Crane Creek Regional Park; Almost Alone in the Green

gnarled roots and reflections

I had no idea that the land for Crane Creek Regional Park had been donated to the county back in 1975. I guess we overlook the things that are right at our feet. Anyway, a cold, cloudy Wednesday was my first experience of this park, which is named for Oliver Crane, who developed the Crane melon.

(What’s so special about the Crane melon? Well, it’s delicious. It’s also hard to get outside of Sonoma County because, like the Gravenstein apple, it doesn’t travel very well. Crane wanted to develop a melon that would ripen in cooler weather, and he succeeded.)

The 128-acre park is at the base of Sonoma Mountain. The landscape is rolling hills and gently tilting meadows sloping west. In the spring, this must be a splendid wildflower park. On this day it was gray and green – and sloppy.

crane creek kiosk

Voices Carry

There were two cars in the lot when I pulled in. I hung my park membership from the rear-view (otherwise, the day use fee is $7.00); carefully got my purse and tote bag, and locked the purse in the trunk. No, it’s not what you think, I still had my keys. In the tote bag I had my camera, a bottle of water and a notebook. I started down one of the north-running trails. I crossed a short wooden bridge and headed out across a nearly-silent meadow. Then I remembered that my cell phone was in my purse – in the trunk. I debated going back, but I was too lazy. Except for the sound of a woodpecker drilling, the park was quiet. I like the quiet but for some reason the silence made me anxious. I’m a child of horror novels, movies and TV shows, and I felt a little bit like the woman in the first five minutes of the show, you know the one? The one who goes running in the park and is eaten by the monster/killed by the serial killer/abducted by the inbred mutant cannibals. Did I go back and get my phone? Of course not.

If I had been completely alone in the park I might not have been anxious; but I knew there were at least two other people, and I couldn’t see them.

large oak on approach 02

The First of the Great Oaks

Soon I was distracted by the beauty of the trees, one of which, draped in Spanish moss, looked like the arboreal version of a crazy bag lady; and the plashing of the creek which was full and vigorous after the recent rains, and the varieties of birds. I debated following the Creek Trail, but looked at the cone-shaped rocks, slick with water, poking out of the rushing stream and decided against trying to cross. I opted instead for the Lupine Trail, which follows the creek for a little way and then heads across a meadow.

lupine trail

This Should be Beautiful in Spring

A few steps into the meadow I heard voices. They sounded like they were about ten feet behind me, a man and a woman, quite clear. I looked back, thinking I had found one batch of park visitors, but there wasn’t anyone there.

meadow and oaks

I Heard Them First Here

A few feet further on I heard them again, clearly, behind me. The woman said something about a “bad throw.” The man’s voice was lower and I couldn’t decipher the words. And there was no one there. I turned around and waited, scanning the landscape, thinking maybe they were behind the trees or coming around the curve or something, but there wasn’t anyone there.

So I kept walking, maybe a little bit faster.

release the kraken

Release the Kraken!

Fiddleneck Trail is the longest trail in the park, making two-mile loop. Lupine Trail runs into it. I still did have to cross the creek, but there were several flat stones and it wasn’t difficult. The trail leads up the hill to where the Frisbee golf course is. Because Frisbee© is trademarked, the park has to call it a “flying disc course,” but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Frisbee golf. My friend Kathleen is disgusted by this installation because she thinks it runs counter to the purpose of the park (and it probably means some wildflowers get trampled). I don’t know how I feel about it. It goes to the purpose of “parks” for me – do they exist to allow people to interact with nature, or to get physical exercise? Both? But I digress. The hillside trail was extremely muddy, rivulets of water trickling out of the hillside. This part of the trail, up the hill, is studded with stones. I passed one of the flying disc “holes” which is a pylon about six feet tall.

A man and a woman were standing on the hill above me. The woman made a toss with a yellow disc. The disc flew straight and then dipped right. “No, no, no, not again!” she cried as it crashed into the ground. I recognized the voice that had spoken about a bad throw. They had been up on the hill, about a third of a mile from where I was walking, and the topography of the hills had created an outdoor “whispering gallery,” carrying those vibrations to a point behind me. A ghostly mystery was solved in the best CSI tradition.

I smiled and said hello. They did too, and continued down the hill, still practicing.

view from fiddleneck trail 01

There they are, the scalliwags! The source of my “ghost voices.”

A Few Facts to Finish

From Petaluma Hill Road, turn onto Roberts Road and travel 1.8 miles. The road will curve and you end up on Pressley Road without actually doing anything. The parking lot is on your left. Most of the trails are pretty flat. This is a nice walking/hiking and biking park.This particular day, although it was beautiful and peaceful, was not the best day to explore Crane Creek, because recent storms and flooding left the trails slick and mucky. I recommend coming in the spring. Bring sturdy shoes, water, a picnic lunch (tables and benches are conveniently placed along the trails), and field guides on flowers and birds.

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