265. Uvas-to-the-Sea Trail (05/25/02)
Hikers (12): Cal, Damon, Eugene, Jane M, Janice, Jeong, Linda, Peter, Pistol Pete, Russ, Sergei, Steve
Distance: 20 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Uvas Canyon County Park near Morgan Hill
Write-up by Cal
In order to have a ride back from the 20 mile hike, Peter, Russ and myself drove to Seacliff Beach on Friday afternoon to drop off the van. The van had an ice chest with 4 six packs of Gordon Biersch, Diet Pepsi, pretzels, nuts, chips and trail mix for our end of hike treat. If the van was stolen, we hoped they would leave the beer! We also didn't know how well the ice in the chest would stay overnight, keeping the beer cold. It was the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend so there was plenty of traffic. We took the back roads to Hecker Pass and avoided any problems. At Seacliff, there was no ranger on duty so we found a overflow area near the ranger hut and parked the van ... hope they don't tow it away.
A Full Load
On hike day Peter, Janice, and Linda picked me up and we headed to Uvas. A new person (Jeong) had showed up for there hike and luckily we had one open space in the van. Peter said that he had to turn people away ... from a 20 mile hike! Janice had just flown in from Texas and didn't have time to get gas, so on the way to Uvas her gas gauge was complaining to her by sounding alarms ... could be a problem on the way back. At Uvas everyone had arrived ... the clean dozen (we were the dirty dozen minus 2 at the end). Peter handed out maps and I gave a radio to Steve since he always is in the lead (little did we know). We all walked to the trailhead of Nibb's Knob, did the INCH cheer and away we went up the unrelenting (2000 foot gain in 2 miles) trail.
Generally at 8:30am, early morning clouds cover the trail making it easier to climb, but not today. The sun was out and the day was perfect. I had handed out the GPS coordinates to a cache that was on the trail so Steve, Damon and Janice took off to discover it. Peter said it didn't feel right to hike past the bottom of Nibb's Knob without going up that offshoot of the trail so up we went. It also happens that the cache is up on Nibb's Knob. I waited for Sergei, Jane, Eugene, and Rusty to get to the junction to let them know the plan. All except Rusty decided to pass on going to Nibb's Knob. Even a threat of a black leaf from Peter could not persuade them to make the detour ... and so early in the hike! By the time I got to Nibb's Knob, they had found the cache, which had a camera in it. We took a group picture with Linda doing the honors of the photographer and we started on our way to finish the trail.
When you get to the end of the Nibb's Knob trail, it puts you onto Summit Road. There is a wall of No Trespassing / Private Property signs, which spooked the group. I am a personal friend with Libby who is the fire chief for the Ormsby Fire Department on the mountain. She gave me permission to hike the roads anytime. Also, I had on my Ormsby Fire Department shirt from one of their fund raising events. Armed with this information, the group moved forward on the quest to Nisene Marks.
Corralling The Strays
As we hiked on Summit Road, the group's confidence grew. Despite Peter's admonition to "stay together", Eugene, Janice, Damon, and Steve forged ahead. Their forge was so great that the missed the turn onto Ormsby Road. Eugene, filled with the knowledge from the profile map that this was a downhill stretch, was feeling his oats and was ahead of everyone. I radioed to Steve that they needed to come back but Eugene and Janice were out of site. At this point, Steve had to run after them (a point which Steve will use later on in the hike). The main group waited about 15 minutes until we were all back together and we headed on Ormsby Road, which is also filled with Private Property signs.
The First Casualties
By the time we had reached Ormsby Road, Super Jane had blisters forming on her feet and was having some difficulty walking fast. Even with the aid of moleskin, this problem seemed to concern her. Also, while walking on Ormsby, Sergei said he had promised his son to take him to a sports event, which required us to be back at Uvas by 5:00pm. The more Sergei thought about it, the more convinced he was that this crew would not make it back by 5:00pm and maybe not at all. "I'm turning back," said Sergei who felt bad because he had been looking forward to the hike for a month. When Super Jane found out that Sergei was going back she quickly said "Me too!". It was probably a very wise choice since we were only 15% of the way into the hike.
"Who Are You People?"
