Spring Hike at Windy Hill

While poor Country Mouse was working too hard last weekend, I took the opportunity to go for a hike. One of my favorite hikes, and just a short drive from where I live, is Windy Hill Open Space Preserves. The preserves is part of the Midpeninsula Open Space Trust. I quote from their page:

The late 1960s was a time of rapid growth in the Bay Area. As tract housing and commercial development began to dominate the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” concern for the preservation of the Midpeninsula’s irreplaceable foothill and bayland natural resources mounted among open space advocates.
Through the determined and heart-felt efforts of local conservationists, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was created by successfully placing a voter initiative, Measure R, on the ballot in 1972. Measure R’s sentiment is as powerful today as it was more than 30 years ago.
    Measure R will preserve open space by creating the Midpeninsula Regional Park District (currently named the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District). Open space is our green backdrop of hills. It is rolling grasslands - cool forests in the Coast Range – orchards and vineyards in the sun. It is the patch of grass between communities where children can run. It is uncluttered baylands where water birds wheel and soar, where blowing cordgrass yields its blessings of oxygen, where the din of urban life gives way to the soft sounds of nature. It is the serene, unbuilt, unspoiled earth that awakens all our senses and makes us whole again … it is room to breathe.
What really happened was that this voter initiative prevented the SF Peninsula from looking like L.A., with houses all the way up to the skyline. It also has given us excellent hiking opportunities very close to the cities where we live.

The humidity was quite high that day, so the views weren't as crisp as I would like. Here you can see the bay, with the Dumbarton bridge crossing the bay (double-click the photo to actually see that).

But I digress. I actually started the hike down in the valley, then hiked up the spring trail. The trail is fairly steep and completely exposed, so we usually make sure we go down that trail. But it was a fairly cool day, so I was actually able to do the trail in that direction, stopping for photos along their way.

The area was, I'm sorry to say, overrun with non-native annual grasses. Only close to the path did I find a few native wildflowers such as the lupine above.

Lots of thistles, as well. Welcome food for the birds, but seemed to be fairly aggressive. The trail was very popular with hikers, especially hikers with dogs. Interestingly, many of them seemed to just dash up the trail, then dash back down. I, instead, took the anniversary trail, more or less parallel to skyline boulevard, and then walked down on Hamms Gulch trail.

And suddenly everything changed. First, a beautiful Ceanothus thyrsiflorus in full bloom (see this  informative and entertaining post from Curbstone Valley farms about the plant and where its name came from)

Then a fairieland, with trees, ferns, and lychen. 

Trillium as big as dinner plates.

Dainty Smilacea racemosa (false salomon seal) right next to the path.

And the most special find: Fritillaria affinis (checker lily).

All that combined with blessed quiet. Back at the parking lot, after about 3 hours of walking, I felt refreshed and relaxed, hoping to come back to Windy Hill some time soon.



Chandramouli S said…
I love walking in woods or even village. It soothes your mind! I'm sure you had such a great time what with beautiful scenery and blooms! I love the photo of the thistle.
I love how blessed we are with so many great hikes in the Bay Area. I haven't been to Windy Hill, but it's now on my list! You found some lovely plants, especially the checker lily! Thanks the for link on the Ceanothus, ours seems to be about done blooming here.
Gail said…
What a delightful walk~I walk with folks who never look at what's around them they are so intent on burning calories! gail
wiseacre said…
Guess what I have stuck playing in my head after the '3 hour tour'.

I spent way too long looking for the single False Solomon Seal I spotted the other day that was just about ready to bloom. But I did find some real ones and that was even better since it was the first sighting in the woods near me.
ryan said…
Frittilaria and Trillium, that's quite a good wildflower hike. I've never heard of Windy Hill. Looks worth a visit.
Christine said…
That Lupine photo looks 3D! I love the short hikes close to home- it really makes me appreciate this area, but it's even better when there's so many wildflowers to see.
Clynton Taylor said…
I just went for a walk with my two girls (ages 4 & 8) Sunday. We counted over 16 varieties of wild flowers and had a blast climbing trees in the picnic area near the summit and sketching the flowers we just saw (but didn't pick!). Wonderful place.
chrisbear said…
I think I did this same hike about a month ago for for my blog Backcountry Bliss . Other parks might have a greater quantity of wildflowers, but I was really impressed by the diversity of the species I found at windy hill. Forget-me-not's down along Hamm's Gulch, Checkerblooms up in the rocks near the summit, fiddlenecks, goldenfields, and poppies along the exposed trail, iris down by Sausal Pond.

Photos 62-69 in my Wildflower Gallery are all from Windy Hill