Since rain seems imminent here for the first time in a few years (or so they say…), I’m posting a blog about an extremely dry hike that highlighted the drought we’re experiencing. Consider it a rain dance of sorts.

The destination was the 2,729-feet-high summit of Bald Mountain, one of the peaks within Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Since it’s been 70+ and sunny in recent weeks, it’s a great time to do the hike. Our loop took us nearly seven miles over three-plus miles. We did one of the popular routes, starting up Lower Bald Mountain Trail from the parking lot, then switching over to Bald Mountain Trail, over to the summit, and then a bit on Gray Pine, Vista and Meadow trails to return. It’s a route I’ve done many times, but in the winter, it generally features cool breezes along the way, overgrown brush along the way in parts, and even a couple of creeks to cross near the end.

What a difference a drought makes. Severe brown-tinged grass everywhere, sandy trails with dust kicking up, and bone-dry creeks in several places, and trickles of water elsewhere. I underestimated the impact of the dryness on the ground, making the steep downhills much tougher due to the loose dirt. In places, the oaks and chaparral resembled sad statutes in the midst of brown hillsides. Not a pretty sight. And the usual assortment of animals was lacking too, as many have headed elsewhere in search of water and food.

(Even though it is a state park, it is being run by a local nonprofit organization known as Team Sugarloaf. They accept state parking passes and generally operate it the same way the state parks system did. Their website doesn’t seem to be working so I’ll refer you to the official state site for more info on the park’s hours, trails, and services.)

Still, the view remains incredible. We could easily make out Mt. Tam, Mount Diablo and many more peaks and valleys throughout.


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