I woke up to sunlight pouring through my uncovered window as I slowly stirred myself awake. I had slept great that night, feeling perfectly at ease in my campsite and the morning view only improved things. I looked out at Henry Cowell in the morning light and trees surrounded my entire campsite. I could see straight down the trail that was connected to my site and that’s when I decided I needed a morning hike. The hike started off gradually moving out of the campground area and deeper into the redwood grove that the park is famous for.
I was going towards the “Observation Deck” which I assumed would take me to the park’s highest point. Gradually the trail climbed, subtly gaining in elevation until I reached a flat plane cleared out with the observation deck standing right in front of me. I climbed to the top and saw the entire forest laid out. Giant redwoods branching out in every direction as far as my eyes could see.
I spent about 20 minutes on the deck looking out in every direction, taking it all in. It was still morning so the air was nice and crisp but the sun was shining high in the sky. It was a relaxing way to wake up and it got me mentally prepared for the day ahead. I made my way into the main city of Santa Cruz. I wanted to see the pier and be near the beach. I skated along the boardwalk but since it was Monday, everything was dead. The pier was a ghost town and nothing was open. Despite this, it was kinda nice to cruise along the beach on a nice sunny day by myself. I eventually made my way farther out onto the pier where I secured my patch for the city and got a pretty great view of all the rides and the beach of the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
After a couple hours, I left the pier and drove towards UCSC. As we approached, huge redwoods dotted the highway on either side. The University itself was unique in that trails ran between school buildings and trees were everywhere. It was so cool to see a school setup in that way. As I drove through it was hard for me to get a grasp on what was the university or if I had drifted into an actual forested area. It was a stark contrast to the beach I had just left and speaks to how diverse of a city Santa Cruz is. You can experiecne it in many different ways.
I made my way to back to my Henry Cowell campsite for my second night. It was still relatively early in the day which left me time for a decent sized hike through the redwood grove. I ended up on the Eagle Creek Trail. Just as the Observation Deck hike started, as did Eagle Creek. I followed the trail out from my campsite but instead of climbing higher, I descended deeper towards the forest floor. At the floor, the atmosphere was completely different. It was dark and moist with only little pockets of sunshine getting through between the great branches. Redwoods were everywhere and it was a humbling experience as they towered around me, a stranger in their domain. The giant trees stood tall and mighty but at their roots, their compadres had fallen and became homes for all sorts of life on the forest floor. When I look back on that hike, a lot of it seems surreal like it didn’t happen. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, it was like I blacked out when walking amongst those gentle giants.
The trail I was following ran alongside a creek that I could hear the entire time I was walking. That creek ended at a secret beach called “Cable Car Beach.” Unyielding, water flows through the forest no matter what is in its way and even though a storm blew threw Cable Car last winter decimating the landscape, the water still found a way to the bottom where it was pooling and creating a nice little beach. I was not always able to see the water running on the trail but I could always hear it. The water could be diverted but never stopped in this forest, weaving and moving around the trees and adapting to the landscape. Seeing that taught me a lot about myself and the great Bruce Lee quote, ‘Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water.’ If we are like water, we simply move and react to what is around us and not allow anything from stopping us to achieve our goals. The small beach and pool of water was proof of that and was also a huge refreshment to me after my long hike. – Day 6, 9/25, 7:39pm, Henry Cowell State Park, Santa Cruz