Saturday, February 24, 2007

The (Almost) Compleat Uvas Canyon - Mon Feb 19

Monday was a holiday for me.  I called Michael to see if he wanted to tag along, but he had to work.  Too bad for him.

Inspired by my efforts at Fremont Older on the previous Saturday, I decided on a somewhat ambitious plan to hike every inch of trail at Uvas Canyon County Park.  I sketched it out on the map and it looked to be about 12 miles.  Only one serious uphill, but that would prove to be the obstacle that prevented me from completing the task.

We (me and Raleigh, as usual) got to the park slightly after noon.  The entrance fee machine was out of order.  All I had was a $20 bill and I didn't want the county to make too much profit (the fee is $5; I mailed it in today).  So I filled out the receipt and stuck it to my window, hoping they wouldn't detect that there was no money in the drop box.  I don't think they did.

The first problem was finding a parking spot.  I wanted to park at the start of the Knib's Knob trail but the group camping area was gated off and there was nowhere to park in the camping area further along.  So I had to double back and park at what I thought was the beginning of the Alec Canyon trail.  The nice signboard had a "You Are Here" sign, pointing to someplace else.  In otherwords, it should have said "You Are Not Here."  I walked back up the road towards the entrance gate until I figured out that the sign was full of crap.

After a little ways, the Alec Canyon Trail switchbacks up a few hundred feet and tops the ridget at Manzanita Point.  Views across Uvas Canyon predominate; eventually you can see east back down into the Santa Clara valley.

After Manzanita Point the trail drops down some then you climb a little up Alec Creek's canyon until the trail ends in the vicinity of some kind of logging camp (according to the map and signs.  We doubled back and on the return went up a short trail to Triple Falls.  It's a typical Santa Cruz mountains waterfall.  More of a really steep rapids; but worth the walk.

Back to the trail, up the Manzanita point again, then we turned on the Contour Trail junction which is .5 miles from the start.  This is a great trail, matching its name.  It rises very gradually from about 1600' to 1800' over a course of 1.5 miles or so.  Nice woods the whole way.

When this trail reached Swanson Creek, we weren't sure where to go.  There were use trails upwhich we tried; those fizzled out.  Normally, you expect the trail to cross the creek when you reach it.  But here, the trail descended the same side of the creek for a couple hundred yards, then crossed it.  We saw a couple scrambling further down the bank; I thought maybe they had got waylaid at the same point coming up.

Just past here is marked the "Hothouse Site."  We went a little ways up on a use trail and saw a maze of pipes across the ground and pieces of broken glass.  I guess there used to be a greenhouse here.

A short ways further down is the main waterfall basin.  The waterfall loop trail/road lead here, and other trails branch off to Knobcone Point, Black Rock Falls, and another small waterfall (maybe Basin Falls?).  I went up all those trails.  The Knobcone Pt trail is steep, .4 miles and totally lame.  At the top is a buldozed clearing with a picnic table.  No views.

Black Rock Falls is nice; most picturesque of the whole lot, I'd say.

In order to cover all the trails, I had to descend the Waterfall Loop Trail a little ways, then come back up the Waterfall Loop Road.  I then doubled back and descended the trail .3 miles to where it met the road again.  I then climbed back up the road and immediately turned around and doubled back.

Just before the road met up with the Alec Canyon trail where we started, it intersects the Swanson Creek Trail.  There's a little triangle and I had to go around in a bit of a circle to cover all of the trails.  Finally we made our way down the Swanson Creek Trail to an "access" trail which led to the upper area of the park for the trail to Knib's Knob.

It was 4:15.  I wanted to be back to the car by 5:30 because they said they locked the gate at sunset (which was just before 6:00).  From the Knib's Knob trailhead to the summit is something like 2.5 miles (not counting the .2 mile turnoff to the knob itself).

I knew I wouldn't make it, but I decided to climb up to the bench on top of the ridge.  That was about 700' up and .4 miles or so.  After 30 minutes of steep climbing we were there.  Then booked down in 15 minutes.

Aside from the upper reaches of that trail, the only bit left was the Uvas Canyon trail to its junction with Swanson Creek and then the stretch of Swanson Creek trail back to the road where we had left it earlier.

The walk along the creeks wasnice.  At the junction was a narrow, very steep, rocky descent that Raleigh wasn't able to negotiate (or so I thought; he tends to get too much momentum and I was afraid he'd go right off the edge).  So instead we descended to Uvas Creek and walked up the creek, crossing and re-crossing, then hopped across Swanson Creek.

A quarter of a mile up the creek got us back to the road.  We ascended the trail a bit further (along a stretch we had already done), then turned onto the Waterfall Loop road to complete the last hundred yards until it met Alec Canyon Trail.

That was at a point just beyond the parking lot.  We arrived back at the car at 5:00.

The ride back along Uvas and McKee roads was nice.  Scenic green hills this time of year.  A big turkey ran across the road right in front of us at one point.  Wild turkeys are supposed to be smart but I think they're pretty clueless.  One time Raleigh and I walked right up to one that was so busy pecking at bugs or seeds that it didn't even see us till we were right on top of it.

The turkey in the road survived.

Hike totals: 10 miles, 2300' elevation gain.

2007 Totals: 76 miles; 17,200' elevation gain

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