Hannah and I make it six mornings in a row of meditating; then we are off for a forty minute walk through the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz, California before breakfast at our Comfort Inn. Along Water Street, I snap this picture from Callahan’s Bar.
Just 23 miles north of Santa Cruz lies the largest stand of redwoods in America at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Boulder Creek. Who knew? Taking Route 17 north to Route 9 before turning on the winding Big Basin Way to the park entrance, we arrive ¾ of an hour later. Redwoods have lined our drive for much of the way so that very little sun gets to the pavement below. Hannah is leery of ever living in such a setting. That said, if our grandsons Owen and Max lived here in Boulder Creek, we’d find a way.
Paying $9 for seniors to enter the park, we gladly pay California State Parks for their stewardship of these hiking redwoods. We also have learned previously that the fine for not paying for parking at a state park is $71! Got to get people’s attention with a big number.
After telling the ranger we’d like to hike for 2 ½ to 3 hours, she gives us a park trail map and suggests the Skyline to the Sea Trail with its 700’ of elevation gain through some of the largest red groves in the park. On a Martin Luther King, Jr. Friday, we have larceny in our hearts. You see, we are stealing a blue sky hiking day, with El Nino just off shore promising an entire washout weekend of rain and high winds.
Having climbed nearly 1000’ from Santa Cruz, we are greeted by 47F here at the park. Thinking it would be warmer for the hike, Hannah forgets her hiking gloves. Ever her Lancelot, I offer my wool blend socks (still unused and clean I might add) for her hands. Look carefully at the pictures in this blog and you will see a fine pair of grey/blue socks on her hands.
The Skyline to the Sea Trail goes from the Pacific Ocean well into the mountains. We pick it up near the Ranger Station heading inland along Opal Creek. The ranger tells us that this river bed has been dry for the last few years. Though coast redwoods can be 300’ tall and 50’ around, they have no taproot. They rely on a network of far reaching roots six feet beneath the surface for nourishment and sustenance.
Wet and sloppy in places from rain over the last week, the trail is hard packed dirt which makes it easy on our feet for what is scheduled to be a six mile hike. The redwoods are “stunning” to quote my college roommate, Big Steve. We can’t see the tops and I find it difficult to capture their majesty on my iPhone. But I’ll try.
Paralleling the creek we rise and fall along the trail with only a slight rise in elevation. Soon we leave the Skyline to the Sea Trail for the Meteor Trail heading to the Middle Ridge Fire Road. With redwoods to our right, left, and center we begin the climb to nearly 1700’ at the Ocean View summit.
Once the Meteor Trail meets the Middle Ridge Road we have a 16′ wide fire road down the mountain. The summit at Ocean View offers more views of trees and mountains but no ocean today. Maybe the sea haze keeps us from seeing the Pacific.
Hannah and I are no fans of fire roads through the forest. They lack the undulations of terrain and the winding trails of surprise through the forest. With a mile of blah, we soon turn for the Dool Trail and the trailhead at the Ranger Station, looking for someone to take our picture in front of some sweet redwoods.
Given the chance to add another mile to the six we have planned, we take the serpentine Creeping Forest Trail. For the first 90 minutes today, we have seen no one else on the trail. Hoping to find someone who will take our picture, we let two college girls pass us by since there isn’t the right redwood for this photo opp.
Minutes later we meet up with Christine and her son Jared out for a hike. Both immediately beam and agree to take our picture. Just finishing college, Jared says that we’ve got to find the right redwood. I love his spirit. And then he and his mom both say there’s a great stand of redwoods that they have just passed. Immediately we all back track and they lead us maybe 300 yards to get the right picture.
Soon we are in a grove of old growth redwoods and Jared jumps into action, suggesting many shots against the redwood, and then fifteen more with the afternoon sun streaming through the trees.
Amazing how energizing it is meeting upbeat and engaging folks. No longer tired from seven miles of hiking, we smile to each other knowing how lucky we all are to have the redwoods to ourselves when rain and more rain will fall from Big Bad El Nino this weekend.
Having had six days in a row along the California coast from the Goleta bluffs near Santa Barbara to Big Sur’s mountains, we now cede the weekend to El Hombre and his minions.
Tomorrow, we’ll drive north through San Francisco to Petaluma to spend the afternoon watching Tom Brady and America’s Team, the New England Patriots, rip the heart out of the Kansas City Chiefs from the, what else, Heartland of America.