Morning walks and hikes have become a regular addition to my weekly routine.
I used to walk often in the mornings when I was working, as it helped clear my head. Inevitably though, I’d end up mulling over the day’s agenda, talking points for an upcoming meeting or other “urgent” to-dos.
Nowadays, I may even get up when it’s still dark out just so I can catch the sunrise. Crazy! When I was working I’d never do that intentionally. Any extra minutes of sleep I could get were highly coveted.
I love mornings now – their freshness, their quiet, the anticipation of what is to come as the early hours unfold.
East Bay Regional Park District
The East Bay Regional Park District (“EBRPD”) is one of the best things about living in the East Bay and an often celebrated part of my mornings.
EBRPD is a jewel of a park system and the largest urban regional park district in the United States. This California Park System comprises 122,278 acres in 73 parks, including over 1,250 miles of trails. The possibilities for unique morning hikes are endless and exploring new trails has been a highlight of my career detour – and a practice I intend to keep when I go back to work.
This past weekend, after years of telling myself I should be volunteering with the park system since I spend so much time enjoying their offerings, my boyfriend and I helped three members of the California Native Plant Society eradicate Italian Thistle from the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve off Skyline Boulevard in Oakland.
While Redwood Regional Park, a stone’s throw from Huckleberry, is a regular running and hiking spot for me, I had never been to or even heard of Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve.
Armed with some gloves and a thistle-remover, provided by Park Ranger Kristen, we spent 3.5 hours in the on-again-off-again rain pulling the prickly weeds. The earth was soft from the extensive rains we’ve had which made the job a fairly easy one. We attacked a spot along Skyline Boulevard and made a significant dent toward eliminating this pesky non-native species – at least until the next bloom.
Since we were focused on thistle removal and it began to hail as soon as we finished (seriously, it was hailing like crazy!) we didn’t have a chance to explore the hiking loop the preserve has to offer. So, I went back early yesterday morning to check it out and walk the Upper and Lower Loop Trails.
Huckleberry Loop Trails
Wow! I can’t believe I’ve never hiked here. What an incredibly beautiful place.
The hiking path is pedestrian only – no dogs, bikes or horses on this trail as it’s an actual nature preserve and the park system is focused on maintaining as natural a state as possible. No bikes whizzing by around a bend or dog poop to step in – my kind of trail!
The scenery oscillates between rugged chaparral with several types of Manzanita, live oak and large rock formations, and a more lush landscape of ferns, mossy greens and shade plants. The trail winds in and out of cool shade and full sun, along a creek much of the time and with several outcrops to view magnificent sweeping vistas.
The trail is marked with information on how to identify many of the native plant species. Western Sword Fern, Pallid Manzanita, Brittleleaf Manzanita, Coastal Silk Tassel, Chinquapin… and of course, Huckleberries! There is even a Western Leatherwood plant which I learned is highly rare and quite a special sight to behold when it blooms.
This 1.7 loop trail is one of the most unique and pretty I’ve seen in the EBRPD. It packs a bunch into one hike – varied terrain; a blend of easy walking, stair climbing and a fair amount of uphill to get a well-rounded workout; plenty of shade and a bit of sun; the opportunity to learn with the trail markers; views of rolling hills; beautiful vegetation and ferns, ferns and more ferns!
This hike is great for kids and makes a fun, educational outing. There is a small parking lot, picnic table and a basic restroom.
From the parking lot head to the right and follow the Upper Loop Trail. Continue along the trail and take the connector to the Lower Loop. This will take you back to the parking lot.
For a longer hike, take the upper Loop Trail and at the Lower Trail Loop Connector, stay right and take the Pinehurst Trail. Then head left on the Skyline National Trail /Bay Area Trail/Anza Trail, and jump back onto the Lower Loop Trail. This adds another ¾ mile.
For information on volunteering, click here.
Enjoy your morning hike!