Take me to the river, drop me in the water

My reading audience is eagerly awaiting my promised tale of adventure: can one walk from Felton to Santa Cruz? And isn’t there some river that runs between the two towns? The answers are yes and yes, and therein lies this week’s story.

Some basic information: Felton lies to the north of Santa Cruz, and is nestled in the midst of redwood forests. It is known, among other things, for being the home of Roaring Camp Railroads and the Bigfoot Discovery Project and Museum. The main road from Santa Cruz to Felton is Highway 9, which twists and turns as it follows the San Lorenzo river. Our route took us mainly through parkland, primarily Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Santa Cruz’s Pogonip Park. Here is an overview of our route:
Map of our route from Felton to Santa Cruz

The kind and obliging Sarah-Hope drove us up to Felton, and after a fine and hearty breakfast at Rocky’s Cafe, dropped us off at Felton’s covered bridge.
Felton's covered bridge

We found there was no direct route from the bridge to Henry Cowell, but a quick walk along Highway 9 took us to the park entrance and its incredibly lush green trails.
It was really really green

We enjoyed several miles of beautiful trails through the redwoods, wending up and down over the spurs of hills, and with the rush of the San Lorenzo river to our right. Our trail map showed several potential river crossings… but no bridge. There was an indication of a “seasonal bridge”, which means a bridge is in place in the warm dry summer, when the river is low and you don’t mind getting your feet wet. But it’s too early in the year for it, and oh did I mention we had just had a few days of rain?

Anyway, we had picked a potential crossing site, and took the steep trail leading down to the ford. There were newts galore, it being mating season. We may not know why chickens cross the road, but we had a pretty good idea what the newts were looking for. We had to look sharp to not step on any of the little critters.
A newt looking for a good time

The river, when we reached it, was loud and strong. We could see that in low water this would be a great place to cross, with lots of rocks to hop across on, but now it was more like an Olympic kayaking course of rapids. And while it was calm just after the rocky bit, it was also narrow, and the water was deep.
The San Lorenzo River

What to do, what to do? We decided we did not want to be featured in the classic headline, “FOOLISH HIKERS TRY TO CROSS RAGING RIVER; BODIES STILL MISSING”, and looked around for a better spot to cross. Kimlin climbed a bit of a ridge, and spotted a wide, calm stretch of river ahead.
Kimlin looking for a crossing

Now we were candidates for the other classic headline, “FOOLISH HIKERS TRY TO NAVIGATE NARROW RIDGE; FALL TO THEIR DEATHS”. We were able to circle an extra-narrow bit by hugging a tree, and lowered ourselves off the ridge by hanging on to a root. No choice now; we had to cross the river or else. Shoes and socks off; cameras and other equipment in plastic bags; poles extended to allow for random river depths. Kimlin unzippered her pants legs to make shorts, but I went the whole 9 yards and dropped trou down to my undies — I might as well confess it, since there is now a video of me crossing the river in dishabille, with excellent blackmail potential. After all that preparation, the river crossing was entirely uneventful. The water was cold, but not frigid, and it was at most hip-high. Here is a dramatic re-creation of my arrival on the opposite shore, a G-rated version with pants.
Like Venus rising from the sea

We found a green ceramic frog on the riverbank:
The green frog by the river

Kimlin thinks it’s easy being green, and that her green fleece jacket makes her invisible against the green undergrowth. Can you find her in this picture?
A newt looking for a good time

The rest of the hike was pleasant and uneventful. The trail crossed the campus of UC Santa Cruz, which was handy because I had accidentally left my keys with Sarah-Hope. We managed to cross paths –no mean feat, since this was the day that the whole Santa Cruz area was without phone or internet, due to some vandals cutting a major fiber optic cable— and continued on our way. Here are some blossoms from one of the student-run gardens on campus:
Blossoms on the UCSC campus

The campus segues into Pogonip Park, a patchwork of forest and meadow that led us back to downtown Santa Cruz and home.
Looking across Pogonip towards Santa Cruz

All in all, 8 miles walked (not including the river!) and a fine adventure.

2 thoughts on “Take me to the river, drop me in the water

  1. Dang! Now I’ll be up ALL NIGHT looking for Kimlin in that picture. Pretty apple tree shot. Sounds like a nice hike/adventure.

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