13 August 2008

San Francisco Bay Area - Santa Cruz & Big Basin

Yesterday, we took a nice little drive. We left the East Bay before 10:00 (missed the car pool advantage, but also missed most of the traffic), and headed South on 880, curved around the bottom of the bay, and headed up Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz.

We spent about an hour in Santa Cruz - parked near the boardwalk (all-day parking is $5, meters are 25c/10 minutes), and walked around for 20 minutes - 2 quarters :). It was a typical foggy, marine-layer August day on the coast. Many people were in shorts and coats. Didn't see anyone swimming or surfing, but it was a weekday, and perhaps the surfers would come out with the sun later.

We drove back to downtown and got sandwiches for later, then headed down Hwy 9 towards Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We got stuck in a bind when the road signs and traffic didn't cooperate - some nice fellow honked and nearly side-swiped us. We figured he was flirting with Mom. Isn't that what honking means?

We followed the winding way through Felton and Boulder Creek, then through more curves till we got to the park. The air got warmer, the sky got clearer, and the trees got bigger! It was a bit after 1:00 when we got there, so we had our lunch on a picnic table while we people-watched. A man and his 3-year old son shared their table with an Asian tourist couple - the son explained a lot about the park, his plans, and life in general. After lunch, Mom read and napped in the car, and Dad and I went on a hike - about an hour and a half. It wasn't too crowded; we passed maybe 4 other families on the way.

We had a number of choices for our return trip - we decided to drive back through Boulder Creek, then go past Skyline to Saratoga, Hwy 85 North to 101, then the Dumbarton Bridge back to the East Bay. We were back by 5:00 - a nice relaxing day!

We could have left the park the other direction, and skipped Boulder Creek. We could also have taken Skyline North along the ridge of the Santa Cruz mountains, then taken Page Mill Road and Oregon Expressway through Palo Alto to 101. But by this time we were pretty tired, and more curves and narrow roads didn't seem worth it. The drive and views are fabulous though - especially in a convertible :).

If you want another nice drive, take 280 North to Hwy 84 West, then Skyline Blvd North to 92. Then take 92 East back to 280. If you go this direction, you can stop at most of the best vista points on Skyline (difficult or illegal to turn left into a vista point on this road).

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