We headed south, avoiding Hwy 101, admiring the green hills of Petaluma. It was doing its best to look like Ireland. Pastures and hills dominated our vision.
Helen Putnam Regional Park, west of Petaluma is an excellent place in spring for panoramic views of green hills and should be full of wildflowers in the next month. It’s on Chileno Valley Rd, though the sign is geared towards traffic not from Petaluma, but from Nicasio?
Meanwhile, back to turning into a parking lot for Helen Putnam Regional Park. There is room for cars and horse trailers. It looks like they’ve added an extra lot as this is a popular local park.
Near the parking lot and down a ramp is a small playground, a gazebo, some picnic tables and a water fountain. It is situated along a creek with Coast Live Oaks providing lots of shade.
There is a paved trail (Ridge Trail) to the right. We took it, as it looked the easiest. And it was for a while.
We were serenaded by a melodic bird song (sorry, I don’t know whose). There were dog walkers, couples, families with young children and a few bicyclists on most of the walk. But it didn’t feel crowded.
We admired the green meadows, with wild radishes and some mustard. And then…a short steep stint, though not as tough as the hill we’d seen from the parking lot. We went slowly and didn’t take off on another part of Ridge Trail that might have alleviated this particular climb.
We stopped to watch some horses and riders descend; a quail cross the path; and the willows and coyote bush grow. Well, we didn’t stop that long.
At the top of this rise was Fish Pond and a scenic water tank with bench. After this, the trail is fairly level. Along this way we noticed Douglas iris and shooting stars in the shade on the embankment to our right. The area around us opened up in meadows, the oaks clustered along downslopes or in groups. There are Coast Live, Valley, Black and Interior Live Oaks in this park.
When we reached a crossroads (crosspaths, crosstrails?) we chose to head west on Panorama trail.
If you went up a side path, you could see the valley and Petaluma and hear the noise of Hwy 101. If you returned to the trail you could see people-less and building-less land to the west.
Right next to the trail, we could see Baby Blue Eyes and Suncups and some flowers starting to bud. The poison oak shone bright near the oaks. (One of the reason I like wide well developed trails is that all that side stuff is laden with ticks and poison oak. I don’t enjoy all nature has to offer.)
Where Pomo Trail crosses Panorama we sat on a bench overlooking pastures and lines of trees. Cows, horses, a few buildings and our fellow walkers was all there was in sight.
After soaking in the sun and the view, we started down a narrower dirt Pomo Trail, gentle at first. Around a bend, we started to hear traffic from Chileno Valley Rd. and the descent got serious. This was the hill, I’d seen from the parking lot.
Mike suggested rolling down. I chose lots of stopping and zigzagging to ease the stress on my knees.
Some of the stopping was for wildflowers including Checker Mallow, shiny Buttercups and a 6-pointed pink flower we’ve yet to identify. This usually means it’s very common.
Alas, I made it and at the bottom of the hill, I read a sign about Helen Putnam (mayor of Petaluma from ‘65 to ‘79 and then a County Supervisor). I was proud of myself for getting to see a grand view of the hills. I’m sure Ms. Putnam was a proud public servant and could have easily beat me up and down the hills.
See you on the trail!
Photos by Mike Millar
Directons: From Hwy 101, take Washington St. Exit, head west, turn left on Petaluma Blvd when you get to downtown Petaluma, go one block and take a right on Western Ave. After many stops signs giving you time to admire the Victorian homes and travelling 1.8 mi. turn left on Chileno Valley Rd. The entrance is on your left at just over .7 mi.
There’s another entrance off of Oxford Ct. Also with a water fountain.
Cost: Sonoma County Regional Parks $7 for cars. Please, get a pass.
Wheelchair: Not much path here. You could go down to the picnic tables and you might manage some of the paved Ridge Trail.
Dogs: 6′ leash
Bathroom: Concrete building, flush toilet, cold water.
Ticks: What to do –CA Dept. of Public Health
Food: Downtown Petaluma was buzzing with people. We ate at Aram’s on Kentucky St. Good coffee and Armenian California fusion cuisine. (See Comments. Arams is gone. Bonnie has some alternatives.) We walked along the river and stopped in at the Riverfront Gallery.
Meanwhile back to walking