Since 2001, David Loeb has served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.
This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.
The Hazelnut Trail takes its name from the profusion of California hazelnut bushes that grow along the length of this 4-mile loop trail through the thick, diverse, and fragrant coastal scrub on the steep slopes between Montara Mountain and San Pedro Valley. It’s a beautiful trail anytime of year, but especially so in mid-summer, when many of the plants in the rest of the Bay Area have finished flowering and gone dormant. But here, the coastal scrub plants–benefitting from the moisture provided by the coastal fog–are still green, with many either in flower or fruiting.
Start on the Plaskon Nature Trail (enter from the overflow parking area, to the left of the Visitors Center), cross the bridge over San Pedro Creek and take left at the signed junction on to the Hazelnut Trail after passing a large old coast live oak. The trail rises gradually out of the riparian shade and you emerge into the coastal scrub that will accompany you for most of this hike. Among the woody plants that dominate here (and along most of the trail) are the eponymous hazelnut, ocean spray, toyon, coffeeberry, huckleberry, native California blackberry, poison oak, and coyote bush.
During a hike in late July the ocean spray and toyon were in flower, while the coffeeberry and huckleberry bore lots of fruit and the hazelnut bushes sported quite a few nuts. There are very few tall trees until you get to the eucalyptus groves further on, but there are plenty of low-growing manzanita and chinquapin, with occasional live oaks. The flowering plants along the way include yarrow, paintbrush, sticky monkeyflower, coyote mint, pearly everlasting, and several yellow composites (all in bloom in late July).
Initially, the trail ascends gradually on the northwestern facing side of the slope, so you may be in the fog. Just before the ¾ mile marker, there’s a bench under a large eucalyptus tree looking down into San Pedro Valey. Soon thereafter, the trail bends east away from the coastal fog and warms up.
After 1.25 miles, the trail enters a eucalyptus forest for about a quarter mile before emergng back into the coastal scrub, now with fine views of the steep, green, scrub-draped northern slopes of Montara Mountain.
At about 2 miles, you reach the high point of the trail (about 1000 feet), still in the open scrub. From here the trail descends about 700 feet over the next 1.7 miles, mostly gradually, down a series of switchbacks, to the Weiler Ranch Trail road on the wide open valley floor. Turn left here for the flat .8 mile walk back to the parking lot.