Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Travertine Springs Loop

View south from Travertine Springs Trail
  Today I was out for a quick solo hike using an old favorite route that I had not been back to for some years. This little 9.7 mile route is great for a quiet, shady, mountain walk under the trees. The hike really lifted my spirits today, so I thought it was worth sharing. I began at Saratoga Gap and hiked down Skyline to the Sea to the junction with the Saratoga Toll Road. The toll road trail is one of those trails that is largely underutilized, but is really a beautiful trail. It stays further away from the highway so you are never consciously aware of the road traffic higher up. This trail also provides many more great view opportunities along the way than does Skyline to the Sea, and it’s much quieter. I made my way down to the Travertine Springs Trail which provides a route back up to Castle Rock State Park. This trail is also a seldom used trail which is really quite beautiful and peaceful. As you hike toward Castle Rock, before long you begin to notice the horsetails and other leafy green vegetation indicative of a water source, and resulting in very moist soils. The area around the actual spring looks almost tropical except for the tall conifers that tower above. It’s an interesting area to check out. Along the way you also cross over the San Lorenzo River at a point very near its origin. This is the same river that runs past Henry Cowell and ends out at ocean passing right through downtown Santa Cruz. The river still has a very nice current even this late in the year. You will also pass over other tributaries over foot bridges along the way before heading back uphill to the trail camp at Castle Rock. From there you can use the Loughry Woods Trail to get up to Skyline. This trail is also very pretty, but you cannot help being a little bothered by the noise from the private rod and gun club adjacent to Castle Rock where locals go to play with their guns. After crossing the highway you can pick up the Skyline Trail back to Saratoga Gap to complete the easy 9.7 mile route which requires only moderate elevation change. It would be worth checking out soon with the status of Castle Rock still in grave peril as it is on the infamous closure list.

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