Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park preserves mainly forest and riparian areas in the San Lorenzo River watershed, including a grove of old-growth coast redwood. Established in 1954, this 4,623-acre park is located near the town of Felton in Santa Cruz County and includes the non-contiguous Fall Creek Unit.
California State Highway 130 is a route going from northeast San Jose (Alum Rock area) to Mount Hamilton where Lick Observatory is located. Originally, the highway was supposed to go from San Jose to Patterson and create a link between the bay area and the central valley. However, this would create increased light pollution for the observatory, which has been there for over a hundred years. The project was abandoned, but the road is still there: one way, each way.
As you drive up to Mount Hamilton, you pass by Joseph D. Grant County Park, which I have been to but don't really recall. There are some homes, but not many. The road is narrow, steep, and full of switchbacks. Around each of these switchbacks lies a danger: a cyclist. Okay, so cyclists are not dangerous in and of themselves, but it can be dangerous driving around them. It can get a little annoying, but I am so impressed with these people's ability to get up that steep mountain in the summer heat that I just stuff my annoyance down.
Once you arrive at Mount Hamilton, definitely check out the observatory and the telescopes. They're really cool. The views of San Jose are spectacular, especially in the summer when it is clear. Driving back down the other side of the mountain, the environment changes. Gone are the golden hills and are replaced by green, golden, and reddish shrubs and ponderosa pines.
There are no houses out here. Maybe once every five miles or so we would see a mailbox or a cattle guard. It was not until about thirty minutes into our drive that we saw any signs of civilization other than a mailbox. Water once ran through here; you can see the creek. And for how hot it was, there is still green in the riverbeds, so there must be ground water.
Eventually, you reach a valley, and you are no longer hugging the sides of the Diablo Mountains. You are surrounded by them, encompassed. At about forty-five minutes to an hour into the drive, you reach a fork. One way goes to Patterson, which is on the I-5, and other is Mines Road, which will take you to Livermore. We took Mines Road to Livermore because we really didn't need to go to the central valley.
Once you are on Mines Road, there are many more houses, mailboxes, and cattle. The road begins to hug one side of the mountains and a dry creek bed runs on the other. On the west side, on the other side of the hills, is Del Valle Reservoir. Mines Road brings you to the surface streets of Livermore, which we then took to 84 and finally back home to the San Jose area.
If you are looking for an isolated, hilly highway with great hugging turns and few other drives, Highway 130 is a great choice. I would probably go in the winter because it was scorchingly hot (I even got a sunburn just sitting in the truck.)
Located in Soquel, California, Land of the Medicine Buddha provides several miles of walking/biking trails lined with Buddha statues, stupas, and redwood groves. Definitely think the trails here would be more fun on a mountain bike, but there were some interesting things to check out.
Henry W. Coe State Park, located outside of the Morgan Hill/Gilroy area, is the largest state park in northern California at 89,164-acres. In the fall, the park's fall foliage truly shines and after even the limited amount of rain we've received this year, the hills were hinting at green. Though I've lived up in the SF bay area for nearly twelve years, I've always avoided Henry W. Coe because I thought it would be boring, barren brown hills with the occasional stand of trees to take shelter from the sun under. But Henry Coe surprised me with its stands of Ponderosa pines, silvery shimmering fields of native California grasses, and mountain vistas. Getting There
We went from San Jose south on 101 and exited at East Dunne in Morgan Hill. Take a left after exiting the freeway and take East Dunne up the hill and into a swank neighborhood bordering Lake Anderson. Be careful to watch street signs up here; it's easy to take a wrong turn and end up on a private road. This curvy, nearly single lane road up to the East Dunne entrance and visitor's center is fun for people who enjoy driving, but I wouldn't try taking your RV or motion sickness prone compatriots up there.
There are apparently other entrances, but this was the closest to San Jose and according to the website it has the most amenities.
While there are stands of trees, most of the trails are steep and exposed, so this is definitely not a park to visit in the summer, early fall, late spring, or the random month of summer that always happens in February. We hiked from the Visitor Center at Coe Ranch Headquarters along the Corral Trail to Springs Trail. The single track trails are well maintained as are the fire roads. There was a controlled burn earlier in the week and the ground was still smoking in some areas. The up and down was steady in this area, but not overly steep. Other areas of the park have some apparently gnarly hills that are great for mountain biking.
Overall I would love to go back to Henry W. Coe for a longer visit. There's backpacking camps and swimming holes that still need exploring.
We drive south from the Oregon Caves National Monument, our first stop was for fudge and a giant blue ox. At the amazing tourist stop in Klamath, California, we sampled several different types of fudge (can I just say that I don't get fudge? Like at all.), touched the testicles of a big blue ox, and stood in my first ever phone booth. This is one of my favorite road side attractioms I've ever encountered and every time I'm in the area I take my picture with Babe. I do think they could up the realism and pump artificial syrup and pancake smells into the air; it should seriously be made into an air freshener with a hint of pine. Never once when stopping here have I taken a tour of the "Trees of Mystery", but as it sounds like something ridiculous and cheesy I would probably immensely enjoy it.
