You don’t get a lot of this on trails near town: the feather touch of a spider’s silk on your calves that tells you you’re the first to pass this way today.

I got some of that yesterday on the Chisnantuk Peak Trail, a hidden gem at the far southwestern edge of Calero County Park. This is one of the great unheralded trails in the South Bay: nearly four miles from the nearest trailhead, twisting its way up a hillside through shaded oak woodland and open grassy hillsides practically bursting with wildflowers in the spring.

Calero’s wildflower display is hanging in there, but the park is clearly clinging to the last green of the season. Sunday wasn’t much help: It almost seemed as if I could see the hills getting browner as the day wore on (or maybe that was me wilting in the sun).

It would’ve made more sense to find a pleasant path through some redwoods, but if I ever did the sensible thing there’d never be anything interesting to read here. And besides, you need those moments of slogging up a 20 degree slope in the scalding sun (roughly akin to a breakfast of barbed wire) to calibrate your summer-hiking misery meter.

For those who’ve never been to Calero: It’s primarily an equestrian park. The hills aren’t super high (Bald Peaks Trail, along the ridge on the park’s southern border, tops out around 1,500 feet), but the trails are pretty hilly. I managed over 2000 feet of ascent over 8.6 miles. There’s ample shade in the park’s interior, but your first and last mile will be in the sun. Here’s a map of yesterday’s hike (click for a high-res version):

Calero Hike map

The Javelina Loop is a pretty, mostly shaded hike, though it has enough uphill to move it out of “easy” range.

My hike definitely strayed into the “strenuous” neighborhood, but the suffering didn’t kick in until after I had taken in the shady downhill hike along the top half of the Javelina Trail and the riparian stroll up the Cottle Trail to the Cottle Rest Area. The hike up to the ridge on the Chisnantuk Peak Trail was no vacation — about 800 feet in a mile — but it offered ample chances to pause and snap a few wildflower shots. Only the last quarter or so was in the sun.

Let’s see the pix:

Los Cerritos Pond

Los Cerritos Pond is one of the prettiest places in the park, and not far from the trailhead. It’d be great to sneak into the park at dawn and catch this scene with better light. Not that I’m recommending such a thing.

The lowly dandelion

Dandelion’s don’t seem like such a nuisance out here. Lawn grass is so easy to compete with compared to the sturdier stuff growing a on hillside with no watering or fertilizer. Dandelions gone to seed are much more photogenic.


A checkerbloom along the Pena Trail. They’re abundant at Calero this year.

Poppies, trail

Poppies along the Javelina Loop Trail.

Bat house

Bat enclosure on the same trail.

Chinese Houses, perhaps?

Pretty sure these are Chinese houses (though I suspect they call them something else in China).

Have to look these up

Couldn’t identify these things … there’s some on every outing.

Owl's clover

Check out the little ghost faces on this owl’s clover.

Water Trough

Here’s the water trough at the Cottle Rest Site. I filled my water bladder right out of the pipe … we’ll see if this gives me a bad case of the runs in a week or so.

Mass of blue dicks

At first I thought these were blue dicks but now I’m reconsidering. Pretty, whatever they are.

Poppies on a steep hillside

Poppies along the Chisnantuk Peak Trail.

Hikers on Bald Peaks Trail

Hikers pass more poppies on the Bald Peaks Trail.

Along the Bald Peaks Trail

Vistas are quite nice along the Bald Peaks Trail.

Mass of blooms

Big mass of blooms along the Canada Del Oro Trail.

So that’s about it for Sunday’s hike. There might be a few more weekends cool enough to check out Calero before the summer heat kicks in. February or March might be much better, if the trails aren’t too muddy.

Calero links:

Here’s a Google map to get you to the trailhead.

View Calero County Park in a larger map