The Thatching Ants

July 2019 Hiking


The tale

Thatching ants are native to North America. Their nests are impressive mounds of dried leaves, twigs, and other detritus that look like normal (albeit large) clumps of debris … until you look closer and notice the debris is swarming with red and black insects.

Some of that I learned from reading Wikipedia and other articles. Other parts I discovered first hand.

Bear Creek Redwoods OSP opened to the public on on June 8, 2019 — about a month ago. The facilities were new, especially near the sunny, 30+ spot parking area, and around a nearby pond. From there the trails went west, showing signs of both age and recent upkeep, with new erosion control and clear signage.

The trails didn’t have many landscape views, but plenty of giant trees and, unfortunately, poison oak. Luckily rangers kept the wide trail clear of obstacles.

Cut log along the trail
The trails were free from debris, including fallen trees.

I took the preserve’s loop, with a side trip to the top of Madrone Knoll, elevation 2400’. The Madrone Knoll Trail was rougher than the Redwood Springs Trail loop, and more prone to having ants.

Thatching ant nest
A thatching ant nest: one of the ways nature says “do not touch”.

About half-way to the knoll, I found the thatching ants’ thatched nest: a black, knee-high nest that blended into the foliage well. I wouldn’t have seen it except that they’d built it right next to the trail. The ants weren’t aggressive, but I didn’t push my luck by probing their nest of twigs, leaves, and forest debris.

Coastal redwoods shaded one stretch of the Alma Trail trail, which crossed Webb Creek with a sturdy bridge.

Tall trees on a sunny day
Obligatory photo of sky-scraping trees.

That’s about it. Bear Creek Redwoods is an easy getaway from San Jose with tall trees and a decent ascension.

For next time

  • This preserve is easy to find, right off of Bear Creek Road leading to Skyline Blvd. Blink and you’ll miss it.
  • The climb is deceptive, but mostly shady. Be prepared for exercise.
  • While lacking in sweeping vistas, it doesn’t want for tall trees.
  • Aside from 30–40 thousand ants, the preserve wasn’t crowded. That may change as people learn there’s a good trail and tall trees less than half an hour south of Los Gatos.