San Pedro Valley County Park (10/19/2022)

Today was kind of a make-up day for Monday, when I had planned on doing my monthly day trip but decided to spend more time prepping for a self-tape audition. So, this doesn’t at all count toward my monthly day trip. Nope.

I found San Pedro Valley County Park when looking for trails on AllTrails in Pacifica. It’s so nice to have places bookmarked to explore there when it’s actually too dang hot in SF. And today was that day.

Knowing it’d be hot for me (aka above 70 degrees), I decided to try out a super easy and flat trail to get me acquainted with this newtome county park. The Old Trout Farm Loop Trail looked perfect. And if I had time, there were other easy and shortish routes to add.

On the way there, I had no idea where I was. Pacifica extends East, past those hills? Yes, it does! Guess it’s all San Pedro Valley? As I approached the park, I spotted four deer casually grazing near the entrance to a church. Guess wildlife is not far at all from this Pacifica suburb?

County parks typically have a fee associated with visiting, so I can’t afford to visit too often. But, after today, I’d like to return!

After I arrived, I saw they had a Native Plant Garden next to the Visitor Center. Ooh! This was a fantastic way to get a glimpse into what I’d soon see.

What was interesting about this park is that it appears that no dogs (even on leash) are allowed. This signage was right near Mountain Lion signage! Dogs are great. I love dogs. I’m a Dog Person. But when Naturing, I’m not a fan. Either their owners are irresponsible and let them off leash when they’re not supposed to be or don’t clean up after them, or they scare off wildlife when they trot by. So I was excited to see that!

Almost immediately after taking a few steps onto the fortunately shaded (from shadow at the hour I went) trail, a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos scattered on the ground ahead. Past them were a group of California Quail! Eating speedily and stomping their feet throughout. They scurried away when I got near, but I was able to admire them for a bit before moving on.

Not much further ahead, I saw ANOTHER group of Quail alongside the trail. Treat #2! I stepped to the other side of the trail to get a glimpse of the running San Pedro Creek. And when I turned back around to the trail, a flash hopped away and under the bramble. BUNNY!! This Brush Rabbit had just put a leafy green into its mouth then quickly turned away and under nearby bramble as I made a sound.

BUT, THEN. It didn’t scamper out of sight, with just its white cotton-tail blurring away from me. IT STAYED. IT EVEN TURNED TO FLIPPIN’ LOOK AT ME. Ok, now this was JUST AMAZING. I have now seen Brush Rabbits a handful of times. But, it is always BRIEF and it is often an obscured view. So, this was ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get such a moment with one EVER AGAIN IN MY LIFETIME, FOLKS.

Ok, I’m calm. I am.

After that supercrazyexciting experience, the bunny casually hopped out of view. And I was able to proceed.

Lots of familiar faces lined the trail, like Thimbleberry and Great Horsetail and Ocean Spray and Pink Honeysuckle. Some very old Turkey-Tail (I think) was gracefully wilting on a tree trunk. And Fall-colored Pacific Poison Oak cheerfully brightened up much of the place.

A huge euc had come down and seemed to bridge to the other side of the creek. It was so big that even I, with my ultimately terrified sense of being up high and/or walking on tree trunks for any reason, considered stepping onto it. Of course, I didn’t. But HUGE, I’m telling ya.

While there were unfortunately A TON of eucs there, other trees were nice to see. Like Coast Redwoods. Right when I started seeing them, the wide road-feeling trail turned into a dirt trail of usual width. Not far ahead, remnants of the old Trout Farm started to peek out from the moss and overgrown plants around them. Even some lovely stone work was in the trail or part of a staircase that simply disappeared into bramble.

It was a little after that that I noticed that Ocean Spray leaves change color. Many were green, but a fair number were happy yellow. How have I not seen that before?

I had crossed the charming little bridge and headed up the very short ascent to the returning trail. Got to one of the handful of random benches and took a snack break. Looking across the trail, I saw a crazy large burl on a super skinny Pine tree. This thing was like four times as wide as the tree trunk it was on! Is that normal??

The Brooks Creek Trail began right about there, and I had bookmarked it, too. Decided I had enough time to fit in a little exploration of it, and off I went. And this is one of the things I have to come back for.

Soon after walking that trail, I started hearing more bird sounds. American Robins were higher up. Something calling, maybe a Chipmunk, was in the bushes on the hillside below. And a couple Steller’s Jays were perched high above the valley.

It was right about then that I entered Manzanita heaven. Brittleleaf Manzanita? They started to line both sides of the trail, with some Pacific Madrones above them. Saw eversobriefly then heard what turned out to be a Spotted Towhee in the Manzanitas. I hoped it’d come out so I could see it better, but no. It was busy.

Evergreen Huckleberry and California Hazelnut started to show up more. And then I got to a clearing where I could see the other side of the valley. Looked different. No eucs. Shrubs and low trees and poison oak for days. Lovely!

It was about then that I turned back. Big formidable gates would be locked at 6pm, and I wasn’t about to take any chances. After I resumed the original loop, I started seeing baby Coast Live Oaks and some very thin Pine trees and Douglas Firs. Way up ahead on the trail were a couple Hermit Thrushes! They scattered when I got closer, so no decent photos.

I stopped to listen to faint bird sounds. And it was in that moment that I realized how much there is to be enjoyed when Naturing on your own. Yes, yes, I’ve mentioned it like a thousand times. But I had this feeling like it might be ideal. I just stopped and listened. And looked up. And listened more. And it was all in my own time. Maybe it’s being an only child. I don’t know. My own time, my own pace is a very nice place to have.

Two of just a handful of folks I encountered passed me in that moment. The woman of the pair stopped with a smile and asked me, “See anything good?” This seemed genuine, and I replied with a smile, “Just listening.” She smiled back and continued on with her partner. I must look like such a Nature Weirdo to the average personjustonawalk or personjustwalkingtheirdog or personjustonabike. Nature Weirdo is ME!

After stopping to marvel at what might be Pacific Pea pods (newtome!), I was soon under a glorious Coast Live Oak canopy. I hate to say it, but it’s my favorite. Given the ten years I spent in our redwood forest in Woodside all those summers, I had thought it would be a Redwood. But, there is something extra special to me about the Coast Live Oak. BUT, NO. Why do I even feel compelled right now to name a favorite?? This is not a contest! Forget what I said. It’s A favorite. But close to the top.

A black squirrel scampered across the end of the loop, and I was done. Ok, what are black squirrels? iNat didn’t come up with any different option from the usual suspects. I need to look that up. Or do you know?

Had a bit of time left, so I wandered to see what was near the parking lot. Some unusal thing that Seek thinks is Coast Silk Tassel was planted near the start of the .1 mile Plaskon Nature Trail. Nature Trail? I gleefully took it! Signage indicating native species in the area was nice. One even had a list of invasive species, which I thought was so good to include.

But as an offshoot, the Hazelnut Trail began and veered to the right. Another sign about Mountain Lions and a sign indicating it was Hard. Hm. Enormous Coast Live Oaks, dripping in lichen, were ahead! Had to go!

After soaking in the strong comfort of those marvelous Coast Live Oaks, I headed up the trail as I had about 10 minutes of play time left there. And what a different trail it was. No eucs. No tree towering over you. Toyon and shrubs and Pacific Asters and Coyote Brush. Couple of Woodrat homes. This was my kinda trail! AND, I startled TWO MORE Brush Rabbits that must’ve been right on the trail before I startled them. The incline didn’t seem too hard. Need to return and see more of it next time.

Looking forward to it already.

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