Tried and True

I finally got my hiking shoes on again this morning, and headed to my old favorite, Wilder Ranch. Wilder Ranch has it all: hills, chaparral, oak stands, cliffs, crashing waves, and chickens. Who can resist its charms?

Most trails start just past the visitor’s center and farm. I always get a kick of out what I call the American horreo. A horreo is a raised storage bin for maize, found in Galicia. Here is the American horreo, and a Galician horreo for comparison:
American horreo Galician horreo

Today I climbed the Wilder Ridge Trail to the Twin Oak Trail, which led me back again to the Wilder Ridge Trail, kind of like a lollipop but more like the Big Dipper if you look at the map. I started out about 9am, and the fog and clouds were just clearing.
Clearing skies

This hawk was doing some serious hunting, flying low over the fields and hovering over promising spots. I didn’t see him catch anything, but enjoyed watching him dip and soar. I also enjoyed the brilliant green of the winter fields and the ocean cliffs beyond.
Hawk out hunting

Winter rains bring out the mushrooms:

More large and brilliant sky, and the ridges that my hike will bring me over.
Ridges at Wilder Ranch

Once I turned onto the Twin Oaks trail, I entered a world of almost utter quiet. It’s not nearly as popular as the Wilder Ridge Trail, which is a favorite of local mountain bikers, and the only sound was my own footsteps and the wind in the grass. Once in a while I could hear a bit of traffic on Route 1 along the coast, or the roar of a jet far overhead; even when you’re alone, you’re reminded of our human footprint on the planet.

Oak trees and chapparal:
Oak tree

A pair of deer were nuzzling on the edge of the woods:
Two deer

The pair of oaks from which this trail gets its name are located at the junction of the Twin Oaks and Wilder Ridge trails. One of them has long ago fallen over. It reminds me of the skeleton of a large sea creature, washed up on a grassy shore. It must have been huge when it was alive, and even now it’s impressive.
Fallen oak tree

Branches frame the horizon

I loved the textures of its bark and the wood beneath. The whorls are like a horse’s hair.
Fallen oak tree

The two trees stands sentinel against the sky.
Twin oaks

More deer silhouetted on a ridge parallel to the one I’m on. Those are the mountains of the Monterey Range in the distance.
Deer on the ridge

Mountain bikers admire the view from an overlook.
Mountain bikers look out over Santa Cruz's coast

Too soon, I had looped around and was back at the ranch.
Here’s the chicken!

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