Jacks Peak County Park

This one is a two-fer!

Which, since you’ve already gotten two posts in two days (what!?) that makes this…a double two-fer? a dream within a dream?  A lot more than you really want to read, so you’ll split it up over a few days, thankyouverymuch?  …should I just get started already?  Ok.
We took a trip to Monterey a few weeks back, and enjoyed sun, sand and warm weather for the first time this year (maybe it was more than a few weeks).  During this trip, we took a drive out to check out Jacks (not Jack’s, as I originally thought) Peak County Park, home to several miles of nature trails on the top of a mountain.  Upon arriving at the pay station, we paid the ranger in the booth and received a map of the park.  It showed the forked road that lay ahead of us, one side leading to the North, the other roughly to the South, the direction in which we decided to venture first.
First Path
The southern side had more trails, and a larger parking lot, and more cars seemed to be turning that direction, surely a sign that this more popular spot was better.  And it was great.  The southern face of the mountain got more of the sunlight, so we got our share of sunshine.  However, we weren’t wanting for shade either.  Trees have grown rapidly in the area, mostly two different types – a type of Oak and rare Monterey Pines.
It seemed appropriate to begin our walk by taking the Jacks Peak Trail.  This trail, which was a pleasant third of a mile, led to, well, Jacks Peak.  However, we were greeted not by a panoramic vista of the open space below, but rather a wall of trees instead.
In addition to trees, we found ourselves at another trail, the Skyline Trail.  This one was a bit longer, and according to the map would take us a little short of a mile’s walk back to the start of our journey in the the parking lot.  This trail also included a self-guided nature walk in the form of numbered posts to which laminated cards were attached.  These cards had information about the area from trees to flowers, animals and insects which inhabit the area.  Instead of simply walking through the area, we became acquainted with the ecosystem, both experiencing the surroundings and learning the names, histories, and life cycles of just about everything we encountered.
Our second hike was on the Northern face of the hillside.  The trees on this side were just as thick, and were also covered in gauzy patches of Spanish moss that hung down from branches large and small.  But the majority of the shade came from the mountain itself, which blocked the sunlight beaming from the south.
The shade, however, didn’t make for a much cooler walk.  With the approach of noon came an increase in temperature.  Despite the shade, we began breathing a bit heavier, and sweat beaded up on our foreheads, despite our supply of water and Gatorade.
As we had read on our previous walk, the flora were much brighter and more vibrant on the Northern side – their way of competing for the attention of the pollinating insects that tend to prefer the sunnier southern side.  Even mother nature needs to employ marketing techniques, it seems.
Spanish Moss
Other people, it seemed, also preferred the sunny side.  We saw only one other person (and dog) on this trail, and there wasn’t a single car in the parking lot.
We set off down the Earl Moser Trail, headed to the Band Tail Point.  The map also showed a short trail leading off of the main path, which led to what was labeled the “Hidden Meadow.”  Intrigued, we decided to take a look.  The map, however, neglected to mention that it was also the smallest meadow – we went around the loop twice before realizing the patch of grass to our left was the meadow.
Yup.  That's it

Yup. That’s it

After snapping a photo of the meadow, we continued to the trail’s end, Band Tail Point.  Again, we were somewhat underwhelmed by the view – trees.  Sure, trees are beautiful, but so are broad vistas, and that’s what the day had been somewhat lacking.  Who knows, maybe someone has taken up a collection for a small observation deck?
Through the Trees
We strolled back, going mostly downhill this time.  We got back in the car and drove off to Santa Cruz to enjoy another sort of hike, this time in the wilds of downtown.  No broad vistas there, either.
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