Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Hike: Memorial Park

Years ago, in elementary school, we went to a camp for a week. One of the events that week was a hike to the summit of Ellen Mountain. I remember feeling a sense of awe and accomplishment: I climbed a mountain! I'd always thought it'd be nice to go back there, I do remember it had great views.

This Sunday: Memorial Park. We took the route suggested on Bay Area Hiker, and set out. This was the first park I've been to in my hike a week project that had a fee. At a mere $5 for the day, I thought it was well worth it. I know every week it's "This is my favorite park!" but really- favorite.

The park is named Memorial in memory of World War Veterans. Near the picnic & parking area, a large sign dominates a quiet memorial grove. Other memorials are there, plaques and benches. It's a quiet and reflective area.

Other points of interest were the nature center. It has many examples of things seen in the park, information on the animals, and some great photos of animals and plant life labeled with names. There are several picnic areas with bbqs, a swimming hole, and a beach. This park also has camping, and a quick drive through the campsites has earned it a spot on the "places to camp!" list. It'd be a joy to spend a weekend in this park.

But on to the hike! (loads of great photos from Bay Area Hiker here.)

We crossed 84 / Woodside Rd and started on the trail. Right away, we spotted this Douglas Iris growing out of the cut of a fallen tree. Beautiful! It was a good sign for the rest of the hike.

The trails are for hikers only: No bikes, horses, or dogs. A sign actually asks that you don't bring your "dog cat or pets". That got some giggles out of us.

Pomponio Trail was a good climb up and then around a canyon. Starting in the Redwood Forest, as we climbed higher Hazel and Elder trees began to dominate. We saw deer tracks in the fresh mud. The trail is a mix of covered and exposed, just depending on where you are at the moment. The covered spots had wet mud, the exposed areas had dried and cracked mud. Interesting!

Blackberries, ferns, and more wildflowers than I've seen on a hike dominated. The temperature would go from shady and cool to exposed and muggy in a matter of steps. The trail itself does keep you on the watch - many rocks, exposed roots, and fallen branches could overwhelm the unaware walker. If that's not enough to get your attention, the overgrown trails and steep drop offs will. The trails were very clean, and totally empty. Start to finish, we did not come upon another hiker. I'd call the trail moderate for the trail conditions, and some of the inclines / declines are pretty sharp. About halfway through the Pomponio Trail (my guess) a bench invited us to sit and take a look:
Absolutely stunning.

The trail is filled with views that make you wonder if everyone else has disappeared. I did get some photos of the flora and fauna, but sadly my camera decided it should have battery failure for most of the walk. I was happy to get a picture of these little blue and yellow flowers, which were just about the cutest things I've seen.

Four miles in, we left the Pomponio Trail to head to the summit of Mt. Ellen. We arrived at the summit in a matter of minutes.

(boo to the graffiti.)

We sat on a couple of the low rocks at the summit and dug the sandwiches out of the pack. Delicious and deserved lunch!

The descent was quick, and it was after we had completed the hike that we decided to explore the picnic & parking area a bit more. This area has loads of trails, and I'm looking forward to exploring them one day. We were drawn to see the "Tallest Tree" and first came upon the beach / watering hole.

We saw evidence of some old rope swings in the trees, and it was tempting to peel off my socks & shoes and go stick my feet in the cool water. I think the fear of not getting back up was what kept me from running and jumping right in!

On our way back to the truck, we found the tallest tree.

I took a couple of photos of the tallest tree, but they fail to capture the tree. You're going to have to go and see it yourself, sit on the bench opposite it's massive size, and contemplate it for yourself.

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