Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz

October 25, 1998

The rolling coastal hills of Santa Cruz County are a great place to stretch your legs and see some beautiful views this weekend. Located just a few miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, Wilder Ranch is the site of a historic dairy farm dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. Many of the old buildings are being maintained as a cultural preserve near the park's main entrance, and historic evidence of farming activity can be found throughout the park as remains of fences, corrals, roadbeds and other structures. Wilder Ranch is comprised of approximately 3900 acres, 900 of which are coastal beach lands under cultivation for agricultural use, while the remaining 3000 acres consist of a mixture of open hillsides and steep, wooded reentrants.

There are many miles of trails, and while these and the open hillsides offer fast navigation, the reentrants range from overgrown (with lots of poison oak) to impassable. The course will encourage you to use trails to get around the steepest and most overgrown of these. The total elevation difference from the highway to the top of the park is a little over 700 feet, and a determined hiker will be rewarded with majestic redwood canyons and magnificent views of Monterey Bay at the higher elevations. Last year when I participated in Thorsten's event here I found the view of the ocean to be spectacular.

The event format will be Score-O. You try to find as many control features as you can within a given time limit. Controls that are farther away or hard to get to are worth more points. Registration and starts will be available from 10am to 12:30pm. You may choose either a 90 minute or 3 hour time limit (changing your mind in the middle if you like, it's the same map) but must return by 2pm. The map is a marked-up copy of the USGS 7.5' Santa Cruz quadrangle with 20ft contours and has been enlarged to a scale of 1:16000. Sorry, no dogs are allowed in the park.

Although preregistration is not required, letting me know that you plan to attend via e-mail (vanactivesw.com) or phone (408-777-9100) will guarantee you a pre-marked map.

To get to Wilder Ranch State Park, take Highway 1 north from Santa Cruz. Turn left (towards the ocean) about 2 miles past Western Drive at the brown state park sign. Pay the $6 parking fee at the entrance kiosk and park, then follow the signs to the registration area (in the cultural preserve where all the buildings are). If you're driving south on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay, turn right about 2 miles before Western Drive...

Hope to see you there.

- Van Boughner

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