Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hiking California: Huckleberry Path Nature Trail

In the manner of all good used bookstores, The Overland in the Sunset knows what I need better than I do. Last week I entered the store to find a good mystery and walked out with a $5 copy of "Best Hikes for Children: San Francisco Bay Area." It lists 90 interesting hikes ranging from easy (strolling among the ferns near Fish Ranch Road) to the difficult (climbing ladders on Steep Ravine Trail in the North Bay).

We, of course, went for the former. The Huckleberry Path Nature Trail is a short hop from the City into the East Bay. Its a botanical regional preserve, and its heavy moisture and fog supports lots of big ferns. As we started the winding path down the canyon, I felt like I was walking back in time to the Jurassic. Ron and I were wondering how Benny would handle his first 2-mile hike, but he did great, tripping along the path, occasionally stopping to unfold his map. We don't have a car, so he needs tough little legs to get around San Francisco's hills. On the trail, he was surprisingly surefooted, keeping up a steady stream of chatter for more than an hour. ("I think hyenas are bigger than whales and the biggest number is infinity and I don't like red grapes, I like green grapes. ...")

This trail has some unusual plants because the soil doesn't hold water well. The shale and chert rock formation underneath was originally laid down on the ocean floor and later pushed up. Little numbered signposts pointed out the difference between the sword ferns (dark leaves, needs cool, shady moist spots) and wood ferns (light and feathery and tolerates more dryness). Benny looked out for the next number and I would read the little geeky description. Pictured above is No. 15, a Pallid Manzanita, which is now almost wholly confined to the preserve.

One down, 89 more trails to go. We're looking forward to hiking more trails in this book, now that springtime is here, hopefully moving from easy to difficult as Benny grows bigger.