A couple of miles south of the Russian River on Highway 1, skip the Goat Rock Road and park at Shell Beach.
This blog is meant to concentrate on fitness, cycling along the San Francisco Bay Trail, and hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail, but man was not made to live on bread and water alone. This past weekend I was up in Guerneville, and went on a great hike with friends from Shell Beach to Goat Rock, the southern edge of the mouth of the Russian River. It's all part of Sonoma Coast State Park.
It's also part of the California Coastal Trail, a hiking route along the 1200 mile California coast. The trail is about half complete. (my photos continue to be mediocre; a year and a half ago I took pictures in a sand storm at Wind Sands, New Mexico and I'm still wiping gypsum crystals from the lens every time I turn on the camera. I think a replacement will happen soon.)
The first part of the hike follows the Kortum Trail, a trail and board walks through marshy areas clumped with big bunchgrasses, Festuca californica I think, California fescue. They dominated grassland before European non-native grasses like wild oats were introduced. Many are perennial and they have huge root networks that sometimes extend thirty feet down. As a result they stay green longer into the dry season, hold more water in the soil and extend organic matter deep into the topsoil. That makes them attractive to grazing animals. Most of the non-natives are annuals, prefer disturbed soil, and have short life spans in which they use a lot of water and quickly produce large numbers of seed.
It's only recently that it's been found that some of these clumps of grass are hundreds of years old--literally "old growth" grasses. I've been working on native plant restoration on some of my properties and Festuca californica is also distinctive because its seed are very expensive, about $300 a pound.
The trail is named for Bill Kortum, a Sonoma county conservationist and former county supervisor. "A native Petaluman and a veterinarian by profession, Bill Kortum is recognized as the dean of Sonoma County environmentalists and is known statewide for his conservation efforts. Kortum began his environmental activism by helping to defeat a proposed nuclear power plant in Bodega Head in the early 1960s. He was a key figure in developing the county’s first General Plan, helping to avoid urban sprawl, and crafting the 1972 Coastal Initiative that established the California Coastal Commission and prevented commercialization of the coastline, a model that has been adopted nationally."
At about the mile point you travel west of a large rock outcrop, a visual relief from the grassland, covered in a mosaic of shrubs and wildflowers like a sloped tidepool. The rock is more sensitive than most of the terrain but inescapably attractive. A detour leads to the base, and a well worn path leads to the top.
Further on you pass a smaller outcrop then parallel the park road, climbing to the hike's high point for the views of the rocks rising out of the Pacific, and Goat Rock to the north.
It's a short hike down through fragrant tarweeds back to the park road, another parking lot, and down to the beach.
(Struggling, as you can see, with the picture formatting)