Not too far from downtown Sebastopol is a Sonoma County Regional Park. Ragle Ranch provides both a ‘city park’ with sports fields and group picnic areas and a bit of ‘wild nature’ for people to explore.
We’re more the bit of ‘wild nature’ people so we started our walk near the Peace Garden. A wide rutted grass and dirt road heads downhill. The summer has already dried things out so the grasses are brown and only a few dandelions peek out. At the bottom of the hill the path flattens out along a wetland and riparian area.
Crossing a bridge, 2 steps up and 2 down, leads to a narrower dirt path under the shade of willows. Monday was a gorgeous day with perfect temperature. But in the winter, this path undoubtedly gets muddy and in the heat of summer the numerous shady parts would be a great relief.
After we crossed another bridge over Atascadero Creek (this is the creek you can find on the West County Trail), another path took off to the right. We stayed straight. There is one main 1.7 mile loop with a cross path to shorten the loop or provide a figure-8 walk, if you want.
The trail circles an open grass meadow. I felt very isolated from the world with some hills in sight, but no houses. I debated if it was traffic noise or wind in the trees. The birds were happy singing away. Accurately named, Blackberry Trail, it has many bushes and a return in August should bring a feast of berries. Lotus, wild radish and morning glories bloomed.
In over ½ mile we were under tree cover again. Mike thought they were Oregon Ash, but not seeing the seeds, he wasn’t positive. Mistletoe abounds in the trees. Hemlock stood out above the meadow grasses.
The path changed to loose sand. Blackberries and wild roses were on our right and willows on our left. A trail went off – we stayed straight, crossed a small dip – a running creek in the spring I suppose – and another path went right. (I think that path is unofficial. I wouldn’t want to get too unofficial here due to the lurking ticks.) We found ourselves in full shade with busy White-crowned Sparrows flitting from branch to branch. It was like being in an atrium. Mike kept trying to focus on one. We paused for a while in this fascinating spot.
We went left across another bridge. The trail started a slight climb and we were in the open again with some trees and the meadow further to our right. After more than a mile on the trail, it was mostly oaks and the climb continued. Finally, I spotted a new flower, some kind of white daisy and we crossed another bridge. Heading straight to a parking lot, we admired a small field of dandelions, white daisies, clover and a narrow spire flower not yet in bloom.
When we reached the lot, I realized it was an access point to the Veteran’s Memorial Grove, a small group of redwoods on a knoll. Across the road from this we chose a paved path that climbed back to where we had parked. The oaks really dominated here in number and size. For the first time ever, I saw a floor of ferns under the oaks.
We were entering the ‘city park’ of Ragle Ranch as we passed a Gameworld Jogging Course, sandy volleyball courts, tennis courts, group picnic areas, a playground and another playground under construction. As of July 31, 2010 the new playground is open.
See you on the trail!
Photos by Mike Millar
Other important things:
Directions: From Hwy 116 north of downtown Sebastopol, go left onto Covert Ln. (Pacific Market will be in shopping center to your right.) Covert deadends onto Ragle Rd. Park at 500 Ragle Rd.
Peace Garden with work by Masayuki Nagase near the last parking lot.
In August the Gravenstein Apple Fair is held here.
Dogs: On 6’ leash on the trails and in the park. There is an ACC Dog park for them to run free with special daily hours for dogs under 30 lbs.
Bathroom: by far parking lot is a building with flush toilets and cold water. Portapotties are in a few other locations.
Coffee & Food: We went to Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton for yet another stupendous meal. Try the Market Plate with polenta. Plenty of food and coffee in Sebastopol.
These beautiful pears were half-size.
Meanwhile back to walking…