As we walked Ormsby Road., a voice called out, "Who are you people??!". There were two local residents sitting on their porch off to the right of the road. Rather than ignore them ('cause they may really call the sheriff) I walked down and started a conversation. After mentioning that I was a friend of Libby, had permission to hike the road and we were hiking from Uvas to Seacliff Beach, they were very friendly and asked if we needed water or power bars. They said the snakes were out and to be on the lookout. With that, I thanked them for their kindness and rejoined the group who were huddled on the road expecting bad news. After telling them everything was OK we pressed forward to Nisene Marks.
Into Nisene Marks
Ormsby ends at Highland Road but across the street is the entrance to Nisene Marks. This starts the second uphill part of the hike. Before long, we came to the Nisene Forest sign and everyone was relieved we were finally here. We passed the iron gates leading to the "Aptos Creek Fire Road Trail" and were on our way. Jeong was starting to fall behind. This was his first hike after apparently a long layoff. We were all concerned if he would be able to finish.
The Fatal Mistake
On the Aptos Creek Trail, we came to a trailhead for the "Ridge Trail" which led into the Soquel Demonstration Forest. Steve, Janice, Damon, and Pistol Pete had made the decision that this was the way to go ... after all, it did say "Ridge Trail" and the map showed the Demonstration Forest on its outer edge. When we (Peter, Linda, Rusty, Jeong, Eugene and myself) reached this trail head we were apprehensive about following. I hadn't been on this trail but thought it might be part of the Western Ridge Trail so we started to follow Steve et al. Peter said "I have a bad feeling about this". About 1/3 mile in we came to a set of trail signs, none of which pointed to anything we had heard of so we decided to turn around and head back to the Aptos Trail. We called Steve on the walkie-talkie and he indicated they were pressing onward.
The Crocodile Spots A Rabbit
We hiked back to the trailhead of this "Ridge Trail" and looked more carefully at the posted map. One soon discovered that this was a boxed canyon. There were no trails out that would rejoin the original route except by coming all the way back. Have you ever watched National Geographic and see the scene where the crocodile is sitting in the river with just his eyeballs showing waiting for the rabbit to get too close to the shoreline? Well, over the hikes that I have been on, Steve has always been clearly in the lead and finished the hike well ahead of anyone. I had heard stories of "Peter the Great" who, in his younger years, could hike the paws off a cougar. With the knowledge that Steve had taken a fatal trail, which would put him 2-3 miles behind, Peter's eyes started to shine and like a bullet shot from a gun, he started to move. Faster and faster was Peter's hiking speed. Soon he was way ahead of all of us ... and we were going a breakneck speed (although initially saying he wasn't hiking at a blistering pace, he later smiled and admitted he was). I called Steve and said the map showed "No Exit" from the Demonstration Forest. Steve said they had come to the same conclusion and they were heading back. I told him about Peter the Rabbit and Steve said "You're pulling my leg" but it was true.
Sandy Point Overlook
At this normal rest stop, we caught up with Peter and Eugene (Eugene had been keeping up with Peter - imagine). No rest for the bullet ... Peter took a brief bit of refreshment and was pressing onward. We all got up and started off together hoping now that we had caught up we could stay with Peter. We were now more concerned with Jeong because he was clearly hiking by himself and not knowing the turns would most likely not take the same trail. The one comforting thing was that all the trails from this point lead to the same endpoint.
The West Ridge Trail
We hiked from Sandy Point to the trail camp where we spotted the sign for the West Ridge Trail. Leaving arrow markers for Steve et al., we started on this really great woods trail. Rusty said it was such a relief to be off the fire road onto a "real" trail he had become rejuvenated. I used the walkie-talkie to call Steve (who had been out of radio contact for a while) and told him that try as we may, Peter and Eugene had smoked us again and were out of sight. I told Steve we had marked the entrance to the West Ridge Trail with arrows for them. Linda, Rusty, and myself continued to hike together on the trail. It was clear from the walkie-talkie reception that Steve was gaining ground, but so was Peter.
The Tumble ... We Catch Up
We thought Peter and Eugene were history, but as we came around the bend, there they were. Apparently, while crossing a fallen tree on the trail, Peter caught his foot and tried to imitate Greg Louganis, by doing a 360 degree flip and a half gainer then landing on his back. His shins showed the battle effects but he was still in the lead and wouldn't let a little thing like this slow him down. Again, we all tried to keep up but were smoked again and even Eugene was left behind. I radioed Steve who was now on the West Ridge Trail. He hadn't see Jeong. I again told Steve about Peter Rabbit.
So Long ... We're Off To Catch Peter Rabbit!
