Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fall Creek Unit (Henry Cowell SP): Lime Kiln Partial Loop

 Forget-me-not in the Lime Kiln area.

The Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell State Park is a gem of the Santa Cruz mountains hidden away behind the town of Felton. If my dear friend Brie and her boyfriend Sean did not live within a 1/4 mile of the trailhead I'm not sure I would have ever known about Fall Creek. I had already hiked Windy Hill the same afternoon and found myself pretty ragged by the time I hit the trail with Sean and his dog Huckleberry, my local guides. (I should mention that legally dogs are not allowed in the park and that I do not advocate breaking this rule as dogs can be harmful to the local plants and wildlife )
Young second growth Redwoods

From the main trailhead off Felton Empire Road there is a short 1/4th mile leg that leads in to the park crossing Bennett creek and arriving at the much larger Fall Creek.  Recent rains had the creek literally shimmering with fleks of Iron Pyrite (fools gold) flushed out of the hillsides. A left on to the Fall Creek trail follows Fall Creek for awhile, bridges switch back and forth across it as it tumbles over logs and spills down small waterfalls.

Small waterfall on Fall Creek

The trail splits once at the junction of Fall Creek and another small unnamed creek and then again 1/2 mile later. A left at either of these junctions starts the Kiln trail loop which cuts in to the redwood forest before arriving in a small basin exploding with forget-me-nots. The small white and blue flowers grow in a carpet, lining the trail and filling the forest floor. The Lime Kilns themselves are quite interesting but a reminder of why the redwoods in this forest are all new growth and why their ancestors were hacked down.

Alders and Forget-me-not in late afternoon light in the Lime Kiln area.

Maybe I was just so filled with wonder by the forest, hungry, or too tired but somehow we ended up taking the wrong trail out of the Lime Kiln area and hiking up a steep 1/2 mile trail to a dead-end on the side of Felton Empire Rd. After doubling back we arrived back at the Lime Kiln area and traveled downhill following a small creek that ran out of the basin and to the Fall Creek trail.

Spring water pouring out from the rock near the Lime Kilns.

I willed myself, and my angry stomach, on with thoughts of mexican food waiting for me in Felton. After treking back a mile or so to the car we headed out to fulfill that promise at Taqueria Vallarta where a very large, tasty burrito was waiting for me.


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  2. Hey! Great write up! I'd like to give this hike a try - how long (time/distance) was this hike! LOVE your blog...!

  3. Thanks Greg!

    It's almost exactly 3.0 miles which should take between 1 and 2 hours depending on the speed at which you hike.

    I'm making an effort to add some of that information in the posts however if you want a reference table for now visit the Bay Area Hikes page to see the distances.