Sometimes even with the best research there are great surprises on outdoor adventures and hikes. I’d been several times to Sugarloaf Ridge between Napa and Sonoma Counties to climb Hood Mountain and Bald Mountain. There were still a few other summits on the list including a second Bald Mountain only a mile or so from the first (#namefail) . This (Little) Bald Mountain actually has a real grassy treeless summit, and has been protected by the Sonoma Land Trust.
The hike was easy, across a stream, up a trail, then cross country through a forest before reaching the foggy meadow at the summit. The surprise was the rich oak and bay forest on the north slope. Away from the regular route of hikers, cattle and ranchers, a rich ecosystem thrives, old gnarled trees clothed in luxurious deep green moss, with broad outreaching branches and a spacious leaf-strewn undercover.
It’s always the surprises that are the best. Exploration leads to the unexpected, the aha! omg! I had no idea this was here. It’s the best part.