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‘Path of the Padres’ hike reservations open

The Path of the Padres hike will take adventurers into remote terrain.

The Path of the Padres hike will take adventurers into remote terrain.

The California State Parks staff at the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area will again be leading the popular “Path of the Padres” hikes on some Fridays and most Saturdays and Sundays from March 2 through April 28, 2013.

The “Path of the Padres” got its name because it was the path through the Diablo Range taken by the padres as they came from Mission San Juan Bautista, 35 miles along Los Banos Creek, and into the Central Valley in the early 1800s. Later came the Spanish missionaries, the Californios, the miners and the ranchers.   Clues also indicate Native American Indians lived along the creek.  Visitors will have the opportunity to walk in their footsteps, and see some of the special plants that grow along the creek, including beautiful displays of wildflowers, along with  the animals that have been drawn to its waters, such as wild pigs, deer, coyotes, pond turtles, and even bald eagles.

The hike begins at the Los Banos Creek Reservoir boat launch ramp at 8 a.m. and returns to the ramp about 3:30 p.m. on the designated dates.  A pontoon boat carries passengers for about 30 to 40 minutes to the west end of the reservoir. Along the way, short stops are made so the hikers can observe wildlife along the shore.

The group leaves the boat at the west end of the reservoir for a five mile round-trip hike. Here, visitors can see the area where in the early 1800s the Spanish padres from Mission San Juan Bautista camped on their journey to the Central Valley.

This hike is moderately strenuous and will take about five hours. Participants must be in good physical condition. Because Los Banos Creek is crossed several times during the hike, footwear may get wet. Layered clothing and sturdy footwear should be a priority. Hikers should carry a lunch and a minimum of two quarts of water (more if a hot day). The hike traverses country that can be very hot and dry, depending on weather conditions, so a hat and sunscreen are recommended.

Throughout the hike, the natural and historic features of the area are pointed out and discussed by the hike leader. The lunch stop is near the historic “baths,” deep pools in the creek, carved in bedrock, which gave Los Banos its name. As early as 1805 the mission padres and accompanying soldiers washed and rested here at Los Banos del Padre Arroyo, now simply Los Banos Creek.

Participants have the option of taking a side trip up a steep hill for a spectacular view of the Menjoulet Canyon and the proposed site of the Los Banos Grandes Reservoir. The canyon floor is covered with 576 acres of old-growth Sycamore forest, described by Department of Fish & Game biologists as the largest and most intact natural community of its kind left in California. Binoculars add greatly to enjoyment of the scenery, and may help hikers spot falcons and eagles in the area.

These hikes are open to the public, ages 6 years and older, by advance reservation only. School group hikes with a minimum of 10 participants may be arranged during the week.

Call 826-1197 weekdays from 9-4 for reservations. A fee of $12.00 per person over 12 years old, and $7 per child age 6 to 12 is required to confirm the telephone reservations. A family of five may reserve space for two adults and three children for $30. Space may be limited, so early reservations are recommended.

On the day of the hike, visitors must pay the State Park day use parking fee of $10 per car upon entry. Scheduled hikes may be canceled if minimum number of hikers is not met.