Sunday, February 06, 2005

Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve

A short hike (less than 2 miles) in a small regional preserve in the Berkeley hills; a beautiful sunny day, although it still got a bit chilly in the forested bits of the hike.

The driving directions on EBRPD's web page are a bit ropy; for future reference, the real directions from 24 westbound are: take the Fish Ranch Road exit, turn right onto Fish Ranch Road, go 0.8 miles, turn left on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, go about 2 miles, turn left on Skyline Boulevard, go about 0.5 miles past Sibley Preserve, turn left into Huckleberry.

We took the self-guided nature path; a loop with 17 markers of particular botanical interest. EBRPD has the trail map online, which shows the trails and the numbered markers; there's also a separate leaflet for the nature path which gives more information on each stop, which doesn't seem to be available online but which you can pick up at the trailhead. It's worth having both, as the trail map has illustrations of some of the plants that the nature path leaflet describes.

A lot of the trail is through forests of California Bay. The leaves can be used like normal culinary bayleaf, but they're very much more pungent: the leaflet says 4 to 5 times stronger. I picked some, but don't know if I'll have the nerve to use them.

In newer growth, brittleleaf and pallid manzanitas; the brittleleaf manzanita is my old friend, the red-barked fake plastic tree. Growth and overgrowth is a recurring theme on the nature path: manzanita is overgrown by chinquapin is overgrown by huckleberry is shaded out by bay, with fire acting to renew the cycle.

It's too early in the year for much to be in flower, although pink-flowering currant is in season ("highly aromatic sticky leaves") and the brittleleaf manzanitas are just starting to flower (small white clustered flowers; not very impressive).

For a short walk it takes a good while: allow 2 hours.

And spectacular views on the drive in, from Grizzly Peak and from Skyline; for the best views on the way back, take Skyline and then Old Tunnel Road down into Berkeley. Panoramic views over the bay for the passengers; switchback mountain roads for the driver.

Categories: Hiking