Although I'm not a fan of crowds, it was heartening to see a fairly full parking lot and lots of day hikers on a Friday at Castle Rock State Park. I've been to many parks where attendance was sparse, and on a few occasions encountered no one on my tours.
The woods at Castle Rock are lush and mossy, with Madrones, Coastal Red-woods and Douglas Firs being the predominant forest species. Most of the park's thirty-two miles of hiking and horseback riding trails are in their wild and natural state. Dramatic canyon views are around many a turn.
The trails run along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and are part of an extensive system that links up with Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and the Pacific Coast.
I took a couple of the short hikes. In the front portion of the park are many unusual rock formations. If there is an interesting boulder, there is probably a rock climber - or student rock climber - honing their skills with an instructor, with the safety of not being too far off the ground.
The good news is that Castle Rock will be staying open. A nonprofit conservation group from Los Altos is donating $250,000 to keep the park running. The Semper-virens Fund protects and permanently preserves redwood forests, wildlife habitat, watersheds, and other important natural features of California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, and encourages people to appreciate and enjoy this environment.
That is enough money to hire a full-time ranger, a mainten-ance worker, and seasonal workers. And! The donation will open up more than 1,300 acres of land which have been closed for over a decade. The group is also planning to build a much more elegant entrance to the park to replace its current dirt lot.
I am not a rock climber, but there are nonetheless rocks to be scrambled over even on the shorter trails. The photo on the left became common terrain only a mile into my hike. Not feeling over ambi-tious on this day, and more in the mood to simply enjoy my surroundings, I headed back, and strolled through the rocks I could walk under or through rather than over.
Over the last year on my state park adventures, I have become increasingly fond of hiking, long walks, etc. It is greatly satisfying to reach the top of a mountain or explore a lengthy trail. But, there are times when the long hike is not necessary.
Sometimes I get just as much, if not more, out of finding a quiet place - a bench, a log, a rock, a patch of sand - where I can sit in stillness for half an hour and listen to the wind, the birds, the creaking of the trees or the pounding of surf. It is then that the intangible things become known, and my spirit is quieted.
I am especially pleased when a park like Castle Rock - in a heavily populated part of the state (Silicon Valley) - remains open. Judging by the number of weekday hikers, they too recognize their need for a little open space. Kudos to Sempervirens Fund!
I hope to see you at the state parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick
April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012