Sunday, March 7, 2010

habitat ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park
March 7, 2010

Thanks to stumbling upon an incredible blog post about fern ID from Town Mouse and Country Mouse, I was determined to see Fern Grotto in person. My pic looks significantly less lush than hers, which were taken only 9 or so days prior to mine. Recent high tides could have killed the ferns.

We had already made plans to hike at Wilder Ranch for my husband's big 40th. Yep, that's my favorite Mr. TrailRunner - instead of a big party, we went for a big hike and a quiet dinner at Asian Rose (a yummy - IF you know which items to order - Sri Lankan vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz that sadly no longer serves budget-conscious lunches... btw, we're not vegan, but we seek tasty food).

I've never been to Wilder Ranch myself; previously, I visited the monarchs at nearby Natural Bridges State Park while he started his runs from NB's Nature Center parking lot. Based on TM&CM's pics, I expected lush fern and redwood trails like those found at another nearby State Park, Nisene Marks... which reminds me I have yet to post any hiking pics from either place. Instead, I found windswept, coastal bluff trails similar to those found at MontaƱa de Oro State Park, much further south.

Did I mention it was very windy on the bluffs at Wilder Ranch? It's amazing how strong winds can drain you of energy. This was the same trail where we spotted anise swallowtails.

After a light lunch and a nice visit with the farm house's orange cat, we crossed through a tunnel under Highway 1 to checkout the Cowboy Trail. Fortunately, after confirming the bridges were indeed flooded on that small trail, we proceeded up the Engelsmans Trail. Then the clouds started rolling in. This pic was taken looking back towards the ocean and where we had been hiking along the bluffs a couple hours earlier.

At a trail crossing (which always reminds me of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"), we took a short side loop on the Wild Boar Trail. This is where I spotted irises, a yet-unID'ed blue flower, warty ceanothus, and more. We greeted several mountain bikers, but no other hikers.

We didn't take the trail in this pic, but I loved the vista and the old stone wall. For some reason, it reminded me of my fantasies of what the UK countryside might superficially look like.

One last addition... The summer of 2008 was the year of massive and prolific fires in the area and across California. Search online for Bonny Doon or Big Sur fires if you're interested in the details. The only evidence of fire that my novice eye noticed was a length of charred fence posts. I was hoping to spot fire poppies, but I think I'm a year too late to see these rare, post-fire flowers.

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