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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Out the Backdoor: Backpacking in the Santa Cruz Mountains



There's something Bagginsesque about putting on your pack and heading out the door of your house, yurt in my case, and going for a wander in the mountains. For the last 8 years I have been lucky enough to live in the Pescadero Valley. Home to three outdoor schools, two county parks, four state parks and hundreds of trails. The possibilities for adventure are infinite.

Cresting Butano Ridge, one quickly makes their way into Big Basin State Park to the south. To the east there is a series of Open Space Preserves and Castle Rocks State Park. The other weekend I did an approximately 60 mile loop that included all of the previously mentioned green spaces. This loop included four giant waterfalls, incredible rock formations, scenic ridge walks and numerous old growth redwoods. I love my home.

A lot of people think of Boulder, Colorado or Bend, Oregon as ideal homes for adventure athletes but I couldn't be happier with the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sure, the elevation in the Front Range is better for cardio training and the weather might be sunnier as well but I rarely run into many people on my hikes and runs. The weather is moderate enough year round and I actually love fog. It's one of my favorite weather conditions. I'm talking Bay Area marine layer fog, not walk off a cliff, Mt. Washington fog.

Some of our favorite routes have been from our home at Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School to the ocean at Ano Nuevo and Waddell Creek. The Chalk Mountains are another favorite, shining in all of their pearly white diatonaceous glory. And the connecting trails down into Big Basin offer a good challenge to even the biggest hill climbing zealot. On a hot day, cap off a ramble in the Chalks with a dip in Silver, Gold or Berry Creek Falls. Last time I visited Berry Creek Falls I was gifted a double rainbow. Not kidding. Don't forget about the old growth wonderland of the Peters Creek Loop in Portola State Park. The possibilities are endless.



The Santa Cruz Mountains are the perfect training ground for my long thru-hikes. No worrying about shuttles and few logistics. I also love the balance of walking across this great continent for half the year and afterwards returning to my home and sinking deeper into a relationship with a beautiful land that I have been studying for almost a decade. Thank you Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools for allowing me to live in such a fulfilling way.

The pictures in this post are from a combination of four different trips that took place in first half of 2013.