Hike #8: Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

Location: Santa Cruz

Distance: 4.8m

Entry fee: $6

While spending the weekend in Santa Cruz with Emily and Ashley, two of my closest friends from high school, I figured it might be a good time to knock out a hike in the area.  Despite a rapidly escalating case of poison oak, I figured a short, flat stroll outdoors on wide, paved roads, far away from any questionable foliage with some old friends might be a nice way to spend the weekend.

Not entirely what happened.  It would be misleading to say we did this hike as described in the book.  We definitely went hiking in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, but our hike was 8 miles (not 4), the grade was pretty steep in some areas (not “steady and mostly downhill”), we never made it to the observation deck (despite convincing ourselves that we had), and half the time the river was on our left when it should have been on our right.

How did this happen? There are many theories.  Ashley blamed the book.  Emily blamed the guide (me).  I kind of blamed Ashley, because I was under the impression that she had done the hike before (sorry Ash) and because I lacked any other defensible rationale for our situation.

About 10 minutes into the hike we (read: I) reference the book and see that, though we have apparently walked the right distance and are in the right location, the river is on our left instead of our right.  So we are walking the wrong direction.  Weird.

Oh, well…we turn around and continue walking another mile or two following what we believe is the right trail despite the fact that we a.) are not seeing any white, sandy trails as described in the book (we blame the rain and mud and point to some white rocks on the side of the trail…”yeah, see?  there’s the white sand!”), b.) have yet to see the name of the trail we are supposed to be walking along on any trailhead post (we blame the book/trailheads being outdated),  and c.) had long since passedthe mileage marker for the observation deck according to Emily’s pedometer.

Almost 3 miles in we come across a small clearing with a bench that looks out over the valley all the way down to Santa Cruz.  “The observation deck!” we cry, wanting so badly to believe we are going the right way that we ignore the fact that there is absolutely no deck whatsoever near these benches, no “360 view” of Santa Cruz, and that there is a hill rising up behind us when the book says this deck is located on the highest summit in the area.

From here things became even less logical…we decided to take a detour (some people were getting bored with the paved road) and, going off of our location on the map (which wasn’t our real location at all), start down a muddy hill towards the river, thinking it would take us back to the car.  Wrong.  Dead ends into fallen trees and the rushing river.  There are beware of mountain lion signs everywhere, which has Emily nervous.  I pick up a big stick and start swinging it around to protect us as we walk.  Back up the hill.   Back to the fireroad which takes us to…a major thoroughfare, where a nice gentleman shows us that we have actually strayed so far south that we are now off the map entirely.

Long story short (too late), 5 miles later we made it back to the car.

Hike #8:  failure.  But good times anyway.  And we saw a really cool huge bright yellow banana slug.  Those things never get old.

Lessons learned: don’t give me the map

Flora and Fauna: blackberry bush (which I kept confusing with poison oak)

2 thoughts on “Hike #8: Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

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