I really like driving on Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It runs the length of the San Lorenzo Valley through some great small towns – Felton, Ben Lomond, Brookdale, Boulder Creek – until it heads up and over the mountains past some wide open spaces and hits civilization again in Saratoga. It’s a beautiful drive. The winding road makes everyone slow down, so you get more than a passing glimpse of the giant redwoods standing sentry along the way and the San Lorenzo River that meanders through the entire Valley all the way to Monterey Bay.
We were driving Highway 9 recently, my guy and I, headed to Big Basin Redwoods State Park to do some hiking and to see the wild azaleas that bloom there every spring. We were too early for this bloom-fest, so a return trip is in order. I’m a wildflower fanatic, though, and they were blooming! Wild Santa Cruz irises, yellow bush poppies, snow flowers, purple lupine, orange sticky monkey flowers all would have made a great bouquet. I left them untouched, since it’s illegal to pick them!
Half the time when I’m hiking, I have to remind myself to look up and around. When we finally reached Buzzard’s Roost, about three miles from the Park Headquarters, I did. We scrambled up a small rock face to the “Roost,” the highest point in the park. The 360° view was spectacular. That’s my favorite part of hiking. The view from the top of what ever part of the world I’m standing on.
My second favorite part is the post-hike eating! I have actually eaten my way through the San Lorenzo Valley. This time we stopped in Boulder Creek. We wandered through town and stumbled upon the Old Mountain Inn right on the main street. It’s one of those restaurants the locals hang out in. Just our kind of place … good food, friendly people. The salted caramel, toasted pecan waffle made me happy!
As we headed home, we stopped at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply in Ben Lomond. It has a little bit of everything for the hobby farmer, like me. Right next door is Spanky’s Restaurant, home to some naughty good, stuffed French toast … I speak from experience! We briefly toyed with the idea of blueberry fritters at Felton Donuts and Pastries, but we topped off the day with just a cup of coffee for the last leg home.
The San Lorenzo Valley is like a favorite cubbyhole – a small, snug place filled with treasures just waiting to be rediscovered. And plenty of places to eat!