Prior to the other weekend, I had only been to one California State Park, which seems weird considering how many parks I go to, but I think is true.* The park I had been to before was California’s first state park, Big Basin. Big Basin is home to redwoods and waterfalls and had a definite national park vibe to it. There was a big gift shop, a pretty extensive camp store, manicured nature trails, etc., so I wasn’t expecting Henry W. Coe State Park to be QUITE as rustic as it was. I stopped by the visitor center, which was old, tiny, and had a very small selection of T-shirts and books available. A park ranger eventually ambled in to collect my day use fee and asked if I needed a map. The map ended up being a low-quality Xerox of a map of trails near the Visitor Center (there are a couple other park entrances there were not included in this map), probably no different than the one I’d printed from home and been disappointed by. However, the ranger was friendly and asked if I knew where I was going. I said no and he asked if I wanted suggestions. I said “sure” so he asked a few questions about what I wanted and highlighted a path on my map for me to follow that would get me back to my car by sunset per my request. His suggestion was perfect and I had a really nice time. THIS IS WHY I LOVE PARK RANGERS.
These pictures are from near the visitor center:
* You know how when you are driving your mind wanders? I was driving around a few days after I wrote and queued this post and I realized, “you’ve been to SEVERAL California state parks, idiot!!” Ano Nuevo, for one, and Mount Tam is actually a state park. It’s just that Big Basin is the anomaly in its national park vibe; most of the state parks are more rustic. And in fact I’ve been so overwhelmed with ideas of places to go looking for wildflowers lately that I’ve started a hand-written list and from the looks of it I should just purchase a state parks annual pass to add to my EBRPD annual pass, though some of the state parks are also free. (The ones that aren’t are kinda pricey though.)