Huddart Park, California

published on

We drove a mile and paid $10. We collected our map from the nice man at the booth and left the car in the shade. At first, we strolled across wide lawns, between public barbecues and shelters. There were children in the distance, playing volleyball. Soon we found the trailhead and began to climb into the forest.

All the trees were coastal Redwoods Sequoia sempervirens, rulers of the American Pacific Coast. Immensely tall and slender, they created dappled golden shadows in the bright sunshine. The land here is steep and fissured. We were climbing into the hills along the sides of the San Andreas Fault. Beneath our feet two of the great tectonic plates grind past each other. Up here, the land is heading northwards, and just over there, it is moving south.

We were soon out of breath. English legs are not used to slopes like these, but as we climb it becomes a little cooler and there is a delicate scent from the trees. It feels fresh and we feel at home. There are many strange things, though. Cracks in the bark, and ground between the trees are netted with funnel webs. We do not see any spiders, but decide not to look for them either. We would recognise a black widow, but we do not know what else might be dangerous here. We see lots of poison oak and steer well clear. We keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and mountain lions, but instead we see dozens of lizards, sunbathing wherever the light hits the path and running away so fast as we arrive. It looks as if the surface of the path has come alive and fled.

The tree-tops are framed with perfect blue sky but there are no wide views until the trail passes under electricity lines and we can see how far we have climbed, and look out over Palo Alto to the South of the Bay.

As we walk we talk, the conversation wandering wide and free. We are walking and puffing, but are often passed by small groups of runners, who seem to be coping with the slopes and heat without effort.

I love this place. All too soon, despite the miles we have walked, we start heading down another trail, back to the car.