Friday, November 25, 2011

Kent Trail to Hidden Lake Hike - 11/25/2011

          The Kent Trail is one of my go to trails with several loop options to choose from. Utilizing the last few weeks of our annual pass before it expires, we parked at Lake Bon Tempe and started our hike by climbing up to lake level and crossing the dam. With views of Bon Tempe as well as Alpine Lake we watched for Osprey and other frequently seen birds such as Mergansers and Cormorants. At the end of the dam we took a right on the fire road toward the pump house and the Kent Trail. The fire road brought us down to Alpine Lake where the Kent trail sets off as a singletrack closely following the southeastern shoreline. The next two miles of trail before the junction with the Helen Markt trail are fascinating and offer views out over Lake Alpine with Azalea Hill and Oat Hill Ridge to the north northwest.
          Just before reaching the junction with Helen Markt the Kent Trail veers uphill paralleling the East Fork of Swede George Creek. The uphill sections of the Kent Trail appeal to me because they aren't too steeply graded, yet elevation is quickly gained.
          The next mile and a half of the trail was dark and moist which provided the perfect conditions for many mushrooms and strange colorful fungi.

Orange Peel Fungus

Lion's Mane

Coral Fungi

          We passed by Foul Pool, an interesting stagnant swamp filled with tannin tea. At the junction with Willow and Stocking we headed left on the Stocking Trail toward Hidden Lake.
          Hidden Lake, once called Wildcat Lake in the early 1900's, is now a fascinating swamp supporting all types of wildlife including aquatic, land, and tree dwellers. This time of year the pond was full and the surface was blanketed with a green algae type moss. I halfway expected to see Yoda at the edge of the bank for it resembles a scene right out of Star Wars.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake Swamp

Hidden Lake

          Recent rains had brought out the newts which we were careful not to step on as they were crawling around everywhere. We came across one particularly small baby one which I couldn't resist taking a picture of with a finger in the frame for scale.

Baby Newt

          Continuing on, the Stocking Trail passes beneath some fairly large redwood trees with large ferns fanning out around their trunks. The trail undulates and crosses Van Wyck Creek entering a chaparral environment including scrub oak, chamise and poison oak as it climbs toward Rocky Ridge.
          We reached the Rocky Ridge Fire Road and took a right for a few hundred yards before taking a left onto the unmarked Upper Berry Trail. The trail begins at the bottom of a clearing holding and old water tank. Narrow and eroded in places the trail descends rather steeply and eventually connects with the Rock Spring-Lagunitas Fire Rd. where we continued along single track on the Lower Berry Trail. Even steeper in parts than the Upper Berry Trail we dropped down toward Lake Bon Tempe. Halfway down the Lower Berry Trail slightly hidden off to the left of the trail is a great rock outcropping with vistas and an open feeling that the rest of the trail lacks.
          The Lower Berry Trail dropped us out along the far end of Lake Bon Tempe on the Shadyside Trail where we hiked another mile or so back to the dam. In springtime around April and May the Shadyside trail is a good place to see Striped and Spotted Coral Root Orchids amongst a vast variety of other wildflowers.
          We crossed the dam and descended to our car with a great feeling of satisfaction.

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