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Visit to the Doan Ranch, Part 1

The Doan Ranch is one of the newest acquisitions of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. It was obtained as part of a $7.1 million land purchase in 2007, which included the adjacent 574-acre Doan and 128-acre Nielson ranches. The Doan Ranch is a former cattle ranch in the hills east of Gilroy west of Henry Coe State Park. The entrance is on Canada Road, which is off Pacheco Pass Highway in Gilroy. It is not yet open to the public on a regular basis, but was open twice for "sneak peek days" in 2008, once for mountain bikers on October 25 and once for hikers and equestrians on November 22. I went to the latter. These are pictures from that trip.

This is at the entrance to Doan Ranch off Canada Road. Visitors sign it at the table and receive a map and a souvenir badge. The maps are topo maps with the trails highlighted in different colors. The trails are along existing ranch roads and are unnamed. Safety cones at the trailheads are taped with the color of each trail. The trail descriptions below will refer to the trails by their colors on the map.

This is an excerpt from the trail map, showing the trails and colors. The red arrows show the route that I took, starting at the parking lot in the upper right, then heading west along the purple trail. I went down the purple trail, to the yellow trail, then east on the blue trail. I went up the orange trail, east on the purple trail and partway down the green trail. I came back to the purple trail via an unmarked trail (unintentionally), went east on the purple to the blue trail, partway down the blue trail, then back to the purple trail, and ended at the parking lot.

There is a large flat open area next to the road that can serve as a parking lot and staging area someday.

This is the start of the trail shown on the map in purple. It is the longest trail. It starts out flat.

These are the hills just north of the purple trail.

After 0.3 miles, a trail branches off to the south. This is the blue trail.

The purple trail gradually climbs uphill next to an eroded gully.

Past the head of the gully, the purple trail climbs up a hill. The hills have been grazed by cattle, so the grass has been cut short. The land is leased for cattle grazing. The cattle eat non-native vegetation, allowing native plants to grow. They also reduce the fire danger.

I meet Kitty Monahan and Mike Boulland coming up the trail.

Mike and Kitty stop and talk to one of the Open Space Authority's technicians, who had been checking out the trails.

This is a view looking down the purple trail to the junction of the green trail, which leads off to the center right. There is an unmarked trail coming down the hill from the upper right, which I'll come down later.

Just past the junction of the green trail is a small, narrow farm pond.

Looking ahead up the purple trail is the orange trail, which leads off to the left. Mike and Kitty head down this trail. I will be returning on this trail later in the day.

Above the purple trail is a fence marking the property line. Here are cattle grazing on an adjacent ranch. The smoke in the distance is probably from a controlled burn at Henry Coe State Park.

The purple trail reaches its highpoint and begins its descent as it turns to the southwest at the northwest corner of the ranch. This is a view looking towards the northwest. You can see the ridge of the Sierra Azuls in the distance.

Here is a view towards the west. The mountains behind Gilroy can be seen in the distance. This first part of the descent is relatively gentle.

As you descend, you begin to see a steep valley below, with two densely-wooded ridges on the other side. Beyond that, you can see the farms around Gilroy.

Then begins the steepest part of the trail, a 40-50% grade. The ground is loose dirt, so you have to step slowly and carefully to avoid slipping. Way down below, you can see the trail.

This is a view looking down the steep section of the trail.

This is a view looking back up the trail to the start of the steep section.

The trail continues its steep descent.

Looking back up the trail.

The trail begins to level off as it turns to the left.

The trail levels off near this gove of oak trees. This is shady place to rest.

Now the trail is fairly flat as it runs along the hillside and in and out of oak woodlands.

Here's an old cattle watering trough next to a dry creek.

Below the trail are scattered oak trees.

The trail enters an oak forest.

Another dry creek.

Looking back at the steep descent down the purple trail, I can see two hikers, which turn out to be Sam and Elaine Drake.

Horses head through the forest.

This is the junction of the purple trail and the yellow trail.

The purple trail heads through this forest of young oaks.

The purple trail continues downhill, but I turned around at this point  It hits the blue trail after 0.25 miles, which you can take back uphill. The purple trail continues for another 2.2 miles, climbing up and over the next ridge and ending at a closed gate on Canada Road.

I met Sam and Elaine at the trail junction. They continued down the purple trail to the blue trail. I took the flatter and shorter yellow trail.

The tour continues in part 2.

Created by Ronald Horii,11/23/08