This is part of a year-long effort to hike every trail at Point Reyes National Seashore, which turned 50 in 2012. Learn more.
Two 10-mile loops: Lake Ranch-Ridge Trail (10/29/12) and Fire Lane-Woodward (11/2/12).
Both of these rather long and moderately strenuous hikes ascend the west-facing slope of Inverness Ridge and traverse long sections its fir-forested spine. My friend Terry and I took the loop from Palomarin along the Coast Trail (2.2 miles), up the Lake Ranch Trail (3.0 miles) and then south along the Ridge Trail (4.8.miles) on October 29 under ideal conditions—crystalline skies and nary a breeze. (Check it out on the Trailfinder.) I visited the Woodward Trail November 2 with my friend Joanie under remarkably similar conditions (that’s on the Trailfinder too). On both treks, the salubrious effects of two early and gentle rains, the first in many months, were readily apparent in the softness of the soil underfoot and the freshly washed foliage. Although mushrooms had not yet pushed through the forest duff, salamanders had emerged from their subterranean summer haunts and were migrating to recently freshened ponds and creeks. The brittleness of the landscape, so distinctive at the end of the dry months, had largely vanished. Memorable moments of each hike are presented here.
Several newts were crossing the forested portions of the trail. We have two similar species here, both of the genus Taricha—the rough-skinned Newt (T. granulose) and the California (or “Coast Range”) newt (T. torosa). Both breathe through their lungs and both breed in aquatic habitat streams, pools, and fresh water marshes. Oddly, the roughed-skinned newts we saw were desiccated carcasses, dead in the trail, but the Californias were still alive, plodding toward a pond to fulfill their ancestral obligations. Later in the rainy season, a visit to a still forest pond may be rewarded with the vision of a “knot of newts,” a tangled ball of males and females tumbling in the water, an anaplexus orgy. Quite a sight to see.
When we stop for our first peak at Mud Lake, near the junction with the Ridge Trail, we notice a gaggle of wood ducks in the far reaches of the pond, a welcome complement to this peaceful place. We linger awhile.
The habitat that complements the Woodward Trail loop (from Sky Trail via Fire Lane and Coast Trail) is similar to that of the Lake Ranch Trail, but passes through the southern reach of the scar from the October 1995 “Mount Vision Fire.”
Naturalist and writer Jules Evens has lived near Point Reyes for over 30 years. He is the founder of Avocet Research Associates and the author of The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula and An Introduction to California Birdlife (both UC Press).
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Woodpeckers have captured the human imagination for generations. The distant sounds of pecking, flashes of red plumage, and inevitable disappearance into the shadows of the forest evoke a sense of wonder about these