What is Lost

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, August 5, 2011

I've fortunately made a great friend, and Bree is also a perfect hiking partner. She, like me, is also dismayed at the number of California State Parks set to close in the next year. We made a list of parks in the area and have been making an effort to visit all those on the chopping block. At the top on my priority list was Portola Redwoods State Park as I had read about a secluded old growth redwood grove located in a remote canyon. The park itself is off the beaten path on windy, narrow mountain roads, an hour northeast of Santa Cruz. The Peters Creek Grove is a six mile one way hike in. I was delighted that Bree was up for the adventure.

A couple miles in we reached the back country campground. Another mile or so, we discovered an old car down in a narrow ravine. From photos, my husband later identified it as a 1948 Ford.  The car was upright, but the front and top were smashed in from flipping over. The rubber from the back tire had blown over the rear wheel. The interior was gone and plants grew in the car and the engine. Bree and I looked up and around wondering where the road had once been and how and when this car had ended up here. What happened to the passengers? How long had this car lay here?

 The trail continued through an overgrown and more densely wooded section. Before long we started climbing down. The few gaps in the trees revealed amazing views of the Santa Cruz mountains as well as the depth of the substantial canyon we were descending into. I tried to enjoy the hike down, but with every step I couldn’t help but wonder how miserable the long climb up would be.

At the bottom of the hill, a magical lush forest emerged at the head of the one mile Peters Creek loop.  Giant Redwood trees towered above filling the sky with their crowns. Emerald ferns and fields of clover blanketed the ground. The thousand year old trees surrounded a creek that we crisscrossed a few times stepping on the polished rocks. At various points in the creek, small waterfalls tumbled down filling the air with the sound of gently flowing water.  It was absolutely serene.

After finishing the loop, we found the perfect spot for a rest. Settling on a fallen redwood over a bubbling brook, Bree produced a half bottle of wine and some fresh berries from her backpack. The Touriga, from a local winery, was delicious. We laughed as we sipped directly from the bottle. 

Perhaps it was the wine, but we powered up the canyon wall."Touriga: Great for Stamina!” Bree delared.   Before we knew it we had passed the Ford and the back country campground.   After ten minutes, we found a gate across the trailhead. A gate that was not there on the hike in. We had forgotten about the trail junction at the campground and apparently had taken the wrong spur. We retraced our steps and had to giggle that we had proceeded down a path clearly marked, "Not a Trail”. “Touriga: Good for stamina, bad for focus!” Bree revised her earlier slogan.

After finishing our wonderful hike, we toured through the car camping section. It was early evening on a Friday. Families were setting up tents in the lovely redwood dotted campsites. The sounds of children playing echoed from the creek below.  Unfortunately, this campground only has a few more months before is closes in November and the whole park closes in July 2012. What will happen to it? No more campgrounds packed with families enjoying quality time away from the TV and computer. Is it even legal to close these parks that were bequeathed to the public? Is it even possible to absolutely close them? Is there a way to protect the park from people coming in and trashing this sacred spot? Or will the trails simply grow over and the beauty of this place be forgotten?  And this is just one natural treasure on a list of seventy. It makes me so sad to think that these places, our state parks, may simply be lost.
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