Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to hike in a remote property in the Pajaro Hills, thanks to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The Land Trust purchased Star Creek Ranch a couple of years ago, and because the way in is only a one-lane dirt road, largely privately owned, access is limited to only one or two days a year, and then just to members.
Driving in. Don’t worry; I stopped the car while taking the picture.
We were greeted with tents, maps, sunscreen in case we had forgotten (I had), water, and shuttle vans. There are some 15 miles of trails and fire roads on the property, so we had lots of choices.
I decided to do a loop of the Black Canyon Trail, the (something) Cutoff Road, and High Point Road. Good signage helped me find the way.
The Black Canyon Trail descended into a redwood forest and followed a creek. It was cool and lovely on a hot day. On the way down I passed some dogwood blossoms.
Old signs remained from previous owners and uses.
There were quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and lots of hikers and mountain bikers on the trails. I had assumed that many people, like myself, would choose to take the more remote and wild paths, but I was wrong. I didn’t see anyone else on Black Canyon Trail, and only once saw a human footprint. But I did see a motion-activated camera attached to one of the redwoods.
Wait a minute… the Land Trust often posts photos of mountain lions that trigger the cameras on their land. Now which trail was it? Was it the one I was on? Oh yes. Here, from their website, is a photo of mountain lions in right about the same spot I was standing.
Alrighty then! I kept going, like Macbeth thinking I had gone so far already I might as well plunge ahead, but I made sure I sang and made noise and looked big and scary as I walked. And I nixed the plan I had to sit and draw during my hike. Sitting quietly while absorbed in a task didn’t sound like the best idea at this point.
But still, it was a lovely hike. Looking up through the canopy.
After following the creek bed for quite a while, the trail ascended. Here is a clearing full of horsetails.
Lots of banana slugs in the damp areas. Here is one next to my foot for scale.
A hillside full of columbines, which would not stand still for my picture.
The trail got really steep before hitting the cutoff road, and yet it got steeper still afterwards. (Caution! Extreme! said the signpost) I decided to be relatively sane and turned onto the cutoff, which proved to be utterly delightful.
Exposed roots make an interesting pattern.
Iris along the trail.
By now I had ascended quite a bit, and had gone from redwood forest to oak, with wide vistas visible between the trees.
And more reminders of those who had used this property before. Yes, I tried the swing. It worked just fine.
Up here in the more open and accessible areas there were more hikers.
I enjoyed lunch in this meadow.
While I was sitting eating my lunch, I noticed a big fat bumblebee making its rounds from flower to flower, which made me happy – until I realized there was just one bee. One bee. In this whole meadow. One. A sad reminder that bees are in trouble. (And a nod to Emily Dickinson.)
TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
All in all, it was a fine outing, and I’m looking forward to returning next year for another Star Creek Ranch Adventure.