Walking Willow Creek

It was a bright and frosty morn. What did we expect on Freezeout Rd. near Duncans Mills in January?

Summer before last we sat here in mosquito-biting heat for an orientation to learn about Willow Creek and the responsibilities inherent in having a permit to hike the area. We were past due to hike, though we’d kept up on our permit. Something else always came up.

Entrance to Willow Creek

Willow Creek area is managed by LandPaths on behalf of the State. They are hoping to keep Willow Creek open to permit holders and run it on a Community Powered Park model. The 3400-acre park opened in 2005 to this kind of access with help from the Open Space District and Coastal Conservancy. It is part of the Sonoma Coast State Park.

It’s a walk in the woods. Unfortunately, for me it is a steep hike, too. While the marvelous trail names like Islands in the Sky urged me on, the up slope did not.

Trail at Willow Creek

We stopped to judge the health of tan oaks. They seemed fine going uphill but on the downhill trek we noticed the sick ones have been cut down. (Sudden Oak Death leaves black spots on the trunk.) Redwoods and Douglas Firs loomed over us. It was quiet until we climbed high enough to hear Hwy 116 traffic. A creek gurgled far below us.

Ferns at Willow Creek

The trail split right and uphill to more Islands and left and flat to Box Springs (yes, box springs). We crossed a slippery bridge, with open slats that looked deceptively solid covered by leaves. The creek is the one we had been hearing. It didn’t prove very photogenic though. We walked on but the trail got muddier until we declared it unpassable.

Of course on our way back, several bicyclists sped by. They were giddy and said something about not needing mountain bikes.

They wouldn’t have heard the woodpecker, nor seen the blue sky through the tree tops nor finally identified the huckleberry bushes all around.

Sky above Willow Creek

Back at the parking lot, Mike helped someone start his car. I interviewed a couple of bicyclists. Yes, if you make the Island loop or take other trails you can get a grand view of the ocean. I will drive almost to Jenner and go south along Hwy 1 for my view of the ocean. It’s great either way.

No dogs. No bathrooms. Get a permit from LandPaths and thank them mightily.

Frosty leaf at Willow Creek

We did make a wildflower check at the ocean. Flax, Hairy Cat’s Ear, Seaside Daisy, Pearly Everlasting and Cow Parsnip. Not a shabby show for January.

See you on the Trail!

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

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