Communing with Giant Redwoods

Yesterday Bill and I went hiking and geocaching at Portola Redwoods State Park. This park is up on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the general vicinity of Portola Valley and La Honda. The drive there passed through miles and miles of winding mountain roads. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and along the way we saw some awesome views of the coastal foothills and the Pacific Ocean. The sea was calm, there was no fog or marine layer, and everything was bright blue.

When we got to the park, there was nobody else there. The ranger station was closed and there were no other cars in any of the parking lots. We changed into hiking boots, strapped on our backpacks, and started on our way. There were 8 caches we wanted to find during the hike, so we started relatively early. We got to the park between 9:30 and 10:00 AM. We would have gotten there sooner had I not forgotten my hiking boots at home. We were already a third of the way there when I remembered, and we had to go back and get them. Anyway…

It was very cold at the start of our hike. The redwoods grow thick and are very tall in this park, so there was zero direct sunlight shining on us at the start. We began on uphill pavement and eventually turned into a “normal” dirt trail. It was a very long, but very fun, hike! Parts of it were on level ground, parts were on gently rolling terrain, and parts were very, very steep. Once again, I was convinced that I was going to drop dead of a heart attack. Or that my legs were going to turn into useless goo. Hahahaha. I just like to whine.

We saw plenty of majestic redwoods, of course. We also saw a lot of banana slugs, which are slimy yellow creatures better known as the mascot of UC-Santa Cruz. I had never seen those before! They’re interesting in a creepy sort of way. The kind of look like yellow and slimy uncircumcised penises. LOL. There were also so many different kinds of fungi that I had never seen. Mushrooms that looked like stained glass, mushrooms that looked like exploded tomatoes, fungi that looked like sponges, and other weird, alien-looking things.

We also saw (and crossed) a cool mountain stream. Took some pictures, but most of them came out blurry because we were under the forest canopy and I didn’t want to use flash. Stupid me. One of the caches we were looking for was called “Clover Forest” or something like that. Sure enough, at a certain section of the park the entire forest floor was covered with clover! Literally as far as the eye can see. It was really cool! Went hunting for a four-leaf one with no luck!

The caches were scattered along a couple of different trails, at different elevations. Bill really wanted to be the first to find one of them, because it contained a coin that he wanted. We found the cache, but somebody had beaten us to it by less than 10 minutes! Needless to say, the coveted coin was gone! I felt bad about getting there second because we would have been there first had I not forgotten my damned boots! Argh!

We did manage to find another cache with another coveted coin. This was much higher up in the park, and the gradient was so steep that I was gasping with every step. I told you I like to whine, right? LOL. Anyway, the coin was really cool, so I wanted one, too. So we set out to find yet another cache even higher up the mountain. The trail became even steeper, and we actually crossed over to a different open space preserve to reach it! On the way there the views were awesome, and we actually saw some direct sun while walking on the ridgeline.

Found the cache, but somebody had beaten us to it, and the coin was gone! Aaaaaayyyyeeeeee! All that huffing and puffing for nothing! Well, not nothing nothing... like I said, the views on the trail were fantastic. The moon was high in the sky, the sun was shining, and everywhere you looked you saw deep blue, lush green, or rich golden brown. Take a look...

After that last find we started heading back. I was dead tired, but thankfully most of the way back was downhill. I couldn’t believe how far we had hiked! Seemed like the way back took forever. I kept saying how tired I was, and Bill kept saying how much fun he was having. Actually I was having a lot of fun, too. It’s just that there was a disconnect between my brain and my legs. My brain said “yippee” while my legs said “mommy please let me die”. LOL

When we got back to the car we changed out of our clothes, which were dripping with sweat by then in spite of the cool weather. We looked at the park maps and figured out that we hiked a total of between 10 and 12 miles. Elevation gain between the parking lot and the highest point on the hike was about 1600 feet. So yeah. Awesome hike and awesome geocaching. I’m still tired, though.