Marching through Fort Ord
Neil Wiley

When Lori Fabris suggested this hike, I had my doubts. Although you should always trust your trainer, Lori is a mountain biker. As riders, rather than walkers, bikers appear to love steep hills, long multi-mile jaunts (Whatís another ten miles?), and lots of dangerous speed.

Speaking for hikers, we actually like to see the scenery, not in a blur, but rather step by step. And zipping up some hill, simply to roll down the other side is, without wheels, not that much fun.

Also, the idea of returning to an army base, especially one once known as the home of advanced infantry training, brought back memories of double time marches to rifle ranges, PT drills, and uncomfortable bivouacs.

But now that Fort Ord is no longer under military occupation, these public lands have been transformed into a great recreational area for walkers, bikers, dogs, and horses. Over 50 miles of trails take you through 7,200 acres of pleasant valleys, up and down over rounded California hills, and high up ridges with great views of the Salinas Valley and the back country of Fort Ord. In fact, if it wasnít for signs saying "WARNING. EXPLOSIVES AREA! DO NOT ENTER," you might think you were in a state park. (For some reason, I avoided these areas.)

Instead, I focused on Fort Ordís northeast corner, south of Reservation Road and north of Jacks Road, and bounded to the west by Engineer Canyon Road and to the east by Portola Road/Creekside Terrace. To get there from Highway 1 in Monterey, take Del Monte Avenue, then turn left on Reservation Road. This road takes you around the back of Fort Ord. Just before you reach Highway 68, turn right to Creekside Terrace. Youíll find a parking area and an entry road (Old Reservation Road) into the public lands.

On my hike, I followed the road until I saw a trail marker on the left for Trail 2. This sand road is relatively flat for a short distance, and then climbs from 70 to 350 feet. To gain more altitude, I turned right on Trail 34, also well-named as the Staircase Trail. It takes you up a short but very steep trail with natural steps gouged into the sandstone. I donít think that many horse or bike riders would or could ride up the 45 percent grade.

The tough climb was worth it. I emerged high on the ridge-top Trail 33. Turning right, it was only a few steps to a bench overlooking the Salinas Valley. After a short rest and a well-earned apple, I walked back south along the ridge for several miles. The wide and often quite sandy trail was relatively flat, offering good canyon views to the left, and wide views of a somewhat more desolate rocky "desertscape" on the right. As I headed deeper into the public lands, the landscape looked drier and dustier. It was hard to believe that I was only a few miles from civilization.

When I reached Jackís Road, I turned left, and walked downhill about one hundred yards to find Trail 41 (Goat Trail) on the right. After a short walk, the trail comes to a T. I went left. As the single track trail went up a good grade to the top of a small hill, the view changed from dusty desolation to rounded hills, mostly meadowed but with occasional oaks. It was a view from a Northern California picture postcard.

The trail continued around and generally down the rounded hills for a mile and a half until it met Oil Well Road. It was my favorite trail of the day.

I turned left on Oil Well Road, following it until it met Trail 2 on the right. This trail goes up a long but easy grade, past an interesting old log cabin and back to Trail 34, to complete the loop, then down Trail 2 back to Old Reservation Road and my car.

As a reward for my good work, I stopped off in Moss Landing for a late lunch at the Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant, located just north of the power plant and bridge. The 16 wild-caught lemon-pepper prawns served on a large Caesar salad ($10.95) filled the bill and me.

I recommend Fort Ord for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. I saw a few dogs off-leash. It offers a wide selection of trail difficulty and length, good views, and easy-to-follow well-marked trails. Although it is almost impossible to get lost, be sure to bring a map and water. Shade is somewhat sparse, and it can be hot and dusty in the afternoon.

For a simple trail map and more information, visit website www.ca.blm.gov/hollister/trail_map_fo.htm, or call the Fort Ord office at 831-394-8314. For more detailed trail profiles, 3D maps, current trail conditions, and use patterns, visit www.fortordpubliclands.org.

 

 

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