While out in California for Deanna’s wedding, Benoît led a hike to Castle Rock State Park. It is one of his favorite hiking and rock climbing destinations in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It’s a long winding road to get up to the state park. Isaac declared it a car mountain since we drove nearly to the top. We parked at the main park entrance and hiked down Saratoga gap. Being California, it was dry. There was some small brush and then a high canopy that blocked out most of the light. Benoit identified large redwoods and redish madrones. The trail was broad and even, though quite dusty. We paralleled a dry stream bed that inexplicably turned wet.
We first hiked to the falls overlook. The small stream plummeted down the cliff. We stopped at a built up overlook on top. There were bolts for climbing the cliff, and Benoît said people anchor off the railing. A crew of folks with Google give back t-shirts showed up and to sand the railing in preparation for a new coat of paint. Our next stop was Goat Rock. We had the option of either a longer loop out Saratoga Gap Trail and back the Ridge Trail, or returning the way we came and hiking a shorter leg to Goat Rock. We saw no point in pushing a long distance, so we took the short route.
All along the ridge trail we skirted sandstone rock outcroppings. Erosion holes sculpted their surface into fantastical shapes. On one rock, you could reach your hand in one hole, up through the rock, and out several more. Another had much larger holes forming a chimney that Benoit and I climbed. Isaac tried to but couldn’t. In places, the trail was rocky and Isaac had to scramble around the rocks. Roman and Benoît waited patiently each time. We hiked up out of the redwoods and moss into open bushes, flowers, and grass. Benoît pointed out fun crags for rock climbing. We saw some girls and an adult climbing on Goat Rock. Isaac was fascinated, but he was also hungry. So I convinced him to hike around to the top. We didn’t actually climb the peak of the rock since it looked unsafe for Isaac. Instead, we found a comfortable ledge behind in the shade. A stellar jay came to see if we had any food to spare.
We briefly stopped by the overlook and then headed back to the car. We could see the clouds over the coastal ridges. Roman identified poison oak and Benoît pointed out lemon balm. We spotted one butterfly in the shade of the redwoods. Then we arrived back at the cars. A nice little hike with lots of interesting rock outcroppings. And the state park has lots of options for longer hikes.