394. Pescadero Creek Loop (05/22/04)
Hikers (7): Cal, Eugene, Gwynneth, Judy, Peter, Rick, Steve
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Pescadero Creek County Park near La Honda
Write-up by Steve
It was a foggy drive from Intel to the trailhead. Along the way, Rick explained what great gas mileage his car got. This would have been a more interesting story if we hadn't been in my car during this conversation. When we arrived at the completely empty trailhead, it sprinkled a little bit, but that was the last of the rain (but not the fog) that we'd see all day.
Although the directions were accurate, everyone missed the turn onto the unlabeled road heading to the trailhead. The only indictor for the road, in fact, was the signs mentioning the county jail within the park. Eventually, though, everyone turned around and found it on the way back. Whew!
The plan was to hike a 13 mile loop around Pescadero and McDonald County Parks, with a spur to visit Memorial Grove. There are no good maps for the parks on-line, and we had never been there before, so I had lovingly mapped out everything in topographical software, including marking every major junction in my GPS. That's how I knew we were lost 0.5 miles into the hike. Rather than beat a path to where we should be, we turned around to head back to the parking lot to do the hike in reverse. However, on the way back, I saw the trail we should have taken. How all seven of us missed the nice, clear trail marker on the way in is a mystery, but it said "Tar Water", and that was what we were after.
The trail is called "Tar Water" because half of it runs along the Tar Water Creek. Tar Water Creek is thus named because of the crude oil that bubbles up from an underground reservoir and accumulates in the calm parts of the creek. When we reached the creek crossing, we were not disappointed! There were pools of oil in several locations in the creek. Cool! With gas prices as high as they are, it might be time to start drilling in Pescadero.
From there, we hiked over to Sam McDonald County Park, which is in no way different from Pescadero. Redwoods all over the place, and lots of nice foggy shade. The signs at the numerous junctions were excellent--a million times better than the lame maps--so we were able to stay on trail with little effort.
Eventually we reached the spur to head off and visit Memorial Grove. As we walked into that section of the park, the density of redwoods increased slightly. I was wishing I had a map of the grove itself as we wound our way down, down, down. . .We found a bench and stopped for lunch. Afterwards, we followed the trail across a bridge and into a clearing next to Skyline Blvd. This is where the plaque designating the Memorial Grove is located. We looked around. . .no big deal. The supposed old growth Redwoods in Memorial Grove don't appear much bigger/better than than any number of redwoods elsewhere in the park. Oh well, at least we'd get a nice burn hiking back up to Brooks trail!
From there, we finished out the Brooks Trail loop and picked up Pomponino. This trail goes right along the side the now-abandoned county jail. I did catch sight of the complex in the distance once, but if I hadn't known it was there, I would have never guessed. Apparently the County of San Mateo closed the jail after they saw a spike in crime caused by people wanting to live out in the middle of a redwood forest. . .
After a good stretch of easy hiking we reached a sign for the Tar Water loop trail again. I wasn't sure if this was the first part of the loop (which we had taken a little of at the beginning) or the second part of the loop (which I wanted to take back to the parking lot). I couldn't get GPS reception to check my map, so I decided to be conservative and take the trail back. As it turned out, this was the second trail, so we were magically deposited right next to the cars. I love it when a plan comes together.
This was a nice place to hike, and I'm not sure why this was our first visit. With all the nice, shaded, level-3 goodness, we'll definitely be back in the future.
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