Monday, July 6, 2009

Rancho Laguna Park via Rocky Ridge Trail to Las Trampas, Cow Chicken & PCT Water

A cold and foggy July 5th morning and a "long hike day". This by our definition is 7 to 12 miles vs a short hike being an hour or two. Looking for new trails, we looked at the EBMUD map again, and saw that just east of the King Canyon loop we did a few weeks ago there was a trailhead. It would let us get on the Rocky Ridge Trail and continue on to Las Trampas from the east edge of the King Canyon loop.

My vision of this was a relatively flat undulating trail, finally taking an abrupt up as it hit the western edge of Las Trampas, similar in terrain to the King Canyon. That's not quite the way it went.

First we park at the Rancho Laguna Park trailhead and search for the trail. Some returning hikers direct us to the southeast corner of the park where there is an EBMUD register and a gate. Then up an access trail to a fire/ranch road cutting south to the Rocky Ridge Trail. We head down this, and then east on the Rocky Ridge trail, taking note of a gate to the right that leads to the King Canyon loop trail.

There are thirty or so Black Angus cattle scattered around the hillsite, including a dozen or so on the trail. This is where we and the cows engage in the game of chicken. I stroll down the trail, Susan lagging behind, keeping me between her and the cows. I'm not doing any cow eye contact, just pretending that they are not there. About ten feet from the first cow - large, maybe 400 lbs, she decides to move along a little farther away, but still on the trail. I keep walking, Susan behind. The cow moves along then turns around, keeping her eye on me. I keep walking a little slower than my normal pace, approaching the cow's nose. Finally as I am about twelve inches away, the nose swings right, followed by the body, up and off the trail, with a huff. We continue on to the next bunch on the trail, this one a group of a half dozen yearlings. This calls for a different approach - conversation. "It's cool you guys", "we're just walking by", "stay cool", etc. etc. etc. till they gradually dispurse and we get to the gate on the far side of the pasture, and are cow free till our return.

As it turns out, Rocky Ridge Trail is a steady 20% grade climb up and over one ridge down to the bottom of the other side, up and over another ridge, now into the EBRPD Las Trampas park to the junction with the Rocky Ridge Loop trail, where we reverse direction. The lower parts of the trail have been thru oak woodlands, and the upper part through open grasslands, obviously grazed in the past, but now lush with golden grasses, the draws with a touch of green where some moisture lies beneath the surface. We cross a couple of fireroads. The first one is near the bottom after crossing the first ridge - Buckhorn Road. A few moments after, we spot what would be good water for any PCT hiker - a trough, still overflowing, and a spot clear enough from surface algae to dip a water container. From what I hear, this would be a wonderful water source for a Continental Divide Trail hiker. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009

The return trip was a little warm, and the ground in open areas dry and cracked, but enough scattered remnants of the morning fog and clouds to make it tolerable. This would be a better trip earlier in the season.

We had one last cow adventure on the return. As we neared the end of the Rocky Ridge Trail, where we had to get on the cutoff to the trailhead, we noticed that the cows had all settled down, not grazing, but for the most part on the ground, feet folded beneath. The problem was that every cow in that vast pasture had settled on and around the trail right at the junction. We started to circle around them, and then we could see the gate just beyond them - like about three inches beyond them. So, we put on our calm faces and wend our way through them, sort of like Moses parting the water. Finally reach the gate and get through, causing some annoyed getting up and mooing in the process. We walk down the road, noticing some things we hadn't seen on the way in - a bird house with a screened entryway, and then a little farther a roadside bench, and beyond that - a picnic area complete with tables. We had not come this way before.

So, not quite consternation, but dismay. We must have missed our turn where the cows were. We walk back to the gate. Survey the situation. Right, we can see the trail beyond the cows where we should have gone. There must be a trail junction marker right in the middle of that black mass of beef. Susan reconnoiters the fence line. Can we just follow it past the herd and sneak under it? Not possible.

So, thru the gate again, making our way through a less dense part of the herd, up the hillside where we can get around them and back on the trail, talking steadily to the cows all the while.
Finally got back to the car with no further incidents.

Did I mention that Susan has a thing about cows? The blogger of Dangers of An Afternoon Stroll has a sign that Susan thinks is appropriate.

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