The Hot Spot, Part 1

The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 may be history, but the cause of the quake — movement along the San Andreas Fault — still occurs all up and down the coast of Northern California. Sonoma County’s Hot Spot is only one of several faults along the San Andreas Fault Zone. I’ve found it nearly impossible to find much information about The Hot Spot online, although it first came to my notice when it popped up on Google Maps as I scanned the Sonoma coast south of Gualala. This small park is on property belonging to The Sea Ranch Association, and if you manage to find your way along the narrow, steep, and winding roads to this mysterious spot, they do provide a free brochure, the San Andreas Fault Interpretive Trail Guide.

The 1906 magnitude 7.8 San Francisco quake was caused by lateral movement along more than three hundred miles of this fault zone, from San Juan Bautista to Shelter Cove… In addition to features of the Fault Zone such as ridges, hummocks, swales, and a sag pond, this trail demonstrates other earthquake clues; forest ecology; impacts from logging in the 1890s — Trail guide brochure

We arrived around noon on a Tuesday in September 2022 and found we had the place entirely to ourselves — not another person or vehicle anywhere to be found. We could hear the sound of flowing water as soon as we got out of the car and quickly realized we were only a short distance from the South Fork of the Gualala River; of course the Big Guy had to make a beeline for the water, looking to see if any trout were visible. We didn’t see any trout but did spot some other local wildlife enjoying the cool water.

Gravel banks, low water

Can you find the very tiny amphibian?

Willows and redwoods

I was impatient to start exploring the forest, but it wasn’t until halfway through our hike that we finally found the box containing the trail guides. As we walked deeper into the redwood forest, neither of us had any clue where the trail was taking us or what to expect; we just started walking parallel to the river, enjoying the beauty of the redwoods and savoring the peace and quiet.

New life from old trees

To be continued…

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