Friday, March 16, 2007

Wilder Ranch – March 2007

7.2 miles

600 ft. elevation gain

Hiking times – 4 hrs + lunch

Twin Oaks – Wilder Ridge Loop

Photos by Barbara Oberg

Josephine, Graciela, Barbara, Jane, Paula, Pam, Jan, Frank, John and Julie

This was our largest hiking group yet with 10 of us in all. We all remembered to spring forward with daylight savings and successfully rendezvoused at 10:30. We divided into three cars and Frank biked up to meet us at Wilder Ranch.

We actually paid the $6.00 entrance fee, rather than parking up on Highway One like we usually do. I bought a really nice map at the entrance station that includes Wilder, UCSC and Henry Cowell parks.

We walked down through the historic ranch buildings and headed under the overpass on the main fire road. One reason that I haven’t hiked much in Wilder Ranch is because all of the mountain bikers. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many bikers and those that were there were considerate and riding at a reasonable speed.

We took the fire road to the left and headed uphill. The elevation was moderate, but the day was hot. As we hiked up the trail, Pam spotted a coyote hunting in the distance.

At the junction with Twin Oaks trail I went to find a private place to pee and discovered a hidden swing in the thicket of a wonderful old oak tree. The branches came all the way to the ground so, you were completely enclosed. You’d never know the swing was there.

The Twin Oaks trail was very exposed, but beautiful views were behind us. We came out at a gorgeous overlook for our lunch spot. The bright green grasslands of Wilder Ranch led down to a beautiful ocean view. To the left you could see Loma Prieta and the Santa Cruz mountains. Jo spotted a golden eagle flying with two turkey vultures.

Two unicyclists were at the viewpoint. Frank found out they had unicycled all over the world. I asked one of them if balance was an issue and he said no more so than walking. He graciously took our picture. We enjoyed our lunches and drank lots of water.

Frank had brought a small, strong magnifying glass and we looked at wildflowers through the lens. You could see individual grains of pollen.

We began our descent and there were some confusing trails. We consulted our map and found the Wilder Ridge Road, which unfortunately followed next to the dump for awhile. We heard lots of birds in the landfill, came around a corner in the trail and there were four purple stuffed Barneys in the trail. We called it the Barney Graveyard.

We circled down to a creek where two equestrians were watering their horses. The return loop seemed longer, even though it was either downhill or level.

We stopped at the Oak tree and swung in the swing and climbed the thick gnarled branches of the oak. We headed back to the ranch building and walked through the garden, which wasn’t quite in bloom yet. I love the roses when they are blooming at Wilder. We went to the massive Cypress tree in the front yard of the ranch house and admired the old Victorian from it’s branches..

It was a lovely hike. Good company and a beautiful day outside is hard to beat.

Frank had taken off on his bike and John had left long before, so the eight of us women headed over the The Watering Hole on Mission Street for post hike celebration. There were four men in the bar, but three of them quickly left. I asked the bartender if there had ever been more women than men in the bar and he said, “This is a first since I’ve been here.” We took a picture to commemorate this moment in the bar’s history.

Harry, the one brave remaining man, taught Paula and Graciela how to shoot pool. We found out it was Jan’s birthday, so we sang to her over a toast. Put some music on the jukebox, danced, shot pool, talked and just generally took over the place. It was a fine ending to a great hike.

Lesson Learned: Answering the “call of nature” can lead to serendipitous discoveries!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Eagle Rock – March 2007

3.1 miles round trip
Elevatation Gain: 1,328 feet
Hiking Time: 1 ½ hours
Julie and Bill

The hardest thing about this hike was finding the trail! I did this hike seven years ago and I had always wanted to go back – but couldn’t remember how to get to the trailhead. I knew it was on some side road on the way to Big Basin. I knew that you came out at Eagle Rock over looking the top of Empire Grade road. What I didn’t know until I looked at several hiking books – is that Eagle Rock is part of Big Basin Park. Though you wouldn’t know this because signage is minimal. It is an unconnected square area of the park – surrounded by private property.

I found the hike in “South Bay Hikes” by Jeans Rusmore. It was an impromptu hike. I asked Bill on Saturday whether he wanted to go for a hike. Since we were going to our friend Hans’ house for dinner in Boulder Creek – we decided to try and find Eagle Rock.

We stopped for sandwiches in Felton and I realized I had forgotten the hiking book with instructions to the trailhead. I was ready to turn around and drive home, but Bill insisted we could find it on our own. I looked in the Santa Cruz Trail Book at the map of Big Basin and saw the section of the park off Little Basin Road – so we decided to go for it. Our friend Hans thought the trail was on private property owned by Hewlett Packard and didn’t realize it was actually part of Big Basin. He suggested if we got lost to ask someone at the HP camp.

From Boulder Creek you take 236 almost to Big Basin and then turn left on Little Basin Road. It’s a one lane road (reminded me of Lompico). We saw a fire road and turnout with one car parked there. The gate opposite marked HP “No Trespassing”. We decided to see if we could ask someone at the HP camp – but the road split and there were more No Trespassing signs. We turned around and I was going to go to Big Basin to ask – but we decided to try the place the other car was parked. I walked up the fire road and sure enough there was a State Park Boundary sign and the unmarked but very well defined trail.

I didn’t know the elevation of the trail – but now I see that it is over 1,300 feet in a little over a mile. It was uphill all the way – though an easy grade. The trail follows Brooks Creek and there were two creek crossings and a nice little waterfall. It is a forested trail that climbs steadily.

One thing I remembered from this hike was a beautiful arched bridge that is made with wooden nails known as “runnels”. There are metal screws in the support beams but the rest is all wood. It has a neat design so that the boards stick up a bit, so it is easy to climb up and over.

The trail was shaded until the very top, where you hit chaparral and the fire road leading to Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock overlooks the “Locatelli Ranch”. Great 365 degree views from the Valley all the way to the ocean. You could see the Boulder Creek Golf Course in the distance. The view is marred a bit by roads, telephone poles and the abandoned fire tower – but it is still pretty special.

We stayed up on top for about an hour, eating lunch, relaxing and watching the turkey vultures (no eagles) soar on the wind currents. At one point three small planes flew by low. One was only about 10 feet away from Bill at eye level. We sat waiting for the lunar eclipse at 2:45 p.m. but, obviously didn’t see anything. Two teenage boys came up from Empire Grade, followed shortly by two more.

When we went to explore the fire tower – it became obvious that it has become a party site for teenagers. It was covered with graffiti and the door had been ripped off. There were remnants inside of past parties and fires. You could climb to the second floor – but there wasn’t a way out onto the upper balcony.

There was probably going to be a party that night – since it was going to be a full moon. It was sad to see the vandalism of the tower and gave you a different feeling about the place.

The hike back was pleasantly almost all downhill. There was a side trail that I’d like to explore, which the book says leads to another rocky promontory. It only took us 35 minutes to get back to the car.

Lesson Learned: Trust your instincts and being willing to search for the trailhead.