Monday, February 1, 2010

Bay Area Ridge Trail south from Chabot to Cull Canyon and loop return

Warning - local interest only. If you are one of my out of the area readers then this is definitely more than you want to know. On the other hand, if you are going to walk this route, better read it.

Synopsis: You really need to carry a map on this trip, and review it before the walk. When you get to the bench with no back, less than a mile down the trail, take the small dirt track going down to the east, marked only by a No Bikes sign. A photo of the bench is a little farther down.

The full story:

Starting from a small day use lot just past the Chabot Rifle Range, my destination was Cull Canyon park. It was intended to be a down and back, but inadvertently turned into a loop. It's best to take a good look at a map before starting, or even better, bring it along. I didn't do either. I knew where the end point was, and the start point, and my sense of direction is good, so I just took off, assuming that I could find my way with the trail markers. I did have the gps, but these trails don't show on the gps maps, so I just use it to trace my route, and identify streets, etc.

No problem finding the start of the trail. Big new sign, so down the trail. About five minutes down there's the Julie Rodriquez memorial bench and a well worn trail going west, as well as one continuing south. Humm - no trail signs, but I know Cull Canyon is way south, so I opt for south. The trail is wide - fire road sized, and since its not raining today, I'm meeting a few people walking their dogs. Its a long gradual descent, which should have been a wakeup call. Bay Area Ridge Trail, right?

I pass a nice table style bench - no back, and there is a dirt track going east, but no sign except a No Bikes marker. I choose the heavily used option which continues down. Eventually I am down on a golf course. Here there is an unlabeled arrow,  and a faint trail crossing the course. On the other side the trail splits, one choice curving west, the other continuing south along the edge of the access road. No signs, so I keep south.In a few moments the trail parallels Redwood Road and there is another split, but this one is signed, sort of. No label for the straight ahead south choice, but the west choice is the Proctor Trail. I go west on the Proctor Trail, which ascends up to the top of the ridge to another trail junction. This is the Ten Hills Trail. In any event, I know I have to go south east to get to Cull Canyon, so I go left on Ten Hills and continue until I hit Redwood Road again. Then I wend my way by residential streets over the hill to the southeast and reach Cull Canyon. I have my lunch and search around for Ridge Trail markers. I find them on the east edge of the park, and I find a soggy map in their little brochure box. The Cull Canyon reserve adjoins the East Bay Municipal Water District watershed, and that wilderness extends clear up to Chabot Regional Park where I started. The Ridge Trail is shown on the map, and it is far east of the way I went.

At least there are signs again, so I start back along the right trail. In a few hundred yards it leads right into Cull Creek, which is in full flow because of the recent rains. The creek is flowing through a large tunnel and the trail goes through as well, so I wade through it and the tunnel and come up on the other side of the highway. Once there, I realize I could have just crossed the road and rejoined the trail. Anyway, my trail runners dry fast. The trail then parallels Cull Creek for a while, up and down, fording the creek several times. This is a rarely used trail - a faint tread and some washouts and a couple of trees across it. It works its way up, approaching houses on a ridge top, but skirting below them.

Finally it does pop out right on huge lawn like pasture, and vanishes. I ask a couple of women in a yard across the pasture for directions. "Up there, through the gate, don't forget to close it". The gate looks like a Park District gate, but no signs at all. I go through into a muddy horse pasture. The only thing to be seen is a farm road or horse track going north, so I keep on it, eventually getting to a gate on the other side. This gate is not locked, but frozen shut, so I have to crawl over it. Did I mention that this is a backpack training hike, and I have a thirty pound pack?

I keep following the trail north, and see a few EBMUD markers which are just blue arrows, so follow them and hope they are not leading me to Las Trampas or other points east. Now I am on fire roads, but no recent use - a horse a few days ago. I can tell that I am still way east of my route south. From my still soggy Cull Canyon map, I can see that the trail is an inverted J - I go a mile or two north of my morning starting point and curve back south.

I eventually see a sign indicating Las Trampas east, and Ridge Trail west, so I am on the right track, now at the top of the inverted J curve, and headed down and south again. I can see a road down below and west of me, and get near it. There is another trail split, west to the road is unsigned, and south, signed as Ramage Peak Trail. I hoped it was also the Ridge Trail and went south. It contoured through the Oak and Bay woodland and eventually dropped down to the Chabot Staging Area, complete with ebmud signin box. There had been nothing at the other end other than an ebmud notice saying no permit required. I couldn't see where the trail continued, and a couple in the parking lot said to cross the road (Redwood Road), go over the bridge, and the trail would be on my left between the road and the golf course. From there it worked its way up through the forest, and finally, at the bench with no back, joined my route down.

I did this trip again yesterday, only with two cars. We parked one car at Cull Canyon, and started again from the top, this time following the hiker route the entire way. This is a nine mile route, overall down, but a lot of long ups in the process. Also, I found that the trail by the Chabot Staging Area actually goes under the bridge and I managed to slip and fall completely into the mud there, still limping as a result.

I put both routes into a Google Map:

View Bay Area Ridge Trail Chabot to Cull Canyon in a larger ma