Archive for March, 2008

Saint John’s Mountain

This run was the second part of my recon for a North Bay traverse. I’ve run this route completely once before, and parts of it several times. This time I wanted to follow a new trail I’ve found and figure out the best way to link several sections of trail through private properties without causing too much trouble.

The run started where the Vallejo Ridge ended, on Lake Herman Road and the south-east corner of the Blue Rock Springs Golf Course. Because “No Parking” signs exist everywhere parking would be best along Lake Herman Road, I ended up parking in a gravel pull-out directly across from the main entrance to the quarry.

I walked back to the corner of the golf-course and made my first route-finding decision. Do I run along a dirt road that follows the fence on the quarry side of the property, or do I enter the golf course and follow the fence along that side? I picked the golf course, since I didn’t know where the road actually went or what kind of traffic would be on it.

The golf course was not fun. The cart track follows the fence for much of the east side of the property, and what looked like adequate trees to screen my presence were in fact few and sparse. I ended up walking the course since I thought a runner would provoke more questions, until I finally reached the north-east corner and climbed over the fence. To my humor the road followed the fence almost all the way around the east side of the course, and I probably could have run along that side in 15 minutes with no hassle. A note for next time.

From the north-east corner of the course, the climb to the top of Blue Rock was quick. On a previous run I found a trail leading north-west from the park along the western slopes of Sulphur Spring Mountain, and I was curious where it went. So this time I followed it, and found a great trail, built intentionally for foot traffic. The trail ended, suddenly, at St. John’s Mine Road, so I started to follow the road into the valley behind, where I knew open fields would lead to the Saint Johns Mountain Trail (or Hiddenbrooke trail). The road ended at several gates, and I picked the one that I could see led to my trail system, and followed a pair of dirt roads that switched back up the slope before ending right at the trail.

Once I gained the trail the run became very normal, and I ran the final miles north heading to the Park & Ride lot at American Canyon and I-80, where I had locked a bicycle beforehand. A bike path follows I-80 back to Columbus Parkway, and bike lanes led all the way back to Lake Herman Road and my car.

Conclusion: The route from Vallejo Ridge to Blue Rock Springs Park is still a grey area. Running through the Golf Course is impossible, but running through the quarry is blatant trespassing. An alternative route may exist just east of the quarry, running north up Sky Valley. The trail between Blue Rock Springs Park and St. John’s Mine Road is fantastic, but mis-leading. On my way home I spotted a similar trail leading from the now-closed Columbus Parkway fire station – perhaps they connect? Anyways, another route that I’ve run before crosses open fields and stays farther away from properties (something that property-owners like). This wrinkle is going to have to be re-examined later to determine the best way.

Statistics: Saint John’s Mountain. 6.7 miles total, 0.6 miles on pavement, 0.9 miles across the golf course, only 0.1 mile of actual cross-country, and 5.1 miles of maintained trails or dirt road. 1260 feet elevation gained, 1190 feet loss. 1:13 minutes.
Return to car by bicycle, 5.5 miles. 780 feet elevation gained, 820 feet loss. 28 minutes.

DISCLAIMER: You should always get the owner’s permission to cross their property, especially if “No Trespassing” signs exist. Otherwise you should run fast and don’t get caught.


Vallejo Ridge

This starts a project of mine – to run the length of North Bay, from Vallejo to the Marin Headlands, unsupported and in a single, multi-day push, staying on trails and off the pavement for as much as possible, and connecting as much of the Bay Area Ridge Trail System as practical.

Vallejo Ridge is my name for the Vallejo-Benicia Buffer, a section of Open Land that runs from I-780 to Lake Herman Road. BARTS has a sections of designated trail running from the corner of Columbus Parkway and Rose Drive to the last block of Ascot Parkaway in between Georgia Street and Newcastle Drive.

So last Thursday my girlfriend joined me for a run of the ridge, from the south to the north. She only wanted to run 3 miles, so she planned on doing an out-and-back run, then rake the car around to the other end of the ridge to pick me up. The area is not dog-restricted (something hard to find around here), so we brought our 12-year old, Montana, along to keep her company.

The run south to north features a series of three hill climbs, each with a shorter descent off the backside then climbing again a little higher than before. Great switchbacks, showing some intelligent trail building, keeps the climb reasonable and allowed me to keep a running pace uphill. Just before Channing Circle Park, which intersects the trail, is the 1.5 mile mark, so I stopped there to see my girlfriend and the dog turn around and head back to the car – I’d see them again at the corner of Columbus Parkway and Lake Herman Road.

The trail contours around the ridge before climbing long switchbacks up the south-west slope of the highest point, 719 Mountain, then along its long summit spine, before dropping down its north-west side. The trail drops down into a basin at 560 feet, then climbs one last hill before descending to Ascot Boulevard.

I stepped off the official trail in this basin and headed north, following the ridge. I quickly found an old farm road that followed, off and on, a fence-line along the ridge. Two hill climbs led to the only piece of pavement on the ridge: a single lane road leading to two water tanks at the summit of the northern-most high point of the ridge. But instead of following the pavement I crossed the road and continued along the last steep track that also lead to the tanks.

The road turns left at the west side of the tanks, leading almost directly to the south-east corner of the Columbus Parkway and Lake Herman Road intersection. But I ran around the fenced-in water tanks to the north-east corner, then dropped straight down the hill to Lake Herman Road.

I think next time I will follow the road to the intersection, or head further east to reach Lake Herman Road just past the quarry. Another run for another day is to to turn off at Channing Circle Park and run to Benicia Community Park and Lake Herman Recreation Area.

Statistics: Vallejo Ridge. 4.5 miles total distance, 2.5 miles on maintained trails, 1.75 miles on non-maintained trail, 0.25 miles cross-country. 960 feet elevation gained, 660 feet elevation gained. 0:44 minutes.

banner photo: antarctica / mark allen

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