I’m scouting Skyline Ridge for a future column, and because you really can’t go wrong hiking there. It has ponds, easy trails, varied terrain, and a fair amount of wildflowers. Russian Ridge is far less sexy for the hiker purist — few single single tracks, hardly any shade — but it does get an impressive bloom in the spring. It seems to have twice as many species of flowers as Skyline, which is right next door. We’re not getting the carpet-of-color effect we like to see, but if you like to putter around and take pictures of blooming things, it’s worth a look (just bring your sunscreen).

I also bumped into Mike and Kathy of the FOMFOK hiking club at Russian Ridge and strolled along with them for a couple miles. When I got back to the car I had an excellent conversation with an 86-year-old Swedish hiker who was resting in the shade of her car’s trunk: it was a bit hot out there. Her hiking club has been together 35 years. I got the feeling she’d been over every mile of the Santa Cruz Mountains about six times. If you ever needed more proof that hiking not only adds life to your years, it adds years to your life…

Let’s check out some pictures:

Looks like blue-eyed grass, but not very blue

One of the first shots of the morning, on a south-facing slope in direct sun … I thought this was blue-eyed grass, but it didn’t look especially blue under these conditions. I’m told now it’s a variety of filaree.

Miner's Lettuce

Miner’s lettuce has delicate white blooms that are hard to capture without a tripod because the lettuce grows in the shade.

Alpine Lake

Alpine Lake, gorgeous as usual. The nature center here opens at noon on Saturdays and Sundays … lots of cool stuff for kids to look at in there, including skins of dead critters.

On to Russian Ridge, where most of the flowers were:


Checkerblooms bloom in big pink clumps over here.


Yours Truly at the top of Borel Hill.

Yellow violet

A yellow violet — these are hard to photograph because they’re kinda shy and don’t face upward toward the sun all the time.

Poppies along the trail

OK, maybe there was more single track than I remember. It’s a decent year for poppies, but they’re not dominating the hillsides around here. Also, forgot to mention: a controlled burn was conducted here last year and all these hillsides looked like toast at the time. A fire is just a haircut for grass; it grows back stronger the next season.

Miniature lupines, I presume

Miniature lupines, near as I can tell. These are very small blooms that require shooting in macro mode and hoping the breezes let up.

Russian Ridge

Traffic jam. The FOMFOK folks are heading this way past these polite mountain bikers.

Tunnel, Skyline Ridge

Saw these blooms hanging down from a bush in the tunnel between Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge. No idea what they are, but they are pretty (Update: Jane at Bay Area Hiker says they are currants). I saw a hummingbird but it flitted off in a second, long before it occurred to me to try taking its picture.

So, those are the highlights. Extra thanks to Mike for guiding us to a deck on at the end of a spur trail near the far end of the Ridge Trail, where we broke for lunch (look for Mount Melville on the map if you go; it’s at the far northern edge of the park). Always nice to meet friends on the trail.

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Skyline Ridge links:

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Russian Ridge links: