The last time I tried to go out to Lake Sonoma, the place was hostage to the federal government shutdown and it was locked up. Not that the trails weren’t generally accessible but the whole place had the feel of an abandoned ghost town.
The shutdown effects still linger as hundreds of campsites as well as many trailheads and parking lots remain closed, and the visitor center is only open Thursdays through Sundays for limited hours, aided by a local volunteer group.
Weather-wise, it’s back to enviable spring-like winter days in Sonoma County. Lake Sonoma is a great place to swim and boat in the summer, but brutal for extended hikes during those months. Instead, this is my favorite time to get out there, while it’s cool enough on the ridges surrounding the lake to feel a breeze but warm enough that the sporadic hills still can be a brief challenge. On a recent visit, instead of just doing my usual Half-A-Canoe loop (about five miles of rolling landscape and plenty of open space), we added a few side trails as well, both to get the mileage up and to better explore the lake.
The climbing never lasts more than a few hundred feet at a time, but it’s enough of a non-isometric workout to be useful. The loop is a good one to possibly spot wild pigs, deer, snakes or ticks. We saw none of the above (did they see us?), but did encounter plenty of other hikers and equestrians. We parked at the No Name Flat trailhead (no facilities) and then headed counter-clockwise once we reached the lake ridge. Our trekking lasted about seven miles in total and took about three hours.
The 31-year old reservoir west of Healdsburg, created by the construction of the Warm Springs Dam, is suffering like every other area body of water from the current drought. Aided by that three-day deluge two weeks ago, it is now at about 67 percent of capacity (Lake Mendocino, by comparison, is at 41 percent), according to the Sonoma County Water Agency. In one of the photos above, the low level is
visible enough. But the brown grass everywhere is a more evident sign.