Driving through the Redwoods National Park, I feel transported to a primordial forest enveloped in green and mist. It reminds me of that fucking terrifying movie Fern Gully, which is not nearly as good of an animated environmental film as Pom Poko, but far far more terrifying. Ferns carpet the ground and through the trees the slate gray ocean peaks through. The northern California coast is beautiful, isolated and wild. These seemingly endless forests open to the Humboldt Bay, a place in my mind that sticks out as depressing and marshy. It is capped by the college town of Arcata in the north and barracaded in the south by the dreary forgettable town of Eureka.
Eureka is made more forgettable because it should be memorable. I have been to Eureka numerous times and I don't ever remember doing anything here. I recall a memory of being bitchy to my friends in a motel here and I remember dirty gray buildings with tweakers shambling by. I know there's supposed to be a good brewery there, but the one thing we did on this trip was eat sandwiches on the hood of my car in a parking lot overwhelmed by the scent of rotting seaweed.
We kept driving. Further south on 101 is a turn off for California 254. Alex and I were trying our damndest to keep the ocean in our sight. We wanted to take the road less traveled, even though I'm not a huge fucking Robert Frost fan. We were going towards Honeydew, a little place with a post office and a school bus stop. There might even be a zipcode. We drove up steep hills on dirt roads and I sat in the passenger window and watched the trees flash by in a slow blur. An area known for its hidden pot and opium farms, this probably wasn't the smartest or safest idea, not that I ever expected a guy to be at the end of the road shotgun casually at his side.
The coast continues rocky, rugged, and foggy. Mendocino and Fort Bragg are small, ridiculously quaint towns on the coast. We stop for clam chowder in Fort Bragg and watch the fog roll in. Grudgingly we progress inward towards Ukiah, the county seat of Mendocino and what I thought at the time was a real true shit hole of a town. Smoky and disgustingly hot, Ukiah did not leave a great impression on me. To further exacerbate my hatred of it, Alex beat me at Scrabble by getting a triple word and triple letter score on the word zine. I'm not sure if that's a word. I don't even think people were using zine in 2008 anymore. Later, I returned to Ukiah and realized there is a great brewery in the downtown area and it's a much better place if it's not 90 degrees and has the air quality of a smoker's lung.
We drove the highways through Sonoma wine country out to the coast and along Tomales Bay, past Drake's Bay and across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Richmond District where we ate delicious Chinese food. Highway 1 south, hugging the cliffs past the Montara lighthouse, the waves of Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, and finally home to Santa Cruz.
"In 1812, Russian and Alaskan explorers and traders established Fort Ross at Metini, a centuries-old Kashaya Pomo coastal village"
Situated approximately 12 miles north of Jenner on Highway 1 and on our way back from Salt Point State Park, Fort Ross is a fascinating piece of American, and particularly Californian history, that I knew very little about. I'm not going to go into great deal about the history of Fort Ross, or really at all. That can be better explained by the literature on the Fort Ross Conservancy website. What I will tell you about is how much our group enjoyed the trip here.
We were not expecting much. Our group was rather moody after a morning rain woke us up at our campsite at Salt Point. After packing up in pouring rain, we drove south. Though members of the group were less than enthusiastic about stopping at Fort Ross, I urged us to do so and it turned out much better than expected.
At the edge of the parking lot lies a replica of a wind mill, recently created to celebrate the bicentennial of Fort Ross. We thought it was so cool that the signs were in Russian and English. Most impressive about the wind mill, and the rest of the construction of Fort Ross, is the lack of nails and the level of craftsmanship.
From there, I convinced the others to continue to the fortress down the hill. It helped that there was a paved walk way and the rain had stopped. The first building we stopped at was Rotchev House, a national historic landmark. The Rotchev House is unique; it is the only surviving original Russian built structure in the United States outside of Alaska
Moving on from the Rotchev House we checked out the blockhouses, there are two: one with seven sides and the other with eight. The blockhouse closest to the ocean provides beautiful views. On the opposite end of the fortress is the Russian Orthodox chapel. This chapel is the first Russian Orthodox structure in North America outside of Alaska. Outside the building is a bell etched with angels and Russian text.
The most impressive structure in the fortress is the Kuskov House, the administrator's house from 1817 to 1838. On the first floor is the armory and replicas of farming tools. When we were there, a volunteer was cleaning replica muskets and told us the history of Fort Ross. He probably could have talked to us all day and really knew his stuff, but the smell of metal cleaning chemicals turned me off. Upstairs are bedrooms, a spinning room, and the Voznesenskii Room, set up for the naturalist and artist Ilya Gavrilovich Voznesenskii.
Check out Fort Ross. It is an interesting piece of history that most people don't know about. I recommend not going when it is raining.