view and environs - cattle trails.
Ranching is still active in the area and as we departed the Sea to Sky Trail onto the Raptor Ridge Trail – thus offering us a nice five-mile loop – we passed between the ranch house and barn…
…weaving our way through a herd of cattle enjoying a marvelous existence that includes acres of fresh green grass and magnificent Pacific views…
…each head blissfully unaware of one upcoming really bad day for them.
The Raptor Ridge Trail winds down a steep and sometimes muddy track into a ravine.
Along the way we are afforded a mysteriously blanketed view of Goat Rock, a popular coastal destination just below the mouth of the Russian River.
We enjoyed just five of the 14 miles of trails in this new reservation, which only means we’ll have to return again to enjoy the rest.
Notes: Wildlands Conservancy website: https://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve.html
Their efforts specific to Jenner Headlands: https://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve_jenner.html
Today’s Route: River Road exit from US 101 north of Santa Rosa; west toward Guerneville (where River Road becomes State Route 116), Monte Rio and Duncan’s Mills. North on State Route 1 through Jenner. Look for the gate on the east side of the highway about two miles north of town. Access is free but do consider leaving a donation with the iron ranger.
Church of the Open Road Press