On a Friday night it’s more than likely to find Hubby and I packing a weekend’s worth of Indian food into the trunk of our car and heading over the hill to Aptos and La Selva Beach, where my parents live. We spend most of our weekends enjoying the good weather of Santa Cruz County, especially during the summer months. So when I got the chance last week to speak at a blogging event in Felton, an old-fashioned town in the Santa Cruz mountains famous for it’s redwoods and railroads, I was surprised to realize I had never spent any time there before.
The town is amazingly picturesque as if it were pulled from the pages of a history book. The single main street is lined with tiny shops, shaded overhead by towering redwood trees. The folks who live there are friendly and more than willing to offer advise on their favorite places to visit. They carry a lot of hometown pride, I guess I would too if I lived there.
Felton is a mix of old country charm mingled with new modern convenience. A large Safeway has replaced the corner market, but still next door stands Errie’s Auto Shop. Homes suited for simple living line the streets and backroads and during my walk around town I saw about as many motorcyclists as there were cars.
My first item of the day was to run over to the local drugstore and pick up some sunscreen and a snack. I headed to the checkout counter with a new sun hat, a bag of trail mix for lunch and a chocolate bar for later. Upon checking out, I found out there were no bags available. The high school teenager working the checkout stand told me they were no longer allowed to sell plastic bags. He was good enough to scrounge up a small paper bag for me and as he looked I turned to the couple behind me and said, ”I guess it’s pretty obvious I’m from out of town isn’t it?”
She smiled and replied,
I was soon on my way, walking by the side of the road, taking pictures of almost everything in sight. At a fork in the road I was trying to decide which way to go when I saw a motorcyclist parked in the shade, enjoying the last few bites of his lunch. I asked if I could take his picture and we soon got to chatting. I told him how different Felton was from any other town in the area. That was enough to fuel up his town pride and off he went, sharing stories of how he moved here and how much he loved it.
There’s no place like it.
Of course, he suggested a list of his favorite places to visit, including the place he had just gotten his burger. His favorite was a hiking trail on the banks of the local lake, “perfect for picnicking” he told me. I waved goodbye as his motorcycle boomed off into the distance and continued on towards my first stop.
A number of the locals suggested I visit “the old bridge”. They say it’s the oldest covered bridge in the nation. I thought that may be a bit of local exaggeration, however a quick search told me it is considered the tallest covered bridge in the country.
After watching parents walking their toddlers through the bridge for a few minutes I walked on to my next stop; a hike through the Redwood park.
To get to the Redwoods I was told to cut through Roaring Camp Railroad, an old train depot station which was once a hub of activity for the Santa Cruz logging industry and has now been remodeled into a historic attraction.
Shining red and black steam trains run daily through the winding Santa Cruz mountains. You can take a tour through the old redwoods or travel in style down to the beaches or the boardwalk.
The train station is modeled after an 1880′s train depot; complete with blacksmith, school house and marshall’s office.
The camp was built in 1963 by Norman Clark, who wanted to rekindle the love and romance for the American steam engine. He seems to have succeeded as it’s become a favorite spot for weddings, including the wedding of my own parents, who took a steam train deep into the forest over thirty years ago and were married in a Redwood cove affectionately called “the cathedral”.
“The cathedral” is no church. It’s a clearing in the dense trees, accessible only by train. The clearing forms a perfect circle and comes together in the sky more than 300 feet high, where the leaves form a shimmering ceiling of green.ejbSF, Flickr
During my exploration of the Roaring Camp and the Redwoods I met some fellow travelers. When first trying to find the camp, I saw a couple walking along the same path as me. We both stopped and asked each other where the Roaring Camp Railroad was, so we wound up walking together and kept each other company throughout the entire trip. They told me their names, Armandine and Nicola, and they had just flown over from France a few days before. I was curious how they had ended up in Felton after France and listened to Armandine tell the story. Her lilting French accent was as enjoyable as the surrounding scenery.
They had flown in from France to San Francisco and were making their way south. They had already spent a day in San Francisco and visited Yosemite, Carmel and Monterey. Santa Cruz county had been their favorite so far because they liked how relaxed the atmosphere was without having to work at it.
We walked through the green canopy of trees, winding along the banks of a creek while chatting about France and ideas of more places to visit around town. By the end of our hike we had become new friends, taking pictures together and exchanging emails.
It would be easy enough to come away from my visit and recall the fun historic bridge or the awe inspiring redwood trees, but surprisingly, the best part of my day was how many people I met who were willing to start up a conversation and share a laugh. Felton seems to have it all. Not only beautiful scenery but great people as well.