Thursday, October 11, 2012

habitat ~ 10/11/12 ~ Memorial Park

October 11, 2012

For the last 3 years we've headed south to Morro Bay in October.  Forecasts of a major thunderstorm all along the central CA coast made us rethink our usual.  For a 2-night camping trip, we prefer not to drive more than about 2 1/2 hours from home and definitely south of San Francisco to avoid the Bay Area traffic.  Keeping close tabs on weather predictions, north of Santa Cruz seemed like the best place to go with overcast skies and only 10% chance of precipitation.  It's thanks to fellow bloggers Dipper Ranch, Curbstone Valley Farm, Nature of a Man, Way Points, and Town Mouse and Country Mouse that I've become more interested in the Santa Cruz Mountains and even became aware of the extensive county parks, state parks, and open space preserves up there.

Andy found this small San Mateo County Park online and liked how it connected to other parks through trails for his typical trail running outing.  Bay Area Hiker has a nice summary of what the trails are like within Memorial Park.  One thing she doesn't mention, is the showers are old school - corrugated tin stalls painted many times over with that light-colored forest service green and ancient high pressure shower heads for 25 cents per 2+ minutes of very hot water.  Andy likened it to prison showers (not that he'd know), and I declined taking a shower at all because frankly they were a little creepy. And, true to Yelp reviews, the ranger was indeed gruff, but he gave us extra firewood stating he wanted to get rid of the larger pieces that wouldn't fit in neat bundles.  Based on his girth and the fairly new no smoking regulations, I have a suspicion as to why he seemed so grouchy. Actually, there were "no" signs everywhere for everything: no smoking, no hard liquor, no ground fires, no gathering of wood, no chopping wood on fire pits, no using water in fire pits, no washing dishes at water faucets, no raking or sweeping of sites, no swimming, no firearms, no fishing, no pets, no horses, no bikes, no skateboards, no scooters, no amplified music, no feeding wild animals, no this, no that, no, no, no. Not that it was a problem for us, but the signs were excessive.

When we arrived, we were quite surprised at the proliferation of camping sites and wondered why there were only a handful of campers around.  Typical of my rain curse, it thunderstormed right above our heads and dumped rain on us the first evening and drip, drip, dripped on us the remainder of our stay.  Chatting with a fellow camper, we heard we had apparently missed the biggest part of the storm the night before.  Needless to say, it was a bit exciting and extraordinarily beautiful to be camping in a freshly washed redwood forest littered with the changing colors of bigleaf maples. While we didn't get vast views from the summit of Mt. Ellen (not a big hill by any means), the sight of clouds through the mountains was breathtaking. I searched several times along Pescadero Creek for newts with no luck. We did see numerous gray squirrels, which I'm fairly sure were eastern grays and not western due to their brownish heads and casual demeanor around our campsite.  And, bright yellow banana slugs were out in full force probably enjoying the rain.  I would definitely go back again if we can time our visit with as few other visitors as possible.

7 comments:

Imperfect and tense said...

It's good when inclement weather provides great scenery, challenging our perceptions of what's "good". It's as much about emotion as the view.

I thought your stormy rant was just perfect. And the curmudgeonly last sentence made me smile, as I know what you mean!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hi Graeme, where have you been? We've needed the rain here in CA so much that it was a bit of a relief and soul cleanser. Is this a stormy rant? :) With so many camping sites, we imagine it would be a people zoo during the summer on weekends.

Imperfect and tense said...

Hmmm, it's true, I have fallen behind with the postings.

All due to a combination of work, a birthday weekend and then a viral infection. Heck, I sure know how to celebrate!

Jennifer said...

Those photos are gorgeous!!!! I can just imagine how wonderful it must have been with everything being cleaned by the rain. It looks and sounds heavenly. How annoying about all those signs though! They should just compile all the no's into a list and put it on a single sign at the entrance. As I was reading your post and looking at the photos I started thinking about Mount Tamalpais in the bay area. Have you ever hiked there? It's beautiful.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Jennifer, I'm guessing what happened is the prohibitions came along piecemeal and they just kept adding signs as the laws were passed. The closest I went to Mt. Tam was staying at Dr. Ross's tea house when we were discussing a possible book project. He had the most amazing view of the Sleeping Lady. It's past SF, which we rarely ever do due to traffic. John Wall, who commented on the inky cap, has a nice blog with incredible photos, and he often goes to Mt. Tam. Check him out.

James said...

I hope you didn't get tooooo wet. As challenging as camping in the rain can be, it sure can make for some amazing sights, like the wonderfully atmospheric first photo you shared. And the sounds of rain on the tent and the land all around and the crisp post-rain smells...amazing.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Ha, yep, James. Cooking over a fire proved challenging. It was amazing, though, like we were intruding on a private moment of the forest. Once we got home I had to set-up the tent and accoutrements to fully dry out. I could easily do this again.