Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Shell Ridge 7: Lower Buck Trail

I never seem to get tired of Shell Ridge, despite now having walked most of its trails; there’s always good hiking to be had. Today I went back north of the ridge to explore the Lower Buck Trail, before revisiting a few favourite trails.

It’s always hard to resist climbing up onto Shell Ridge itself, both for the views and for the climb itself; but today I have other plans. Starting at the trailhead on Marshall Drive, I head around the back of the ridge on Corral Spring Trail before heading north on Deer Lake Trail. The trail loops around Deer Lake before climbing up to the Lower Buck Trail.

Shell Ridge trail map, showing Deer Lake and the Lower Buck Trail.

What’s not immediately clear from the map is that the Lower Buck Trail is actually quite high up: it winds back and forth following the contours of the hills, with great views out over the valley.

Shell Ridge trail map, showing an oxbow loop on the Ridge Top Trail. From the end of the trail, I head south on the Costanoan Trail before picking up the Ridge Top Trail heading east. There’s an odd little oxbow on the trail, where it crosses the Costanoan to loop around a hilltop. Somehow, I always feel obliged to take the loop, even though the other end of it is visible 100 yards away.

I take the Briones–Mt. Diablo Trail back west before dipping down onto the Indian Creek Trail, which is quiet and a lot cooler than the sweltering heat on the north side of the ridge. Woodpeckers love the dead trees along the creek; one trunk is being worked on by a team of four acorn woodpeckers. Ground squirrels are very active here too, the creekbed echoing with their warning calls of peek! and chi-chi-chi-chik! Almost too active: a pair of startled squirrels burst out of the undergrowth right under my feet. I think they scared me more than I scared them. As someone acutely aware that he almost trod on a rattlesnake last week, I’m rather sensitive right now to sudden movement underfoot.

And finally, back up to the trailhead on the Briones–Mt. Diablo Trail. A quick 2-hour hike, about 5½ miles, but a very satisfying one. I was in need of some recharging, and this did just the job.

Categories: Hiking