This week we return to the Hillside Natural Area and take in the second of the two major north-south trails, the Live Oak Trail. One picture I don’t need to post is the southern entrance to this trail, since it is featured on our banner logo at the top of the page. It’s the trail on the left, the one without the dog. Not that you won’t see dogs there. The Hillside Natural Area is a popular dog-walking spot and the Live Oak trail is probably one of the best used routes.
From its start in a stand of eucalyptus trees, the trail then moves on to an open hillside, with two benches suitable for views, rest or just silent contemplation. (The two accompanying photos prove that viewing opportunities don’t end at sundown.) Moving on, we pass under the eponymous oaks and into the first of two small canyons that contain branches of Wildwood Creek (or would, if we ever got any rain). The main channel of Wildwood Creek forms part of the boundary of the southern section of Hillside Natural Area, and higher up the creek can be seen in the Madera Open Space. Eventually these branches meet the main branch somewhere underground in the flats, and Wildwood is itself eventually joins Baxter Creek, which finds the bay in Richmond northwest of Point Isabel.
Between the two creek beds is another open hillside, and still another bench, and the trail reaches its end after the second creek, where it meets the steep Navellier trail (#29). Across Navellier trail the path continues, but now called the Douglas Trail (#27). Douglas trail exits the park at Douglas Dr., a circle off Potrero Ave.
On either side of the Navellier trail, new steps were installed last year as part of an Eagle Scout project by Johnny Wu of Albany. This is fitting, since Live Oak and Douglas used to be referred to as the “Nature Trail.” Why? Because many years ago another Eagle Scout project laid out an interpretive trail along the route. Numbered posts can still be seen along the trails, and although the hillside has changed over time, you can still download the guide from the Trail Trekker website. The guide exists in two forms, a pamphlet that you and print out and take with you, and a longer 15 page report on the nature of the Hillside Natural Area, or at least as it was then. Maybe a future scout will produce a new one. Until then, Friends of Five Creeks have natural history links for the park on this page, and also have this page at inaturalist.org.