It was a beautiful day in November and I was hit again with wanderlust. The summer heat was over and I knew it would be a good time to go somewhere that would have nice autumn foliage. Sugarloaf Ridge has a lovely creek system, but no rivers or lakes, so I like to save this type of destination for seasons when I don’t need to swim to cool off.
There are lots of activities to do here, even if swimming is not on the list. There’s hiking, camping, picnic areas, horse trails, mountain biking, seasonal waterfalls, big views to find, an observatory, and an interesting planet walk.
Here’s what the park’s website has to say about the Planet Walk, “This scale model of the solar system, designed to fit within Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, allows you to “hike” through the entire solar system by shrinking it more than 2,360,000,000 times. Our sun is large enough to hold a million Earths, yet it is only a middle-sized star. At the scale used for this model, the nearest neighboring sun is more than 10,000 miles away. Each step you take is equal to nearly one million miles of empty space.“
With the short November days I wouldn’t have had enough light to hike the full solar system and make it back by nightfall. But luckily there are two loops of this trail, so I was able to head out for two hours and make it back to the “Sun” before it was dark. I tend to stop a lot to take photographs and didn’t want to rush.
The first part of my hike took me through a large open meadow. Surrounding it were redwoods and oak trees and there were low silvery bushes dotting the landscape. I could see a lot of areas where deer (probably) had matted down the grass to sleep overnight. This took me past several of the planet signs all the way through Saturn.
Next the trail took me through a wooded area where I came to a creek. There was a quiet little area next to it with a really beautiful gnarled up fallen tree so I decided to rest there for a bit, hydrate, and dip my feet in to the water.
After a little break I took the right fork of the path which took me away from the rest of the solar system and up Hillside Trail. Here the terrain got more hilly – hence the name – and I worked up a good heart rate.
I passed handsome groves of oak trees with changing leaves.
I passed weathered water tanks.
I looked out over vista points.
Then I descended back down towards the meadow floor with more beautiful views of rock formations on the hillsides, brush and fall foliage. The whole time I was on Hillside Trail I hadn’t seen another person. Weekday autumn hikes can really give you a lot of space to yourself.
Back at the “Sun” I was feeling very rejuvenated and at peace. It’s phenomenal how much a walk around a meadow and sticking your feet in a creek can bring you back to feeling centered and alive. Good ol’ exercise and fresh air! Not to mention how the planet walk put all my tiny human problems in to perspective. All and all it turned out to be a very pleasant and introspective afternoon.
As of June 1, 2012 Sugarloaf Ridge SP is open fully and is being operated by the nonprofit organization, Team Sugar Loaf, due to budget cutbacks. For more information please visit the following websites. Remember to dress in layers and bring water any time you head out on the trail.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: http://www.sugarloafpark.org
Robert Ferguson Observatory: http://www.rfo.org
The Planet Walk: http://sugarloafpark.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/planet-walk.pdf