A Quiet Road Trip From Beach to Forest

May 2019 Photo & Video


The tale

In early May I took a three-day weekend to escape the valley. The destination was Aptos, CA, a small town east of Santa Cruz along Monterrey Bay. The area was also windier and 15°F cooler than San Jose, which was a welcome change.

Photography wasn’t a priority. But I did capture some video.

The shipwreck

Seacliff State Beach is the final home of the SS Palo Alto, a WWI-era concrete ship that doubles as an artificial reef and, more recently, an environmental hazard. The pier was open to the public — except for the last section.

The reasons are obvious. Over the past few years, the ship’s broken into three large chunks. The bow is collapsing, the pier itself is warped, and I read that the aft is slowly leaking decades-old oil.

The redwoods

This was my second visit to the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, which is less than 20 minutes inland from Seacliff State Beach.

Although I brought my hiking gear, walking wasn’t a challenge. I stayed to the southern trails, where most of the redwoods stand. As before, the lush forest dampened most sounds.

The detour

Packing to leave Aptos, on a lark I decided not to take an indirect route home. Leaving San Jose, I had followed Old Santa Cruz Highway and Soquel San Jose Road instead of the often-crowded Highway 17. Now I decided to follow Highway 1 along the coast.

While San Jose was forecast called for sun and mid-70s, the coast was drizzly — sometimes rainy — and cool. Between haze and sprinkles, I found the western end of Big Basin State Park. I plan to hike the 12 miles from Big Basin’s visitor center to this point — skyline to the sea.

But not that day. I drove from the coast through the town of Pescadero, winding through more dense forests and eventually near Wunderlich CP.

When I got home, I looked up Pescadero. The park, not the town. How have I never heard of this place? How many more do I have still to explore?

For next time

  • Aptos isn’t centralized, but most its touristy stuff (and the entrance to the state park) is along Soquel Drive between State Park Road and Trout Gulch Road. Plan a hotel/AirBnB accordingly.
  • I wonder how quickly the Palo Alto will disintegrate over new next few years. Might be interesting to compare before and after photos.
  • Leaving San Jose by straying off of Highway 17 was worth the effort, and didn’t take much longer.