Into the crisp air

A guide to getting out this spring

WILDFLOWER WALKS Getting outside this spring is easy when you have the right resources at your disposal. Photo: Ron Erskine

After a dry December, it looks like some rainy weather may be in store. Hopefully, it won’t be long before the hint of green in the hills grows rich, the creases in the hills gurgle with runoff, and the flowers begin to pop.

If you just pulled into town or have never hiked our area before, I recommend the three trail guides published by Wilderness Press: “South Bay Trails,” “Peninsula Trails,” and “East Bay Trails.” If Big Sur calls to you, they also publish a trail guide that covers the entire Santa Lucia Range. I also use Tom Taber’s “The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book” that overlaps “Peninsula Trails” somewhat but adds parks and trails closer to the coast.

Now that I know where to go, who do I go with? There are the usual special interest resources: Facebook, Meetup, and the like, but many local parks and organizations schedule regular docent-led events. Henry W. Coe State Park has its own Meetup group ( > Programs and Events > Meetup) as well as regular weekend wildflower walks.

Close to home, Rancho Cañada del Oro, Coyote Valley OSP, and Sierra Vista OSP are three preserves managed by Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority that traverse great landscapes and offer fabulous views. But for a special adventure, don’t hesitate to call Teri Rogoway at the SCVOSA.

She will gladly rustle up a docent who will lead you and your friends on a hike into the great properties not yet open to the public; places like Doan Ranch, Timber Ridge, and Palassou Ridge in Gilroy, or Blair Ranch near Morgan Hill.

A walk along the crest Coyote Ridge, that seemingly uninteresting string of hills east of Highway 101 in Coyote Valley, will surprise you like few other places. It is the key habitat for the Bay checkerspot butterfly, a threatened species endemic to the Bay Area. Year in and year out, Coyote Ridge wins the spring gaudy wildflower show. Looking east, the view across the San Felipe Valley is breathtaking and is likely to include tule elk. Last time I was there, I saw 23.

The Santa Clara Valley OSA website says Coyote Ridge OSP will open this year. But if it doesn’t, they regularly schedule docent-led hikes there. Check the “Events” page on their website throughout the spring.

And, of course, you are always invited to join the Brokeoff Challenge. We had fun on our first prep hike New Year’s morning. Five more local hikes, then Lassen National Park this summer.

As you log trail miles, you might begin to wonder about the flora and fauna you pass. There are plenty of field guides that will help you name things, but “Secrets of the Oak Woodlands” is a gem of a book that does more. It briefly introduces 22 common species; how they make a living, and the part they play in our environment.

Spring is fleeting. Make the most of it.

Ron Erskine

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About Ron Erskine
Ron Erskine is a local outdoors columnist and avid hiker.