After spending the previous afternoon along the ocean, it was time to head inland towards Felton to go to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the Roaring Camp Narrow-gauge Railroad.
Melody did a bit of research for the two locations, and found that it would be best to park at the State Park, then walk over to Roaring Camp to ride the train; the parking lot at Roaring Camp was further away than the State Park parking lot, and that way we would only need to pay parking once. What a deal!
We found it pretty straightforward to get to the State Park. The parking fee for day use is $10, but there was no attendant at the booth, and we only had $20s. Fortunately we found someone who had a couple $10 bills, so we were able to park without giving an extra donation to the State Park system.
Roaring Camp Narrow-Gauge Railroad
The walk to Roaring Camp was indeed short; you could see it from the parking lot. We bought our ride tickets and then wandered around a bit. It's set up like a replica frontier town, but since we weren't there during the peak season, many of the buildings were closed. After a few minutes, the engine came around, backing up to pick up the cars in which we would be riding. Once everything was hooked up, the train made its way to the station, and everyone was eagerly awaiting to board the six passenger cars. We were told the first two cars were reserved for a school group; the rest of us moved our way down a bit to be in line with the other cars.
As soon as the train stopped, the kids started hopping on. Unfortunately, it wasn't time for them to do so, and one of the employees got on his radio to tell the conductor that they were boarding, and he should speed things up so everyone else could board, too. We got on, and before we knew it, the conductor was welcoming everyone and telling us to wave to everyone else who wasn't on the train (mostly employees, some in period costume).
After a few minutes we were under the canopy of redwood trees, with the engineer making liberal use of the steam whistle. At one point the train stopped and started backing up. That's because the train needed to navigate a switchback to make it up the hill; it backed up onto a track which was further up the hill, then back forward on yet another track; switches were thrown during the pauses to direct the train in the right direction. While we were on the switchback, the conductor noted that the hill had a lot of sand, and while excavating they found shark teeth as well as other marine fragments. That's because the area was underwater a long time ago.
We made it up to Bear Mountain, where we stopped for a few minutes to stretch our legs and wander around. The conductor gave a quick presentation of the redwood trees, showing how they grow not only up but also by family circles, growing saplings from the root ball in a circle surrounding the original tree. Afterwards, we all assembled back on the train and proceeded back down the hill.
As we were going down the switchback, we got a good view of how the train got up the hill before the switchback was put into place. There used to be a spiral trestle which must have given a commanding view, but it was damaged in a fire a while ago, and instead of rebuilding, the operators decided to stick to the ground with the switchback.
After getting off the train, it was lunchtime, and of course several people mobbed the concession stand. We took a quick look, but decided to head to Felton to find a place for lunch (our day use pass allowed us to reenter the park). We found a diner not too far away.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
We went back to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park after lunch, parking in almost the same spot as we did in the morning. The first thing we did was take a stroll along the Redwood Grove Loop Trail, which is a nature trail that has a brochure which explains what you're looking at along the way. In addition to pointing out features of the redwoods (burls, family circles, trunks hollowed-out by fire), it pointed out Douglas firs, California bays, and banana slugs (which we didn't see).
Returning from the loop, we set out to find the path to the observation deck. The trail started out along the San Lorenzo River, then turned to follow Eagle Creek. After a while we passed under a railroad trestle, after which our trail description told us we would find the trail splitting off to go to the observation deck. We began some serious elevation gain. All the way up, the trail was sandy, almost like a beach. Just like Bear Mountain, we were hiking on what used to be the ocean floor. It did make hiking a bit more work.
We made it to the observation deck, and it took some looking around to figure out what we were seeing. We were able to make out Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains, however. Conveniently enough, there was a water fountain there, as well as a fountain for horses (I did see a couple riders on the trail).
We started heading down a different way than going up since we were hiking a loop, but after a few minutes it didn't seem right, and looking at the GPS, we had indeed taken the wrong path. We quickly found the right trail, and after a while our trail loop met up with our original path and we found ourselves back at the car.
Having done a lot of walking and hiking, we decided to grab a quick dinner from Trader Joe's and ate in the room, calling it an early night.