Trying to squeeze a walk in between wild rainstorms, I headed up the Palos Colorados Trail in the late afternoon. The lower end of the trail presents a sort of Sleeping-Beauty landscape, as Algerian Ivy, vinca and blackberries swathe the trees along the muddy trail. After using a sturdy plank to cross Palo Seco Creek and climbing a wood-and-dirt stairway, you will reach a narrow, decomposed granite trail on the northeast side of a steep gorge.
The rattle of the creek far below is a welcome sound as you ascend under flying buttresses of bay laurel; the columns of this cathedral are slender redwood trees. Two deadfalls make the trail a little bit of a challenge right now, especially in wet conditions, but can be climbed over if you are wearing good hiking shoes.
I didn’t expect much company, given the weather and the time of day, but wound up bumping into several solo walkers and a middle-aged couple. The trail is narrow enough that yielding the right-of-way is tricky in places, which is at least part of the reason it’s closed to mountain bikers.
As the creek rises toward the trail, the decomposed rock turns back to slippery mud. I turned around at the stile where Palos Colorados meets the Sinawik Trail. One branch heads to the wreck of the Sinawik Cabin, visible to the left and above; another continues along the creek ahead to the Picnic Meadow.
I stood a minute enjoying the scenery before turning around, and two separate walkers came by doing meditative hand gestures in time with their breathing: a tai chi flash mob.
Getting there: The trailhead is on Joaquin Miller Court, off Mountain Boulevard near Sequoia Lodge.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The small Woodminster neighborhood retail area has several restaurants, a hardware store and a small grocery store.
More information: Joaquin Miller Park trail map.