At some point on the trail (Janice can tell us) Steve and Damon decided to make a run to catch Peter, leaving Janice and Pistol Pete behind. Janice, who is a strong hiker, then pulled ahead of Pete. It was clear from radio discussions with Steve that they were gaining ... but not fast enough.
Finally Reaching The Main Trail
Rusty, Linda, and I reached the main trail finally leaving the long but beautiful West Ridge. Peter was nowhere in site, and neither was Jeong. We hiked over the steel bridge and while Eugene was talking a potty break, Steve and Damon caught up.
The Aptos Creek Trail Mystery
We hiked as a group on the Aptos Creek Trail but somehow lost the trail ... bummer. This was Steve's only chance to beat Peter with a disqualification if Peter didn't take this part of the trail. Steve said having to go after Eugene early in the hike put him at a disadvantage (sorry - no sale!). We finally bit the bullet and hiked the road, past a blues festival, and onto the main drag.
The Van In Sight ... And So Is Peter
After hiking over the Route 1 bridge we entered Seacliff Park and spotted the van with Peter casually sitting against a tree. Peter had been there for at least 15 minutes, but I had the keys so he couldn't get to the beer. Shortly after, we spotted Rusty, Eugene, and Janice waking to the van. Rusty and Eugene had stopped for a potty break and Janice had spotted them walking. The gang was all together except for Pistol Pete and Jeong.
Break Out The Beer
We proceeded to open the van and take out the ice chest of beer, which was in great condition with little melting of the ice. We broke open the chips, nuts, and pretzels and gave a toast to a well-done hike. We were just in the middle of enjoying the ice cold beer when a park ranger came by and started to write us up for drinking beer in a state park. This looked like it could really be trouble when she said "I'm sorry but I will have to write you up for this". After telling her about our 20 mile hike from Santa Clara County she clearly had appreciation for how much this beer meant to us. So here was the deal ...
Dump Out The Beer
She directed us to dump out all open bottles of beer (did you ever see grown men cry?), pack up the chest, and get out of the park. We were very fortunate that she gave us this break or the end of this hike could have been miserable. We all piled in the van and headed down the road…to find our missing hikers? ... NO ... to finish the beer!
Finish The Beer
After clearing the main part of town, we found a place on the side of the road where we could pull over and not be in a conspicuous location. Keeping stealthy, we broke out the beer and goodies and finished our party. With everyone having had their beer and full of food, we headed off to find Pistol Pete and Jeong.
Rounding Up The Strays
We headed back into Nisene Park in the hopes of spotting Pete and Jeong. As we were driving to the steel bridge, we passed a van that was hauling Jeong. Some nice lady spotted him and decided to give him a lift -- one down and one to go. We finished driving the road to steel bridge but didn't seen Pete and decided to drive back to the beach. On the way we stopped by the Britannia Arms to see if he chose to hold up there ... no luck. As we approached Seacliff, we spotted Pistol Pete walking along the road and when he spotted us a big smile came across his face. Amazing -- we had rounded up the crew.
Back To Uvas
With everyone accounted for, we headed back to Uvas. Sounds like an easy task, but after getting lost in Watsonville multiple times we finally pulled out a map and Peter guided us to Route 152. Just as we got on the correct road, nature called to Eugene who couldn't wait. Peter, who apparently likes to see Eugene explode, suggested we wait until we get on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains but the van is junky enough without pee on the floor so we stopped at the Summit House. It appeared that more than Eugene needed to use the facilities because the van nearly emptied. With tired bodies but empty bladders we finally arrived at Uvas about 7:30pm. Smart decision, Sergei! We unloaded the van, distributed the goodies, and said our goodbyes. There was still one remaining concern ...
Janice, who was running on fumes, needed to find a gas station, so I followed her (in fact we all followed her) until she pulled into the station at Santa Teresa and Bernal. With a honk of the horn, I headed home for a nice hot shower.
Today we completed the first INCH hike of Uvas-to-the-Sea. I don't believe any other hiking group in the Bay Area has done this. Considering the hike's length, numerous branches and trails, number of people to coordinate, and that we are not in jail, it was a successful and memorable hike. Lessons learned are: Stay together, more radios, everyone should have a cell phone, contact number on map in case you get lost, no drinking in state parks, and watch out for crocodiles.
Jeong's 1st leaf
Sergei's 10th leaf
Pages maintained by Steve Walstra, Peter Saviz, and Russell Gee.
©2022 Intrepid Northern California Hikers