Future home of Sonoma Mountain park caretaker.....

How’s this sound? A hike up a mountain that’s not yet open on a trail that’s not yet built?

If there was a cool spot to be on Sunday, it was on top of Sonoma Mountain. A year from now, there will be a nice trail leading up to the 2,463-feet-high peak of the mountain. In fact, as I type this today, a crew is moving limbs and tree stumps to create such a trail. There will also be a parking area, a clear trailhead, and options for bikers, horseback riders and hikers to all explore the new member of the Sonoma County parks family. But that won’t be until sometime next summer or fall.

It’s been about 18 months since a nearly $10 million deal was struck to bring the 2,500-acre Sonoma Mountain Ranch into public ownership. It’s adjacent to Jack London State Park, and the mountain ridge trail will be come part of the massive 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail that about’s 200 miles away from completion.

All of that – the future plans for the Sonoma Mountain park, the network of groups that came together to buy the land, the larger view of expanding county open space – is exciting, and around noon yesterday, a crowd of elected officials, well-wishers, park folks and others gathered for a ceremony on the Sonoma Mountain peak to mark the occasion.

For me, I was taking in the view.

The best part of the view from Sonoma Mountain is, well, the view itself. On a clear day, I could see not just peaks in all directions, whether Mount St. Helena or Mount Diablo or Mount Konocti, but terrific up-close views overlooking Bennett Valley, Annadel and Santa Rosa proper. It’s a breathtaking way to take in Sonoma County in one panoramic swoop and admire the cornucopia of vineyards, creeks, and open space. From ground level, the greenery of this area isn’t always as apparent.

Anyway, the hike was to be on the North Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, about an eight-mile roundtrip to the mountain peak and back. The trail wasn’t much of one at any point, often requiring serious brush-stepping and navigating on paths that only a deer would enjoy. Our group – nearly 30 for this festive Fathers Day (and solstice) event – started out at Jacobs Ranch, one of several ranches now in public control that make up the Sonoma Mountain area. Our hike – which was a zig-zagging scramble for much of the day – passed through at least three different ranch properties by my count, and also included a small jaunt into Jack London State Park. On that part, which was an actual trail, we were joined by a few of the elected folks who had showed up for the top-of-the-mountain celebration. The sign in one of the photos below indicates where the new trail will meet up with the state park. At one point, we were crossing a creek which turned out to be the south fork of Matanzas Creek. A few animal sightings, including some cattle, deer and frogs, but on a hot day, many were staying out of sight.

What’s apparent when hiking on a trail that does not yet exist is how much work goes into turning it into something that’s ready for prime time. It’s a mix of volunteers, construction crews and environmental-control techniques. Nearly all the work happens behind the scenes and the result is usually a well-cleared path free from tree limbs, rocks and brush. The trail up Sonoma Mountain is a long way to that point, which made the idea of scaling the mountain in its pre-developed state a pretty cool idea. It’s not for the faint of heart or body – I have a hiking buddy who just loves to bushwhack whenever possible, and he would have been overjoyed at what transpired over six hours yesterday.

(My fellow blogger Tim Smith has a nice post on how some of yesterday’s official celebration came together. Click here to read Tim’s post.

And now a word from a sponsor…..the sneak preview of the Sonoma Mountain property was put together by Landpaths. I’ve mentioned the group before and chances are, if you hike around Sonoma County, you’re already a fan of the group. If you’re not aware, in a nutshell, great group, needs your support, doing a lot of the things that make access possible on these cool open spaces around here, and working hard to protect more land from being paved over for a parking lot.

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