While our camper is in “dry dock” we have taken advantage of State Parks in the area that are strictly for hiking. It is hard to narrow down but we have chosen our top three picks to share with you.
Our first pick is Wilder State Park , a 7000 acre preserve located on the edge of Santa Cruz. It is a dairy farm with beautiful rolling hills that meet the seashore. Our afternoon hike brought us through fields of fragrant rosemary and along cliffs with waves crashing over rocks. Hundreds of seals napped in the sun with seagulls soaring overhead . The park’s preserved 1800’s farm offers a glimpse of life on a dairy in the 1850’s. After walking through the barns and across a meadow we ascended to the top of a mountain with spectacular ocean views. At the summit we rested on a bench but chose to leave well before sundown . Although it would have been wonderful to watch the sunset, a park ranger encouraged us to return before dark as mountain lions had been recently spotted in the area.
Our second recommendation is Ano Nuevo State Park located 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. This preserve has more than 10,000 elephant seals that return annually to breed and give birth on the beaches and dunes. These blubbery beasts are a bizarre sight with their large bulbous nose… honestly I think they belong in the category of ugly but endearing. We hiked across the dunes with a volunteer guide and came within five feet of several males seals that were resting in what is dubbed “loser alley”. The males in this alley carry the “loser” title as they will never have enough strength to fight the alpha male or the opportunity to mate with a female. We thoroughly enjoyed this close up adventure and recommend visiting especially during the seals birthing months which are January-March.
Our third recommendation is Angel Island located in the San Francisco Bay and accessible only by ferry or boat. It is known as the “Ellis Island of the West” because of the nearly one million Asian immigrants that were processed on this island from 1910-1940. We climbed to the top of the island, enjoyed a picnic while taking in the 360 degree view of the San Francisco skyline . Google maps indicated that we walked nearly 10 miles which took a toll on our feet and calf muscles but Stephen and I both agreed that a little pain was worth the view. (Note: there is tent camping allowed on this island with a purchased permit.
We have an abundance of parks to visit in the area and our only complaint is not enough time to enjoy all of them. The monarch butterflies migrate annually to this area and as soon as the rain stops we hope to visit this amazing phenomenon. More on the monarchs next time.