There’s a brief season in the Bay Area where the hills are brilliant springtime green, before the long dry summer. With all the rain this year the green extended well into April.

Fox Mountain in Sonoma County lies at the northern perimeter of the Austin Creek Recreation Area. To get there you drop 1000′ from the trailhead and then follow the shaded, meandering Gilliam Creek downstream for 4 miles. With ten stream crossings, some knee-high with strong current, it was a slow journey. The last, across Austin Creek was the hardest. But once past it, the long climb back up to daylight was exhilarating. The forest opened up to green wildflower slopes and isolated California Oaks. Finally, the summit. No sign of other visitors, just a great 360 view.

The thing about hikes that start with a steep downhill is that you know you’ll have to climb all the way back up at the end, once you are seriously tired. Choosing another route back to avoid the streams, I descended back into the valley and began the long slog back up to the car, arriving just at dark.

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