Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Geocaching The Redwoods

Full disclosure: I am currently in California on a work trip.  As a geocacher this brings to light the following facts:  awesome nature to explore, great geocaching to conduct, and proximity to a co-worker who may be more addicted to geocaching than I am.

So on Sunday I met up with my geocaching co-conspirator, SaSiCo, and headed west across the mountains to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

Located just northwest of Santa Cruz, the park has a lot of exactly what you'd expect: redwoods.  It also has a unique ecosystem, which is something I did not expect - but more on that later.

We started our hike my walking amongst these giant trees.  Redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the world, so we walked, and geocached, among some true gentle giants of the natural world.
As we soon discovered, the park features a wide variety of landscapes.  It also features a variety of transportation options depending on the trail used.  We saw walkers, joggers, cyclists, and many many horses.
What we didn't expect was that the top of the hill, in the middle of the park, is a completely different ecosystem than the surrounding area.  The Santa Cruz Sandhills is host to many species of flora and fauna that only exist in this area.  It also makes for some beautiful scenery,
At the very top of the Sandhills is an observation tower.  You can see Castle Rock State Park to the east from this tower.
When we walked up the hill we basically walked on forest trails.   In contrast, for the first half mile or so on the way down, we walked on what basically felt like beach sand.  We learned from an earth cache at the summit that this sand was the bottom of a sea at one point 4 million or so years ago, but tectonic movement has pushed the hills up a thousand feet or so above sea level.
Being so close to the ocean leads to some really scenic views of water.  This is the bay of Santa Cruz.
 We were soon back amongst the redwood giants, and we continued to geocache.  You can get a rough sense of the girth of these trees by comparing it to the size of a standard ammo can, nestled in a small crack in the trunk.
California is awesome for having a lot of surprises hidden in its hills.  When we turned a corner of the trail, we came across this amazing scene.   If you don't think The Shire when you look at this photo, then you have a vastly different brain than I do. The Tolkienesque qualities of this scene pleases me much.
For scale, the brown splotch in the middle of the trail is a guy on a horse.

We spent 5 hours in the park, found 12 geocaches, and walked 4.5 miles.  I even hit a milestone along the way.

All in all it was a perfect day of geocaching.  When we were finished at the park we headed to the coast and checked out Santa Cruz itself, but that is a story for a different post.

Stay tuned.