We are trying out a new cycle path. When we participated in the Strawberry Fields Forever event a few weeks ago, one of the unicyclists recommended the path from Santa Cruz to the Wilder Ranch. Yesterday I went online to look for information but it took me quite a while to find out exactly where the route started in Santa Cruz.
On 17, as we crested the summit, the sun was out but we could see a lot of low fog down in the valley. It looked as though we were looking down on an immense lake with woody islands dotted around. The fog became thicker as we went downhill towards Scotts Valley.
After stopping for breakfast in Santa Cruz, we set out to find Chestnut Street. We found it before too long. Now we have to find Mission Street. It’s here we became confused. According to the map I printed yesterday, Mission Street runs parallel to Highway 1 but Highway 1 is Mission Street! We took a left turn and saw signs pointing to a bike path. Ah, that looks promising. Then we came to a cross street which said Mission Street. Maybe somewhere along the way Highway 1 veers away from Mission Street. Who cares, at least we are back on track. We drive to the end of Mission Street to where the bike path begins.
It is cold and foggy and the seats on our bikes are damp. Tom wanted to borrow my leggings. Fat chance of that!
The bike path runs by the side of Highway 1. How many times have we driven along this stretch of road and we never knew there was a bike path there.
From here we cannot see the ocean. To the left are cultivated fields but we know they run down to the ocean. The path is reasonable. Along the way we see are clumps of California Poppies, refusing to open just yet as the day is not warm enough.
Before long we reach Wilder Ranch. It opens at 8 and the time is now 7.55 but we are able to ride round the gate.
The history of the ranch is fascinating. Roundabout 1841 the original adobe house was built by Don Jose Antonio Bolcoff and it was named the Rancho Rufugio. Balcoff was also responsible for starting the dairy. In 1854 Moses A Melder foreclosed on loans and acquired the property. He built a house, now called Meder House, and several barns. In 1871 Delos D Wilder and L K Baldwin formed a partnership and acquired the land. They had the reputation of ‘making the finest butter’. The partnership was dissolved in 1185 and D.D Wilder secured the lower half of the land of roughly 2,330 acres which became the Wilder Ranch. He built a large addition to the ranch house in 1990. Five generations of the Wilder family lived and worked the ranch and in December 1975 the property became a State Park.
Tom stops to take photos of some of the buildings and four horses in a field. All is quiet except for bursts of bird song. Thre is nobody else around. A ranger turns up in a truck and starts checking and opening buildings and we spot two other visitors. This is a haven for mountain bikers because of the bike paths radiating from Wilder Ranch. To the ocean side there are the easy ones on the buff top but there is a tunnel under Highway 1 which leads to a multitude of trails up to the mountains. All bikers have to dismount and walk through the ranch.
I stand and watch the chickens who are safely caged up. Maybe later in the day they will be allowed to wander free. The ranger parks nerarby and I ask her about the different bike trails. She very kindly gave me a map. We chat for a bit and she recounted a story about the chickens. Early one morning she was nearby when she heard the chickens get excited. She assumed it was because they saw her and thought they were going to be fed, so she ignored them. Later she was devastated to find out that a bobcat had got into the hen house and outside run and had killed all the chickens bar one rooster. The bobcat came back the next night and killed him too.