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Borel Hill

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

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September 27th, 1999

4.5 miles
1105 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:57

Rating: 5/10

Directions:   View Driving Map


I started my hike in the late afternoon. My plan was to do a short hike and then take some sunset pictures.

I started at the parking lot on Alpine Road next to Skyline Boulevard. The trail starts climbing immediately, topping out at Borel Hill, elevation 2572. Along the way it passes nothing much of interest -- rolling hills barren of almost any vegetation. It looks as if they were the victims of a brush fire or a controlled burn. It felt so hot this afternoon that it seemed like the hillside could burst into flames at any minute.

Borel Hill provides a 360 degree view including the ocean and the bay. Most of that view was marred by smog, of course. It was also quite windy, meaning I was unwilling to do a self-portrait on the summit, lest my camera and tripod get blown to the ground. Raptors enjoyed the wind, however, floating in the sky above.

The view from Borel Hill

I continued north to the Vista Point parking area. I'd stopped on the other side of Skyline several times before when biking in the area. It's a turnout which provides views of the south bay.

The trail is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. I stayed on it for another half mile before turning left onto the Hawk Trail. This heads down and finally into some vegetation. Among all the barren brown hills lie a few patches of green trees and the dying summer trickle of a tiny creek. Amazingly enough, there's even moss to be found on the trees. Nothing to compare to Olympic NP, but after all that barren land it seems like an oasis.

I started thinking about what I would do if I ran into a mountain lion. I hadn't seen anyone else on the trail (the parking lot was completely empty), and it didn't help that I was taking a photography class where my current assignment was to take a picture of something I fear.

Then I actually saw something. Not a mountain lion, but a little coyote. He bounded across the trail about 50 feet away from me. Then he slowly made his way down the gully. He was too far away from me to take a decent picture with my 105mm lens, so I simply stood still and observed. He obviously knew I was there, but didn't seem to mind. He started chewing audibly at one point, and later shook his head and upper body as a dog does when it's all wet. I think he was trying to shake off flies.

I turned right onto the Mindego Trail, which is shaded almost the entire way, probably due to Mindego Creek (not that I ever saw the creek). After going almost a half mile along the trail (which continues for almost 2 miles more), I turned back. I wanted to make sure I got set up for my sunset pictures.

I finally ran into another hiker coming the opposite direction. He would be the only other hiker I'd see today. I continued on the Ancient Oaks Trail to the pullout at Alpine Road. There was a ranger parked there, apparently waiting to catch speeding mountain bikers.

The rolling hillside of Russian Ridge OSP

I then took a spur trail back up to the Bay Area Ridge Trail and retraced my steps to a spot near Borel Hill. Here I took a picture of the rolling hillside -- an image I'd seen earlier but thought would look better with later afternoon light. About this time 3 mountain bikers passed by me.

I set up my tripod for the sunset shot, then waited. It was only 6:15pm, and the sun wouldn't set until 7pm. I waited while ants crawled around on the ground next to me, climbing in and out of holes in the ground. The wind gusted, swaying my camera. I noticed a couple hikers below on the Ancient Oaks Trail, looking toward the sunset.

Sunset from near Borel Hill

In the minutes before the sun set, everything was bathed in a glowing orange light. When the sun itself finally set, it was a bit of a disappointment. Because of the smog and fog, I could no longer see the ocean that I'd seen a couple hours earlier. The sun just sort of sank into the smog layer with not a bang but with a whimper.

I quickly put away my gear and hiked quickly back to my car. I had a headlamp with me, but didn't want to have to use it. I didn't, getting back to my car in just 18 minutes, and there was still just enough light for me to get down without spraining an ankle.


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