Some of the best trails have no official name. A nameless line indicating a trail might appear on one map and not another. Lesser known trails don’t show up on any map.
A favorite exchange about the contrast between outdoor time in Northern California where I reside now, and in New York State’s rural Mohawk Valley where I grew up (which has surely appeared in a previous hikingautism.com Insights post):
“What’s the difference between the trails we hike in California and the trails where I grew up?”
“Where I grew up, we didn’t have trails!”
There were of course named trails with signs indicating distances and directions in established wilderness areas like the Adirondacks.
In the woodsy area where I grew up, however, we did not have marked trails. We had faded paths through fields and forests, created by animals, weather patterns, ourselves, or ancient peoples long gone. We also had our instincts—for where best to cross a creek, how not get lost in the woods, or which farm field to cross to find a road leading home.
The San Francisco Bay Area has an abundance of beautiful named trails, but we also have anonymous trails. Those require a bit of bushwhacking skill to keep a sense of direction, and hopefully stay out of poison oak and avoid ticks. That’s what adds extra spice to a hike.
When given the option to stay on a main trail or wander off trail a bit, I usually choose the latter.
Often in daily life we stick to the easy routine path, our “named trails.” Go ahead and wander off the main trail once in a while. Trying something unfamiliar is good exercise for our heads and hearts.
This week’s Hike Notes, Oakwood Valley - Alta Trail, introduce the Oakwood Meadow Trail leading up to the Alta Trail, which offers great views. In the end, this hike leads back to the start along an unnamed trail that has its own charm and challenges.
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New this week:
Hike Notes 96: Oakwood Valley-Alta Trail