TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

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wildhiker
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TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by wildhiker » Tue May 12, 2020 11:13 pm

With all the beautiful spring weather, my wife and I have been anxious to get out camping. The COVID-19 health orders have closed all public campgrounds within about 3 hours drive of the Bay Area, except for Pinnacles National Park. We already camped there twice in March and expected it to be too hot in May. We prefer backpacking, but our go-to spring backpacking area, Henry Coe State Park, was closed. Actually, the trails are open for hiking, but all parking is closed. It's not clear if backpacking is allowed if you got someone to drop you off and pick you up again.

So, I studied maps and did some internet searching to find a place open for backpacking or dispersed camping not too far from Palo Alto. Back in the 70s I did some backpacking in the Cache Creek area (BLM) in the inner Coast Ranges east of Clear Lake, but the BLM website said it was closed. Then I noticed the Knoxville Wildlife Area to the south, managed by the state Fish and Wildlife Department. This is at the very northern end of Napa County, north of Lake Berryessa. The Fish and Wildlife website (https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to ... oxville-WA) said that the Knoxville Wildlife Area was still open and dispersed camping was allowed if at least 1/4 mile from the access road.

The trails website of the Tuleyome conservation group (http://www.tuleyome.org/trails) has descriptions and maps for trails in Napa and Yolo counties. Zim-Zim Creek in the Knoxville Wildlife Area is described as a nice hike along a permanent stream leading to a waterfall. Google satellite view showed a lot of oak woodland along the stream valley, so that was promising for camping. Caltopo fire history showed that it last burned in 2004, unlike the areas to the south and east that burned in 2018. It looked like a good spot to maintain social distancing. It was close enough that we could drive there and back without stopping for gas or anything else and I expected to find few people there. So we settled on Zim-Zim creek for a quick overnight.

We left Palo Alto Saturday morning, May 9, and got to the Zim-Zim Creek trailhead (see the Tuleyome website for directions) in 2 hours and 45 minutes. We first took a short dayhike up Long Canyon just to the north to check it out. Then we donned backpacks around 11:30 am and headed up the Zim-Zim trail. My main concern was heat - Friday had been 90 degrees F in Palo Alto and 90 was again forecast for this northern Napa Valley area on Saturday. It was definitely warm, but a breeze came up in the afternoon and I don't think it got above the mid-80s.

This Knoxville Wildlife Area was purchased over the years from ranch lands. But there is no evidence of any recent cattle grazing (no cowpies, not even old ones, and lots of tall grass) and very little fencing. The terrain and vegetation reminded me of Henry Coe State Park, but not as rugged as Coe and with less oak woodland and more dense chaparral than Coe. It did have that same nice remote feeling as Coe. And my hunch that there would be few people there turned out correct. There were a few cars in the parking area and we passed only a few day-hikers on the trail. No mountain bikes, although I suspect the area is open to biking. As advertised, Zim-Zim Creek still had a small flow between pools, but lots of algae in the stream. After winter rains, it can apparently be a raging creek.

We did a loop hike of about 11 miles up the creek to the "waterfall" (now just a tiny trickle), camping just beyond it, and then back along the ridgetop to the east. The entire route was on graded fire roads, closed to public vehicles. We camped on a breezy shady knoll among oaks above the waterfall and had this upper valley all to ourselves. I had to take my containers down a steep fire road about 1/4 mile to the creek to filter water and then carry it back up. But it was nice to be up higher in the breeze with a view.

The whole area was drying up fast. There was still some green grass in the broad valley of Zim-Zim creek and several patches of an unusual yellow-orange lupine, along with scattered other wildflowers. Early April would have been a much better time to visit this area.

On Sunday, we hiked out by 10:30 am and were back home at 1 pm in plenty of time to clean up and celebrate Mother's Day with my daughter's family. This was an excellent warm-up backpack trip when everything else is closed off.

-Phil

Here are some photos.
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Last edited by wildhiker on Wed May 13, 2020 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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Re: TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by c9h13no3 » Wed May 13, 2020 1:09 am

Nice trip :). It's definitely on the list to get to in winter when the falls are pumping.
wildhiker wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 11:13 pm
The whole area was drying up fast. There was still some green grass in the broad valley of Zim-Zim creek and several patches of an unusual yellow-orange lupine, along with scattered other wildflowers. Early April would have been a much better time to visit this area.
Yeah, I'm always surprised how fast the Lake Berryessa region dries up. I was up there on April 11th. The north faces of the hills were green, but the south faces were all golden brown & in full summer mode. Late March might be even better, course it varies year to year.

The burned regions do have the perk of having *tons* of Douglas Wallflowers in them. So you see these burned sections of chaparral that are missing, with an orange glow where the bushes used to be. I'll try to dig up a picture off of my phone.
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Re: TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by balzaccom » Wed May 13, 2020 4:39 pm

Thanks for posting this. We used to live up in that area...and this brings back memories.
Balzaccom

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Re: TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by Harlen » Thu May 14, 2020 11:23 am

Nice trip Phil. Thanks for all of the information on a new place-- any room for dogs in Zim-Zim Creek? We too are keen to get out hiking, all we do anymore is a bit of running in Nisene Marks- our local State Park, and on the beach. I wonder if you and your wife have already discovered some of the reputedly fine hiking in the hills east of Año Nuevo? It may be only quasi-legal access? We used to love to hike the trails of Butano Creek, but not with dogs. Have you enjoyed those trails yet?
We love the photos you included, especially the yellow lupines! Thanks for the inspiration to get out.

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Re: TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by wildhiker » Thu May 14, 2020 10:16 pm

Some of the day hikers we passed at Zim-Zim Creek had dogs, so I guess they are OK there. I wouldn't go that far just for a day hike though. It was just the closest place I could find that was open to backpacking. All our county parks and open space preserves in Santa Clara County are open for day hikes and many of them allow dogs on trails.
-Phil

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Re: TR: Zim-Zim Creek, Knoxville Wildlife Area, May 9-10, 2020

Post by CarlRaillard » Thu May 14, 2020 10:37 pm

Hello!

This region is so great! I've seen a dipper at the base of Zim-Zim falls. Also, there are bears in the area. Here's a photo I took last March, along Foley Creek, which is about three miles north of Zim-Zim falls.

Sincerely,
Carl Raillard
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Fun drawings of wild country.

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