Doug's Backpacking and Hiking Pages
Wow, look at the grass stains on my skin. I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life. -- Calvin


U-Con Trail, Pogonip. Santa Cruz

Date: Mon Jun 21, 1999 10:46 am
Subject: [no-gear] TR: U-Con Trail, Pogonip. Santa Cruz, CA.

This describes an exploration of "the Pogonip", 640 acres of open space parkland, nestled between the city of Santa Cruz (who owns the land), UC Santa Cruz, and Henry Cowell State Park. This is part of the central California coast, 60 miles south of San Francisco.

(MBOSC == Mountain Bikers Of Santa Cruz, an advocacy club.)

A new trail was dedicated Saturday (1999/6/19):

Geoff Smith wrote:

This last Saturday was a historic day for mutil-use advocates in Santa Cruz. The City held the official trail opening ceremony for the new U-Con Trail that connects Henry Cowell State Park to UCSC through Pogonip Park.

I had decided to station myself at the bottom of the trail, to make sure that no one chose that day to ignore the closed sign and walk or ride up it. First I went up to the top, and only Susan Harris (Santa Cruz Parks & Recs director) was there, putting up ribbon & balloons. Chatted with her a bit, helped her align the balloons, and managed to get a copy of the new Pogonip map ("debuting today", she said). As I headed back to the fire station parking lot, I saw a small rabbit. At that lot, I said hello and thank you to master trailbuilders Bud and Emma McCrary, then I drove out down & around to the Rincon Road entrance. Walked up to the bottom of the trail and hung around there for about 35 minutes (saw only two runners, both staying on Rincon Road) before the folks who had been at the dedication started arriving. Bikes first :-).

Saw several of the MBOSC folks there (including our long lost and double-booked ex-president Jim de Alba).

When I got the map, I decided to tour the rest of the Pogonip. Walked the short way up to where Spring Road & Rincon split, looking for what the map called "Fern Trail". Not quite a trail as it leaves that spot — more like a rough, overgrown doubletrack across the edge of the meadow. Saw a coyote trotting up just to the edge of the woods before he noticed me and decided to choose a different route.

Fern Trail descended quite a bit over the next mile or two; heading generally south, well above the San Lorenzo River, it meanders in and out of the mixed forest and grassy, sloping meadows. Just before the spot where the map said "trail indistinct", there was a smaller, less used branch. I ignored that and continued down until I saw the railroad tracks, and saw that this trail descended very steeply for its last 100 yards. So I turned around and took that smaller trail, which hit a couple of "T"'s as it drops less steeply to Redwood Creek. (I went right both times.) Climbed out to Brayshaw trail, and headed down toward the old, decrepit Pogonip Club building. (I hope that they can restore this beautiful old Arts & Crafts building some day.)

Tried to find the Prairie trail, but its trailhead isn't really marked (or it's farther back up Brayshaw than the map seems to indicate). So I just headed out across the large open field (former golf course, I hear) and after a couple hundred yards, hit the trail that connects to the Nature Trail loop. This trail heads out across a couple of ridges, past the headwaters of mighty :-) Pogonip Creek, with some interesting ravines. Then we head into a thick stand of second-growth redwoods. The trail splits a couple of times and I went right both times, now heading west, directly up the ridge, up Lookout Trail), and climbs pretty steeply up towards UCSC, as the redwoods give way to the trees that like dryer soil — madrones, oaks, firs, some manzanitas.

Out into the more open meadows, and hit Spring Trail — a dirt road just below Coolidge street, the main way into UCSC. To the left on Spring a few yards, I went over to look at some unusual warning signs. Something like "Warning — dangerous erosion. Do not enter."

The meadows below the redwood choked central campus of UCSC are mostly limestone karst, and there are some good-sized caves at the other end of campus. But here, it looks like some of the same processes were at work. (This is one reason why the university cannot build on those meadows — too many sinkholes!) Turned around and headed north on Spring Road. This is a remarkably level road, considering the steep hills it's built into. Along Spring Road, there are some creeklets, actually running quite well for this late in the spring. Found "Springbox Trail", which climbs steeply up from Spring Trail to the upper part of Rincon Road. Sure enough, there are a couple of cement boxes there, one of which surrounds a very copious (for California) spring.

Up to Rincon, headed on down to the lime kilns. The Pogonip, and UCSC, and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, were all owned by Henry Cowell and used for ranching and for timber. They also mined some of the limestone, to bake it into lime, which is used in mortar and plaster. Similar kilns can be seen in the Gray Whale section of Wilder Ranch, and in the Fall Creek section of Henry Cowell State Park. These kilns consist of vertical stone walls (12+ feet tall), that look kinda like they're built into the hillside, with several small (2-3 foot high) openings along the ground.

The kilns trail starts here, loops out away from Rincon, then returns to it. I was curious about how they had altered this trail to make room for the U-Con trail — this trail returns to hit Rincon much sooner than it used to. I finally got to the bottom of U-Con, and headed up it. Some ways up, I could see the brush that was laid over the old kilns trail, and the next 100 yards or so of U-Con *is* the old kilns trail. Then U-Con climbs away from the brush-covered upper branch of the kilns trail, and continues to wind through the redwoods, madrones, oaks, manzanita and lots of poison oak, until it comes out at the east end of UCSC's Fuel Break Road. I walked back down it, and out to where I had parked.

Very nice day, maybe 2 1/2 hours of walking, probably not even six miles, but what a treasure this park is, so close to Santa Cruz.

Doug Landauer, MBOSC Secretary
"Wow, look at the grass stains on my skin. I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life." — Calvin

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