Walking the Skyline Wilderness

Skyline Wilderness Park was recently featured in a Bay Nature article. It didn’t sound very flat, but there were reasons we decided to try the place.

Given that the state is cutting loose 70 parks – we thought we’d look at a place the state gave up in 1979. The State of California didn’t need all the space it had for a state hospital, so local citizens got together and with the help of the County of Napa established the park. The Skyline Park Citizens Association has successfully run it since 1983, with a few low money points at the beginning. It is possible.

New Year’s Day was a beautiful and sunny. I realize they’re all like that now, but the rain will come. On our way to Napa, we finally got to eat at Girl and Fig café in Sonoma. Great lunch, and we hardly touched the equity line.

After driving across Napa’s southern edge and not getting swept into the valley or the East Bay we found the park east of town. We paid a small fee for entrance and were told where the trailhead was and about a few of the park’s features. The place has something for everyone (see list below).

We made straight for the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden. This will be worth a stop in flower season. I liked the informative signs about native plants and planting for wildlife.

I knew walking on the flat would be a challenge when just to get to the main trail, we had to climb steps. (The garden is set into a hillside.)

The Napa State Hospital is next door and so some land is enclosed by cyclone fence. An otherwise idyllic dam crossing between two ponds was lined with a chain link fence. A few gaping holes indicated less respect for those boundaries.

The main trail goes to the left and starts climbing to Lake Marie over 2 miles away, reportedly at a 7% grade. I think that’s an average – as in now “it’s flat and now it’s steep”. I knew that a warm windy afternoon after eating a gigantic crab sandwich was not going to get me all the way out and back. We’d hardly crossed a contour line on the map and there were 2-3 more to cross and recross.

Besides trying to climb a hill, I did look around at the oak woodlands. The views up the Napa Valley with layers of mountains was great. It reminded me that not all landscape has to be vineyards even in Napa.

Raptors were yelling and soaring and our fellow walkers were friendly. Manzanitas were in bloom.

Coming back from our 1 mile jaunt, I felt in sync with a young horse who kept stopping. His rider explained he was new to the trail and wasn’t sure of himself. I have plenty of experience and slippery dirt and gravel roads do not instill confidence in me. I gave him a quick nose rub and went ahead for a while. Finally, his pride took over as he was not to be beat downhill by an old walker.

See you on the trail! Well, maybe not this one. I’ll be in the garden.

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

Amusements: Archery, disc golf, dog run, RV and tent camping, horse arena, hiking, bicycle and horseback riding trails, picnicking, and native habitat garden.

Bathrooms: At parking lot. Showers available for campers.

Hikers: This is really your place. Park is part of Bay Ridge Trail and links to Napa Solano Ridge Trail. It also connects to River to Ridge Trail to the JFKennedy Park along the Napa River.

Directions: 2201 Imola Ave. Napa, CA

Don’t forget our next walk. Saturday, January 21st at 10am. Up Brush Creek and back. Start at the Carrillo Adobe at corner of Montgomery and Hartley Dr. About 4 miles. Sorry, no horses or dogs.

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