Lake Ranch Trail
Black Road Entrance
Sanborn County Park
Update: Ben Reardon hiked this trial in April, 2011. Winter storms have made this a more difficult trail. He reports that it is "strewn with rocks, gulleys, landslides, and downed trees." I'll check on repairs. Neil Wiley
Sometimes you arenít looking for Mount Everest. You donít want to be challenged or stressed or strained. You just want a nice walk with no big climbs and lots of shade. Well, hereís a ďGĒ ride, suitable for all ages. Itís easy to reach, easy to walk. Welcome to the Lake Ranch Trail of Sanborn County Park.
From the bottom of Black Road and Highway 17, itís a pleasant four-mile drive up to the back entrance of Sanborn County Park. Easy to miss, the entrance hides on the right side of the road. Watch for a gate and a small parking area for two or three cars.
As you step around the gate, you find a little one-lane dirt road. Then itís ďLook, ma, Iím hiking.Ē
You could travel this road/trail in a wheelchair, even though bikes arenít allowed. And while itís smooth and flat as a city sidewalk, the trail wanders through heavy shade around interesting twists and turns along a 2000-foot ridge southwest of Lyndon Canyon. Peeking through the firs and redwoods, you see occasional views up toward Montevina Road.
As you walk along the trail, you hear quail, crows, jays and the sound of your own feet. You smell forest. Shade and little waterfalls cool you. Itís a natural high.
Then the forest opens to a large wetland meadow. Butterflies give way to dragonflies. You hear water rushing down a ravine, then
break out into the sun, and see a little mountain lakeóthe Lake Ranch Reservoir. It may be manmade, but it looks like it belongs here, nestled between two low ridges. You can see far off mountains, but the beauty is closer. Hundreds of wildflowers surround the lake. Even the algae looks pretty.
My friends, the Fields, call this Bullfrog Lake, in honor of the frogs with buffalo-big croaking, but the noise doesnít appear to bother the swimming ducks or the large stately heron.
One of the few signs of human intervention are picnic tables, one at each end of the lake, and two more under a nearby grove of maples. I dozed on top of one of the tables until a flock of geese flew over.
From here, you could continue north on a steep downgrade to a gate on Sanborn Road, but itís more pleasant to walk back to Black Road. The round trip is about three and one-half miles. Even including the nap and a lunch, the hike took only a few hours. I saw two people all day. If you are lucky, you may not see any.
Itís not a big challenge; simply restful, calm and serene. Are you ready for a walk on the mild side?
Note: A reader called to remind me that dogs are not allowed on this