The Emma McCrary Trail Rocks

June 4, 2013—It was like the International Day of Peace between all wheeled and ambulating creatures. Eager to see the long-awaited Emma McCrary Trail, some 200 folks—most of them riding mountain bikes but a few on foot—converged at the trailhead in the Pogonip Saturday morning, June 1, for a ribbon-cutting followed by informal tours of the trail. Flocks of mountain bikers edged past gaggles of hikers, some of them pushing strollers or walking dogs, on a single-track trail. (We saw no horses Saturday morning, though we spied evidence suggesting that some had made the journey and experienced normal equine biological functions along the way.) It could have been a complete clusterbar, but with lots of patience, manners and good humor all around, everyone got to see the trail in all its glory.

It is a beautiful trail. Shaded by redwoods, oaks and Douglas firs, it sweeps and swoops along the hillside above Highway 9 and the river for 1.5 miles, from the Golf Club Drive entrance of Pogonip to the junction with the Rincon Trail at the north end of the park. Several gorgeous redwood bridges cross gullies and creeks. The trail, as event organizers pointed out, already looks like it’s been there for years: the dirt is hard and light in color, and the vegetation around the trail looks completely natural, when in fact some areas used to be thickets of poison oak (props to American Conservation Experience for donning their hazmat suits and battling the vile weed), and in other places ferns had to be brought in and transplanted to revegetate.

The volunteers who built the trail—the majority of them from the ranks of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz—also carted out Dumpsters full of nasty. About .75 miles in, at one fast, banked oxbow in the trail (I’m sure that is so not proper mountain bike terminology), MBoSC president Mark Davidson stood available to answer questions. The slope he was standing on, he informed us, was none other than Heroin Hill. Right up there, he said, pointing to the hilltop behind him, was where the dealers used to keep a lookout for law enforcement. All around here, in the wells of the trees, were syringes, old clothes, food wrappers and other delights that had to be bundled up in garbage bags (or sharps containers) and trucked down the hill. A mixed blessing: Heroin Hill, Davidson explained, was basically the reason the trail got approval back in 2010, as city staffers and councilmembers agreed that a bunch of legal activity in the former drug haven would run off the dealers and users.

One thing the new trail doesn’t come with is powder rooms, and with too many people (and too much poison oak) around to dart behind a tree and take care of unsightly shine, Hilltromper had to turn back early. But we can’t wait to get back and explore the rest of the Emma McCrary Trail. Not only does it give mountain bikers a way to get from town to upper UCSC and Wilder Ranch without getting in a car, it also gives trail runners, hikers, equestrians and dog owners a cool, shaded dirt path option close to town. And that is a very fine thing.

Emma McCrary Trail Opens
Some Upgrades for Loch Lomond (But Nothing Crazy)
The 13th Healthiest County in Cali