Tricky Trail Mix at Santa Teresa County Park, Saturday 11/22/2008

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I'm betting this one will happen - forecast is sunny, high of 70 - and if it's anything like it was out there today, it's gonna be gorgeous! Although, seriously, I did feel a few drops today as those low, gray clouds passed over - teasing me, they were, as I was earnestly finishing up the map and courses.

This is your chance to make history this year - although Terraloco has tinkered with a few trainings, this is its first epic brouhaha event, and you can be a part of it! I've fallen in love with this park and its variety of terrain - it really is unique among bay area parks, and the course takes you to all kinds of neat places. There is no penalty for stopping, if ever so briefly, to smell the serpentine. And this trail mix wouldn't be tricky without a special twist - about three quarters of the checkpoint locations are on what you would call a regular orienteering map; the remaining checkpoints are on an aerial photo overlaid with contour lines. So the map you will receive is an "o-map" surrounded by aerial photo, and the whole thing has contours. Play your cards right, and you could get to raid the prize box! Junior awards will be given out first, then seniors, then inbetweeners... every awardee gets to pick an item from the prize box.

The Terrain

More serpentine than you can wrap an anaconda around here. For the area used, about 45% is open grassland, of which 70% is extraordinarily rocky. The rest: 15% thicker vegetation - mostly in large swabs you avoid - and 40% forest, mostly on the north side of Bernal Rd.

You'll encounter oaks, of course, and the forest is dominated by them, but there are a few other tree types. The diversity of grasses is higher here because of the areas of serpentine soils. The trail network is perfect, I think. Not too many of them, but they fork out nicely and can get you to various areas - nice for a "score" course.

The rocks are different here. In some spots, you might feel like you're on Mars or the moon, there are so many. Lots of grape nuts sprinkled about, a fair amount of honey clusters, but not too many gargantuan formations. Many have pretty lichens carpeting their surfaces.

The Map

It's a project. Instead of making a rough map of the whole thing, as originally planned, I made a fairly detailed map of about half the area used for the course, and it does hold more of the checkpoints. 1:10000 scale, 40 foot contours from a USGS topo. A Google aerial photo was used for field-checking.

Vegetation is pretty accurate, and so are most point features. The large contour interval hides some subtler landforms, occasionally, those have been added to the map.

The rocks were the trickiest thing to map - so many of them! Stony ground is epidemic here. To avoid map clutter, I focused on mapping the more prominent boulders and clusters that stood out from the field. Sometimes you'll find unmapped 1 meter boulders. Also, it was difficult to place all the rocks totally accurately. When rock features are used as checkpoint sites, they will be pretty solid. But, in general, be wary of fine navigation with the rocks.

The Hazards

Don't trip on the rocks - seriously - they can be covered by grass pretty well. Watch your footing.

The flock of 25 wild turkeys squawked in alarm, but they didn't attack me. The pack of 5 wild hogs grunted and scampered away into the forest, and they didn't mess with me either. I saw hawks, but they didn't seem to see me. Some of the deer waited until I passed, then returned back to the area which I scared them out of... to reconvene with their lost Bambi.

This is mountain lion habitat too, but you're most likely to encounter humans - on horseback (be polite! don't spook the horse) - on mountain bike - or just taking a nice stroll.

Poison oak - where did the leaves go? I noticed some large, leafless bushes and I don't know how many are actually poison oak, but some no doubt are. It's avoidable, and it would probably only affect your route choice on the very "advanced" locations, particularly in some parts of the aerial photo.

Star thistle - some patches, and some swaths, but by no means does this plant dominate things around here like it can in Briones. Too much diversity.

Occasionally, you'll find some broken barbed-wire fence fragments off trail.

Please stay out of the marked out-of-bounds areas. In general, anything with a bunch of buildings, and the canal, are not good places to go.

The course will have you cross Bernal Rd. twice, and you must do so at the signed crosswalks - there are stop signs on Bernal Rd. at each of them. For your convenience, 100 point controls have been placed near each crossing.

Gear Up

If going off trail at all, you need cleated shoes, and pants are highly recommended. It's pretty exposed, so waterproof, sweat resistant sunscreen is recommended. And a hat. A watch might be helpful if you think you will be overtime.


The park entry fee is $6 per vehicle. Pay at the first turnout on the right, then park in the next lot. Carpooling always helps. If you're thinking public transit, it's near the end of one of the VTA light rail lines, and I imagine a VTA bus also goes down Santa Teresa Blvd., but no public transit vehicle goes the extra mile up Bernal Road into the park.

Since the mass start is at 10:00, I recommend arriving by 9:30 so you can be registered and ready to go.

Awards will happen as soon as possible; results will be processed as they come in from the field, so hopefully right after the last finisher, we'll be ready.

The Course

Just the Trails - 5.2 km, 14 checkpoints, 190 m climb
The Whole Enchilada - 7.9 km, 25 checkpoints, 400 m climb

You choose which checkpoints you want to visit; each is worth 25, 50, or 100 points. There is a two-hour time limit; 25 points will be deducted for each minute you are late - if you are 1 minutes and 30 seconds late, for example, 50 points will be deducted.

There are 9 "off trail" checkpoints - the 4 on the photo are definitely for those with advanced navigation experience. Of the 5 on the "regular map" side, all but the pit control I would consider to be of intermediate (orange-level) difficulty.

Water and refreshments are available at the start / finish location. At a far checkpoint on the trail I will put out some water and cups.

Original Announcement follows...

As per park district policy, this event may be canceled if there is rain prior to or during the event. An update and complete details will be posted the week before the event.

Santa Teresa County Park has a winding trail network, lots of rocks, some open hillsides with vistas, patches of oak forest, some scrub... a nice place for a map course.

The "Tricky Trail Mix" Score Course

Given a map with about 20 checkpoint locations worth various amounts of points, go find as many as you like, in any order your want - you design and execute your overall route to minimize distance, time, and climb. It's expected the total point to point distance to get all the checkpoints will be about 7.5 km, or 5 km if you stick to the trails. So two categories will be offered for classification in the results: "trail" and "all." Certificates will be awarded to the top finishers in the two categories in gender and age classes, and I'm working on some fun prizes too.


09:00 Free Instruction Clinic - a primer on navigating with a map, we'll walk a short example course together with maps. Starts promptly at 9:00!
09:30 Registration open - if you're preregistered, all you have to do is sign the waiver (and verify your information.)
10:00 Tricky Trail Mix mass start - after a course briefing for all participants.
12:00 Course closes - please return to the finish by noon!
12:00 Hospitality - you're welcome to stay and socialize informally, some treats and refreshments will be provided.

Cost: $12 adults, $7 juniors for any and all courses; $2 discount for pregistering online (no commitment to show.)


Take US 101 or Highway 85 to the Bernal Road exit. Proceed west 1.3 miles on Bernal Road and cross Santa Teresa Boulevard toward the Santa Teresa Hills. Bernal Road continues past the park's Santa Teresa Golf Club, winding up into the hills. The Pueblo Day Use Area is located off Bernal Road in a small open valley in the hills.

Event Contact: Rex, 5 1 0 - 6 8 1 - 6 1 8 1,

Santa Teresa County Park web page

Santa Teresa County Park is a facility of the County of Santa Clara Regional Parks and Recreation System.