Date: September 2, 2017
Place: The Forest of Nisene Marks, Aptos, California
Coordinates: 36.985961, -121.904619
Length: About 2.5 miles
I was looking for new places to take my family hiking group to early fall. Considering the heat wave we California was going through at the time I was left with one of two options: the ocean coast or the redwood forest. Naturally I was drawn to the Santa Cruz area that features both fantastic beaches and some marvelous forests. It didn't take a long time to select a destination. I called a couple of my friends and together we went to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park to explore.
My first hike there was a very beautiful one, but too challenging for a group of families with small children. So a few days later I was there again, this time with my own family, to hike one of the lower loops close to the park's entrance. We hiked a loop trail that combined sections of the Old Growth Loop, the Live Oak Loop, and the Terrace Loop trails, and we hiked it clockwise. A day before the planned group hike I snuck back to the park and did a solo hike of the same trail, counterclockwise. Most of the photos I share here are from those two hikes, with a few additions from the group hikes of the following week.
Finding parking on nice weekends can be challenging there. On Labor Day weekend the place was jam-packed. We got there early enough to sneak unto the last legal spot and by the time we gathered all our things and were ready to hit the trail there was a long line of cars parked in little pull outs along the road and many more waiting at the gate.
|Our family hike as captured by Pappa Quail's GPS|
We didn't get very far before our first stop: the elder chika found some ripe blackberries. Naturally, we all stopped for a snack and got our fingers stained with berry juice and blood.
As surprised as I was to see blackberries so late in season, I was even more surprised to see some still blooming. I guess there will be fruit even later this fall.
|Going uphill west of Aptos Creek: a Five Fingers Fern and Redwood Sorrel|
|The Advocate Tree|
|The Advocate Tree New Growth|
|Indian Strawberry, Duchesnea indica Non-native.|
|Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum|
He also got a nice capture of the California Sister that the chikas had sighted further up the trail.
|California Sister Butterfly|
Young as they are, these redwoods are immensely tall. Given time and the right conditions they will become even taller, and as massive as their progenitors.
While the creek was flowing still, the forest itself was dry, ready to receive the expected rains. There were spiderwebs everywhere, of every kind. We weren't the first people on that trail so we didn't have to walk through the cobwebs.
Everywhere around us were the stumps of the loved old trees, with or without the new stump-sprouted young redwoods. On on of those stumps I was surprised to see growing a completely different tree - a tan oak, as if grafted onto the redwood stump.
Still high above the creek we found a beautiful view point on the canyon and the flowing water. A thin rope was hanging from a tree limb high over the creek and I wondered at what point did people feel inclined to swing over the stream.
The creek of course, had been flowing much higher and stronger not very long ago. As we made our way down to the valley floor we could tell by the wash signs and the huge pile of driftwood just how high the flow was last winter, even without considering the pole that was stuck in the sand as a marker.
there too was a rope hanging over the sand. It was over the water at some point, that's for sure.
I don't think I'd have risked myself going into the water while the current was strong enough to carry theses logs.
We arrived at the second crossing of Aptos Creek and found that there was no bridge there. The creek was shallow now, and the current week. Pappa Quail and the elder chika balanced on the rocks while me and the younger chika took our shoes off and waded across. The water was cold, very refreshing in the heat of the day. On my subsequent hikes I brought my hiking poles along and used them to balance on the rocks as well.
I also found more lovely fall colors. We're definitely ready for the rain here.