Unlike many of the closing state parks, Benbow Lake State Recreation Area had full-time staff collecting the day use fees at the entrance booth. As we paid the fee, Patty and I asked where the trailhead was. The Benbow website described a 2-1/2 mile hike overlooking the countryside and Benbow Lake, with the trailhead starting at campsite #73.
Well! Not only did this state employee have no idea where anything was, but actually encouraged us to go to a different park if we wanted to hike! "Perhaps Camp Rich-ardson," she suggested. Gosh! It's difficult to care about the fate of a park when the staff itself appears ambivalent.
I may be in error, but when I hear the words "state recre-ation area" I imagine a variety of outdoor activities are to be had. I suppose if picnic tables and a volleyball net are your idea of such, then you'd be happy with this park. After circling the small parking lot it was evident there was no hiking, no lake, and no camp-sites. Nonetheless, we got out our picnic lunch, and then commenced exploring what was there.
We walked along a short service road that followed the path of an already half-dry river bed. I fear this is one of California's drought years. Most rivers and lakes I've seen - in the months of April and May - are already very low. A variety of beautiful foliage lined the creek. There were surprisingly few birds.
A stage in the middle of the lawn indi-cated that live performances happened from time to time. I'd guess that won't be happening this year though.
After bumbling around the creek for awhile, Patty noticed a sign on the adjacent Highway 101, saying that the Benbow Lake State Park Campgrounds were another three miles away. Having seen pretty much all there was to see at the "official" State Park entrance, we got in the car and drove toward the camp-ground. But, as we approached the offramp, another sign for the campground had the word "CLOSED" pasted over it.
"What do you think?" we asked each other. "Should we check it out anyway?"
"Nah! Let's go to the beach!"
And that's what we did, ending our day at the beautiful Westport Union Landing State Beach north of Fort Bragg.
I hope to see you at the State Parks.