Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spring Strangeness

View to town and the ocean
Well, now that it is just about summer, it looks like we nature cravers in the bay area can now look forward to a few real California spring days before the season evaporates, and sales of sunscreen and electrolyte solution begin to pick up. The weather was so awful last weekend that I decided to take my chances on a Sunday urban bike ride instead of going on a hike. I’m getting a little tired of wet hikes. Especially considering that this should be prime time for wild flowers. But I’ve been on a couple of decent hikes lately in spite of all the strangeness in the climate. I’ll post a few as time permits. I’m just glad I didn’t have plans for the high country any time soon. I have a feeling the mosquitoes are going to be just about unbearable this summer with so much standing water after the melt. Not that any time is really bad in Yosemite. But don't get me dreaming this close to our vacation.

View to the clubhouse from the Spring Trail
Casual hiking at Pogonip is pleasurable any time, but during the spring it was positively a joy. It would be amazing to have the Santa Cruz greenbelt close at hand, but a drive over the hill is more than worth it when you want to get outside and enjoy yourself without any major challenges. Then, when you are through with the hike, you’re still fresh enough (…not too stinky), to spend some time shopping for great prices on local fresh produce; or go enjoy some suds and a meal at one of the quaint little restaurants in town. The park is located just on the edge of the southern urban area and is adjacent to UCSC. The versatile trail system provides many different smaller loops, which can be combined for a longer meandering route that will bring you through thickly shaded groves of trees, pretty riparian routes, and open grassy meadows, all within a relatively small area. Pogonip’s trails also link up with the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail for an even longer ramble that will keep your feet moving all day. Head into the redwoods of Henry Cowell State Park, or out to the coast. The place has a rich history which includes native artifacts, some of Henry Cowell’s old lime works, and a defunct 30s era polo club among the curious relics.

Chinquipin Road
The trailhead on Golf Course Drive, right off of highway 9 has very limited parking, so getting there early is recommended. There are other ways into the park though. The Harvey West Park entrance just a couple of blocks south would be a good alternative. The trailhead is at virtual sea level, while the highest point in the park is along the Spring Trail which tops out at about 1131 feet. The center section is open and sunny, but the ocean breezes tend to mitigate somewhat. The surrounding higher areas are mostly wooded with plenty of shade, and you will get some views. The trail system is mostly well marked, and many wild flowers can be seen if you keep your eyes open. We combined our interior route with an out-n-back up the U-Con Trail, and Fuel Break Road, into UCSC, and along Chinquipin Road to Empire Grade. I have enjoyed this section of trail many years past for its wild flowers. Lot’s of Blow tube Iris and violets, plus many other common species abound as cyclists blow past them hardly noticing. This regional trail route is a popular multi-use route, so expect to have plenty of 2 wheeled company outside of Pogonip or Henry Cowell. Chinquipin Road and the nearby UCSC trail system is mostly flat, so it makes a nice casual bicycling route, in a pastoral setting, with natural terrain. The U-con Trail passes through a nice redwood grove with white Two Eyed Violets peeking out at you with their little purplish eyes the whole way, joined by yellow Wood Violets, and lots of Hedge Nettle.

Up behind the old lime kilns, you can enjoy some strangeness that people with too much time on their hands have created with rocks. It looks like some kind of rock garden maze with weird cultic overtones. I keep expecting to see the Blair Witch pop out from behind the bushes up there on the Kiln Trail. I want to be the first to get a photo. Down in the flats, the old clubhouse is worth some checking out. There was supposed to be a restoration carried out, but I don’t see any progress being made. There are some nice bee hives up in the rafters though. If the creeks are running, don’t miss the Pogonip Creek Nature Loop. Keep your eyes open for wildlife too.

Click here to see a track log and photos from this hike on Everytrail

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