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Walk among the redwoods on a weekend trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains

Santa Cruz Mountains
Andrew Walsh of Ben Lomond explores a hollow tree with son Philip, 2, along a trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains are made for, well, cruising. The dips and turns, made even more challenging when giant redwoods throw shade, require high-alert driving. Still, this was as taxing as it got for my husband and me on a getaway to this redwood-rich region last year. We began in Santa Cruz, where the drama of the Central Coast takes on a new dimension with the statuesque coast redwood. The formal name for these trees, which inhabit a mostly coastal stretch from Central to Northern California and into southern Oregon, is Sequoia sempervirens — not to be confused with Sequoiadendron giganteum. The latter is the mighty sequoia, which grows farther inland and, although as vertically impressive as the redwood, is generally shorter than its coastal cousin.

The tab: $1,050 for three nights in a cabin, $30 for wine tasting (waived with a purchase of at least $30) and $75 for dinner.

THE BED

Our destination was storybook-sounding Ben Lomond, north of Santa Cruz and and about 10 miles inland, population 6,000. As we pulled into the gravel driveway of our cabin rental, we were surrounded by a thicket of greenery and, of course, sheltering redwoods. The cabin’s owner, a lively woman named Molly, greeted us, along with her playful dogs; the expansive property also includes her house and a beautiful pool. The cabin’s back deck overlooks Love Creek, a sweet stream that, Molly said, draws river rafters in the winter when the water rises.

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THE MEAL

An afternoon drive took us from mountains to sea, depositing us in Davenport, a tiny town delivering a big punch with its Pacific views. At the Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room, we talked and tasted wine with the vineyard’s pioneering winemaker, Randall Grahm. We left with a case of wine and a hefty appetite and headed north 20 minutes to Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero, known for its cream of artichoke soup and pies. We sat at the old-fashioned wood bar, ordered the famous items and more, and soaked up the restaurant’s 125-year history.

Santa Cruz
A family enjoys the Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room in Davenport, Calif.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

THE FIND

We adapted easily to the cadence of Ben Lomond’s small-town life. Leisurely strolls landed us at the Ben Lomond Market, a hybrid grocery-general store that anchors the small commercial area; down the road is La Placa Family Bakery, where we tended to our cappuccino and pastry fix and ordered delicious bread to accompany a pasta dinner we made at the cabin. At pretty Highlands County Park, minutes from our cabin, we played tennis and blended in with the locals. The courts were not tournament-ready but neither were we.

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THE LESSON LEARNED

At Big Basin Redwoods State Park (California’s first state park) in nearby Boulder Creek, we walked under the cover of the stately trees, marveling at the circumference of one or the sheer height of another that had, impossibly, outgrown its neighbor. The engaging visitor center included black-and-white photos and textual history emphasizing the creation of the Sempervirens Club, a collection of influential people who feared the long-term effect of logging and pushed for legislation to preserve the redwoods. Our appreciation for these original tree-huggers was as big as the redwoods they saved.

IF YOU GO
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, Calif.; (831) 338-8860, parks.ca.gov. For visitors who need assistance, call the number before arriving. Wheelchair accessibility details.

Cabin rental. Not wheelchair accessible.

Ben Lomond Market, 9440 Mill St., Ben Lomond, Calif.; (831) 336-3900.Wheelchair accessible.

La Placa Family Bakery, 9280 Highway 9, Ben Lomond, Calif.; (831) 609-6552. Wheelchair accessible.

Duarte’s Tavern, 202 Stage Road, Pescadero, Calif.; (650) 879-0464.Wheelchair accessible.

Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room, 450 California 1, Davenport, Calif.; (831) 471-8031. Wheelchair accessible.


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