Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nisene Marks Hike

Happy New Year!

Didn't quite make it to midnight California time last night. I hit the sack at 7:30 p.m. I'm intentionally slowly adjusting from Chilean time (5 hours ahead of California) to prepare for a trip to Dallas next week.

The weather was pleasant today, so I decided to take a hike in Nisene Marks. In the 30-ish years since I first hiked there - the first time was somewhere around 1988 - my usual M.O. is to drive in, park, and hike from there. In the drier parts of the year, that means driving as far in as the Porter picnic area. In the wetter parts of the year, that means parking somewhere south of the winter gate.

On one occasion, I hiked in from my house. That was an adventure that I don't feel compelled to repeat again any time soon.

Today I hiked in from an entirely new starting point. I parked the Volt at the Community Foundation building, plugged in to charge for free :-) :-) :-), and hiked in on the Aptos Rancho trail. I doubt I would have believed you if you told me thirty years ago that one day I'd be driving around in a car that gets 250+ miles per gallon and that often I'd pay nothing for the electricity that powers it.

Another thing that I wouldn't have imagined back then: In my pocket today there was a super-computer (what we call a smart phone nowadays) that was tracking my every step and providing me a detailed map of where I was at all times.

Before taking this hike, I'd looked at a map of the trail. I looked because I didn't know how the trail was going to handle the fact that it - at some point - was going to cross Aptos Creek. I was hoping to find a bridge, but here's what I found instead.

The creek is about 20 - 25 feet across at this point. As you can see, there is no bridge. Instead, I needed to carefully cross the creek across slippery stones and tree branches. I'm happy to report that this photo is from the "I made it!" side of the creek. I made it across with no mishaps. My footing wasn't so sure on the return trip.

For a 360 degree view of a couple points on the hike, see here and here. If viewing those on something like a iPhone or a tablet, be sure to click the gyroscope icon to really get the right-there-with-you effect.

As I continued to hike in, I was a bit annoyed to see some litter. Most folks respect the park. Occasionally I'll see a scrap of something that someone carelessly discarded, pick it up, and pack it out. But this was no ordinary piece of litter.

I have no idea how this car ended up here (or how anyone would remove it). The trails are far too narrow, and the hills are too hilly for a car to drive in without bottoming out. All I can imagine is that someone happened to have a helicopter, a car they no longer wanted, and a warped desire to perplex folks like me.

Strike that. I have more than just one theory. The other theory involves consumption of a large quantity of beer.

The car has obviously been there for many, many years. In that time untold numbers of people have written various messages on it. Here's my personal favorite:

Well that clears things up.

Fellow park goers, please don't litter.

As I continued hiking, the wet terrain from (what I assume are) recent rains here in Aptos was slick underfoot. It was just the right sort of conditions to bring out my alma mater's mascot, the banana slug. Here he (she?) is in all his beautiful glory.

As I hiked Aptos Rancho trail, I could tell that I was getting closer and closer to the Fire Road (aka. Aptos Creek Road). When I could see the road, I thought of the expression about not being able to see something right before your eyes until it was gone. In this case it wasn't so long that it was gone, but I was struck by how many times I've walked, run, driven past Aptos Rancho trail and never realized how extensive the trails are just off the road.

Ultimately my goal on today's hike was to get to Porter picnic area. That's ordinarily where I would park and start my hike, so ending there would, in effect, piece together today's hike with all the other hikes that I've done in Nisene Marks.

I took a brief break, enjoyed the sounds of the creek, and turned around to head back out of the park.

Aside from one wet misstep getting back across the creek, the return trip was uneventful.

This wasn't a adventurous hike or a particularly eventful one, but it was a peaceful, enjoyable way to start 2017.