Into the Woods

Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.
George Bernard Shaw

If, on some sunny day, you find yourself in Santa Clara with nothing to do, I highly  recommend heading down highway 17 to Castle Rock State Park. There was no school on Monday so some of my friends and I decided to do just that. There is no hike so close to campus that can rival Castle Rock. It’s only a 15 minute drive from SCU and trails range from those perfect for serious backpackers to people who have only seen nature on the Discovery channel. The park is absolutely gorgeous. Views of the sky, land and sea combine to overwhelm the senses in a kaleidoscope of jade forests, cerulean skies and distant grey waters.

The state park runs along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and has a network of 32 different trails for both hiking and horseback riding. Hikes vary from a quick jaunt around Castle Rock and the Saratoga trails to a 32-mile hike called the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail. We opted for a shorter walk that took us out and around Castle Rock. The namesake of the park is a  strange rock formation that rises out of the woods like some ancient, natural fortress. The rock has numerous ‘rooms’ cut into its smooth surface that can be explored both by hoisting yourself up or by legitimately rock climbing. We opted to scramble our way up to some of the lower openings, which resulted in several seemingly near death experiences that left me with a scraped knee and grins on all of our faces. Some of the rooms have a strange lacework of circular indentations that remind me of the scars left behind by chicken pox scratched one too many times. The air was extremely chilly but in the rooms it became warmer, particularly where sunlight shown in through the openings. If you’re looking for a unique place to have a picnic, you won’t find one more execptional than this.

There are also primitive camps that dot the park. Backpackers can trek out to any of the camps and spend the night under the stars or, more likely, the fog. While on top of the ridge, hikers get spectacular views of the park and Monterey Bay way out in the distance. If you do decide on a day hike, my recommendation is to stick around for the sunset. The road leading to the Castle Rock trailhead stretches in the other direction and offers  plenty of spots to pull off and watch the sky grow steadily more exquisite. We opted for a spot just a little down the road from the trailhead. Armed with blankets, celery and peanut butter, my friends and I hiked out to a spot on the brink of the world and watched the sun die and sink behind the opposite, densely forested crest.

Here is a link to the Castle Rock State Park website:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=538

Go be astounded by the seemingly infinite beauty of this incredible state park.

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