Getting Out: Find your path at Calero County Park

The hills with Mt. Umnuhum over the Calero Reservoir.  

The trail map of Calero County Park resembles an interlocking network of loops that allows a hiker to string them together in any number of ways. Any trail you choose will, at some point, present you with the option of continuing on and circling back or starting a new loop that itself will loop 360 degrees back to the same junction. Since our next Mt. Tallac Challenge prep hike is at Calero County Park, I decided to revisit familiar trails as well as walk some new ground.
Though there are lots of choices at Calero, I begin every walk there on the Figueroa Trail. Nearly all the trails at Calero County Park move between open grassland and mixed evergreen forest. But the Figueroa Trail winds into a beautiful riparian forest along Calero Creek immersing you in a cool shady tunnel of green. It is a wonderful environment to escape the summer heat or walk alongside a babbling brook.
We did not hear a peep, much less any babbling, from Calero Creek as we passed. Our dry winter has not only silenced the creek, but it has left the slopes desiccated and brown. In a normal winter, I would be admiring delicate white milkmaids beginning to bloom alongside the trail. But hardly a blade of grass had poked its head through the earth on a hill that was screaming green by this time last winter.
The flip side of that coin was the beautiful warm and sunny day we had to walk. We passed the junctions to the Cañada del Oro Trail and the Vallecito Trail where we could have set out on two more loops in Calero’s network. Instead, we climbed steadily to the end of the Figueroa Trail, joined the Peña Trail, and walked a short distance to a lovely knob dappled with light filtering through the oaks. It commanded a view that swept from Mt. Umunhum, across the reservoir, and over to Cinnabar Golf Course.
For the first time, gravity was our friend as we eased down the Los Cerritos Trail and headed north toward the reservoir. The first part of the trail rode the ridgetop that dropped away on both sides revealing a spacious view left, right, and straight ahead. We stopped and looked as much as we walked.
Finally, the Los Cerritos Trail turned toward home and eased down to the lakeshore. From McKean Road, Calero Reservoir lacks charm, but this portion of the lake is a quiet twisting inlet edged with reeds and lightly humming with a bit of bird life—a lovely setting.
Up ahead, the historic Bailey Fellows house commanded the center of the valley above the lake’s inlet. What a lovely setting and a lovely Victorian house this must have been in its heyday. Now, the house is boarded up and the grounds have gone wild, but a little imagination easily conjures up a scene of carefully tended pastoral vitality from days gone by.
Though access is open, signs forbid cutting across to the old house and a short level walk back to the car. Respecting the signs, we returned to the trail which rolls over two steep hills, all the more heartbreaking when easy (but forbidden) going is a stone’s throw away.
Join me on Saturday, February 8 at 9:00 am and see this park for yourself. We will start on the Figueroa Trail, then you can choose your path home based on your energy and ambition. The park entrance is on McKean Road across from Cinnabar Golf Course. No day-use fee. Dogs are welcome on a leash.

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