22 February 2017

Table Rock

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

I am expecting it to be dry as I go south, but it has been almost constant rain. There was even rain as I climbed the tight hairpins of SR-29, but as I pull on my shoes the clouds are clearing out as quickly as they can. I seem to have gotten here at just the right time. The air is crisp and my breath comes out in giant puffs. Hail from earlier is gathered in a few spots and pointedly sticking around. Across the road, the trail starts up to Mount Saint Helena. The peak bagger wants to go up there, but I suspect this other trail is nicer and there are only a few hours until sunset.

start of the trail
Sign at the trailhead.

A couple short switchbacks on the trail bring it up to an old road along the ridge. Trees crowd in tightly around giving very little view. Small break show pieces of what is out there. A sudden break to the left gives a huge viewpoint for the first real look around along the trail. There is a tree down across the trail to it, but I have to go for it.

peeking through the trees
With dense little trees lining the trail, the view can be hard to make out.

Mount Saint Helena
A larger break gives a look back to Mount Saint Helena.

rock outcrops
An interesting assortment of rock outcrops on display near the large viewpoint.

tree covered valley
The valley to the north.

Trees close in again around the trail as I climb a little more. A meadow down the south side of the ridge makes a break to look out that way before the trees collect all around again. A sign at a junction points right for Table Rock giving no indication of what might lie in the other direction. I keep on to my objective.

Calistoga Valley
Calistoga Valley to the south.

late afternoon sun
The westerly view in the late afternoon.

A sign marks an overlook for Table Rock. It looks like the actual overlook is a little further down the trail and the placement is weird. No worries for me as this is not my destination. My worry is that the trail changes character drastically from here. It starts to descend and there seem to be numerous routes taken.

funky rock formation
What is probably the Table Rock Overlook is a funky rock formation itself.

southeast high valley with little peaks
Overlooking the route ahead. Surely one of these little peaks is Table Rock.

My choice for the route down devolves into a small stream and with the weather from earlier in the day it is running nicely. The rocks are slick. At the bottom, I seem to tee off into a much larger trail. Someone likes the one I came down and marked it with a small cairn, but I will try the other route back up. The area flattens into a high plateau that is rocky and often open. It is an interesting space and clearly a few people have spent far too long experiencing it.

large cairns along a bigger trail
The trail is large and settled back into one path, but cairns mark the way anyway.

northerly view
Rocky to the north.

swirls of rocks
Someone has built a labyrinth and many others appear to have walked it.

There is another three way junction. This one is not marked, but voices are coming from the left, so I go that way. The voices belong to a pair in hunting garb with a dog. The trail decays a bit as I follow it for a bit before realizing my mistake.

junction and correct direction
Looking down the correct trail, looking a little like a stream at the moment, before heading the wrong way.

small rock bumps rising from the trees
This looks like an interesting place to explore with all the little bumps, but the map seems to indicate it is private land.

I turn back and hurry to try the other trail. I will probably get there just after sunset. The valley the trail crosses is already dark. It drops toward a thunderous noise that turns out to be a creek running a little high. The crossing is not too hard. From there, it climbs again. The trail becomes difficult to follow as it twines with a smaller creek. Close to the destination, trails lead off up onto the rocks. Finally there is one more junction, this one marked, to show where to turn for the short spur up Table Rock itself.

clouds with lighting from the side
Colors in the clouds as the valley already darkens.

water in the creek
Plenty of water in the creek today.

stream beside the rocks
Following a mixture of creek and trail past a new outcrop of rocks.

Trail quickly vanishes as the spur launches itself up onto the rocks. Indeed it is a little past sunset as I reach the top.

Calistoga Valley
Looking down a crevasse to Calistoga Valley.

Cold wind blows through the already cold air. I pull on what I can to be warm, generally rain gear. It is enough since it does mostly block the wind. Gobbling some food should also bring a little warmth. Those few minutes more of light spent scrambling down the wrong trail would have been nicer, but it is pretty nice in the general evening glow after sunset.

Mount Saint Helena
An expanse of rock on the way back to Mount Saint Helena.

fins of rock
Looking back the way the Palisades Trail goes through fins of rock.

colors in the sky
All the while, the clouds and remaining light are putting on a show.

northerly rocks
Looking back the way I came along Table Rock Trail.

I want to get off the rocks and back to solid trail before it starts playing too much with the little creek before dark. The rocks feel slick under my shoes where they are wet, but testing shows that to be illusionary. These used to be very sticky shoes. Once down, I head back again in the dark.

last of the light
The last of the light.

Remembering to take the other path up is not too hard, the main trail goes there. It does seem to be a better path, at least when water is flowing over many things.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 March 2017

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