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Wednesday 9 Oct 2013
Santa Cruz, USA

A walk in the woods

With the Government Shutdown now into day 9 and no sign of compromise on the cards, we gave up hope of reaching Muir Woods and headed south of San Francisco to Big Basin State Park for our Giant Redwoods fix.  Bill had recommended the area and helped us work out our route, so we thanked them for a lovely stay and hit the road again.  After the freeways past Oakland and the silicone valley areas, we picked up a small winding road that twisted its way steeply down into the forests, giving us a taste of what was to come.  Every now and then we would pass a narrow turning with a line of mismatched mailboxes on posts nearby, but we never saw the houses they belonged to.  It was like a crop of funny shaped mushrooms had sprung up in a quiet corner of the forest.

We eventually reach Big Basin State Park and ate our lunch outside their gift shop.  I may have made a few crazy impulse purchases on this adventure, like the glass koru ornament in New Zealand, or the painting in Bali, but Verity proved that I’m not unique in this.  She bought a birdhouse!  To be fair, it was no ordinary birdhouse, but a fabulous brightly coloured tall gingerbread house.  I may have encouraged her a little bit...

We spent a very happy couple of hours wandering the trails among the enormous Redwood groves, marvelling at the height of these magnificent trees and hiding inside burned out hollow stumps.  The trees are incredibly fire resistant and can survive several forest fires, but they will burn eventually if the conditions are bad enough.  When they fall, the high tannin levels in the wood mean it can take twenty years before the wood starts to properly decompose and up to a hundred for a giant tree to break down fully.  The tallest tree here was 329’ tall, but they have a surprisingly shallow root structure, digging as little as 6’ below the surface, instead getting their strength from spreading sideways over vast distances to mingle with their neighbours.

We decided not to camp at Big Basin, as had been our intention, but carried on down to the coastal town of Santa Cruz at the top of Monterey Bay.  We tried to find our way to the road along the seafront and instead found ourselves driving out onto the wharf, a stone pier that juts out a kilometre into the sea.  From here, we could look back at the classic fairground rides on the seafront.  (Cult vampire film fans: this is where the opening scene of ‘The Lost Boys’ was filmed, flying in across the ocean and up over the white wooden rollercoaster.  I knew it looked familiar, but didn’t place it until later.)  We had a bowl of clam chowder and pulled faces at the seagulls watching us intently through the café windows.

After checking into a motel for the night, we walked into town and found a great little noodle house for dinner, but found the atmosphere distinctly less friendly when we came out.  There were a number of dodgy looking characters hanging around so we beat a hasty retreat back to our motel instead of going to explore the fairground as we had planned.

The news showed no signs of movement on the Government Shutdown.  It has now emerged that although the military are still receiving salaries, Death in Service payments are not being processed.  26 soldiers have died in conflict since the start of the shutdown. Families would normally be flown to Delaware to receive the bodies as they arrive, but without the death duties, these families cannot get there.  It has added yet more fuel to the political fire but nobody is any closer to talking sense and sorting everything out.


Mileage: 2613


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