California Missions Trail, Scotts Valley to Los Gatos Wednesday, July 12, 2023
More from author, Sandy Brown, in the introduction of his book, “Pilgrim Route, Hiking and Biking The California Missions Trail From Sonoma to San Diego.” (www.cicerone.co.uk): “The 1821 Treaty of Córdoba officially confirmed Mexico’s separation from Spain, and Alta California, as California was then called in Mexico, now came under the jurisdiction of a government both sympathetic to the needs of Californio settlers and suspicious of the reputedly wealthy and Spanish–allied Franciscan Missions. On July 25, 1826, the newly elected governor of Alta California, issued a ‘Proclamation of Emancipation’ to release Native Californians from their servitude and make them eligible to become citizens. In the next decade Mexico passed the Secularization Act of 1833 which mandated the removal of the Franciscans, the transformation of the missions into Catholic parishes, and a division of mission properties and possessions among the Native Californians, who had owned the land from the start.”
“In practice, Californio insiders received the bulk of mission lands, which Mexican magistrates divided into vast rancheros owned and operated by settlers. Just a handful of their ancestral lands were allocated to Native Californians, and with the new law mandating that the Franciscans leave the country, the mission system came to an end. Those who had depended on it as the least bad option would struggle in the upcoming decades with little help to earn a meager living, most of them moving to ranchos where they were exploited as cheap labor.” Again, the history is fascinating and very sad. If you are interested in more details, check out Sandy’s book and other resources.
As for this current day American “pilgrimage”, author Sandy Brown shares, ”In 2002, volunteers marked out a walking route between the missions, modeled on the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, and Buch Briery, a California native, created the first hikers’ guide to the route in 2011. His vision and steadfast support for the trail is the foundation for the path cataloged in this guidebook.”
“Formed with support from government agencies and non-profit organizations, the California Missions Trail Alliance was developed to raise awareness of the 800-mile trail within California’s boundaries as a significant asset to the state and nation and to encourage stewardship, recreation, and economic growth along the trail corridor. Local, regional, and statewide Alliance members and volunteers have aided in developing this guidebook. For information about the ongoing work of the Alliance, visit http://www.californiainmissiontrail.org.
Before we even left San Francisco we had trepidation about this day!! We knew we would have about 19 miles in store for us from Scotts Valley to Los Gatos, with an elevation gain of 1800 feet. The guidebooks also cautioned us that 17 of those miles would be without services meaning we had to ensure we packed enough food and water bottles (neither of us are fans of the backpack bladders). Our anxiousness about today’s trek played a big role in why we laid low the first two days after our semi short distances. And oh, it was forecast to be in the high 80’s!!
From Sandy’s guidebook, “The former Mission Santa Cruz uplands of the Awaswas Ohlone people were sold by the Mexican government as a Rancho San Augustin in 1833 and ultimately became the property of Hiram Daniel Scott. The historic Scott house from 1853 now stands at 4603 Scotts Valley Dr. behind City Hall.”
Thankfully, Christine and I are already early risers because we wanted to get as much walking done before the sun was high in the sky. Our Best Western Inn offered exactly the same breakfast as the previous – scrambled eggs, sausage links, an assortment of fruit, juices, cereals, and yogurt. Not a lot of choices for my vegan friend.
No walking in circles on our way out of Scotts Valley (!) as we ventured out at 6:30 a.m. and traced our steps back a few blocks from the day before and proceeded up into the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains on our ascent to Patchen Pass. We had a most enjoyable morning in cool air with gorgeous views of tree covered valleys. And yeah, it was a steady uphill trek! I so loved seeing all the huge redwood trees interspersed among the other evergreens! We walked on Mountain Charlie Road for about 5 1/2 miles before reaching the summit and another couple miles down the other side. Charles “Mountain Charlie” McKiernan was the first settler in the area and has quite a reputation, having survived a grizzly bear attack when he and a friend were foolish enough to try to shoot the she bear who was with her cubs.
He also built roads on his property and charged tolls! There is a commemorative plaque on the site of Mountain Charlie’s 1850’s cabin.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, our uphill trek eventually became a grind! Fortunately, we still had a lot of tree cover much of the time on our ascent. We were much more exposed as we headed down to Lexington dam and its reservoir. We didn’t get lost today, however it would’ve been handy to have some markers at a few junctions where the directions we had were kind of confusing. So thankful for GPS!
About mid afternoon, we were met with a disappointing surprise-DETOUR signs, road barriers and an active work crew repairing a portion of the Old Santa Cruz Highway that we were meant to go on which experienced a landslide in January. It was a small portion of maybe 30 yards, yet beg as we did, we could not convince the supervisor to let us walk through. The result – we had to go nearly 8 miles on the Opposite side of the dam than we wanted to end up on instead of 5! Plus the new route included two finger loops extending from the reservoir to the east making us feel we were going away from our destination instead of towards it. It just made the heat and distance more frustrating by that time.
We were overheated and dragging. When we reached the University of Santa Clara Los Gatos Rowing Club entrance we had logged SEVENTEEN MILES!! And all of our walking since we set out on Monday had been on pavement.
Hey! We figured that we were at a location that an Uber driver could easily find – and boom, it was done!
I still had a little gas left in my tank, so I walked the additional four miles solo – thankfully downhill and upon gravel (for a change) upon the Los Gatos Creek Trail! Well, the last mile WAS all uphill yet the town of Los Gatos was so lovely with its cute, bungalow style homes and mature landscaping that I (almost) didn’t notice.
Our accommodations were at the Los Gatos Lodge, and our room even had a little balcony (which of course we did not partake in because we were so darn tired)! I did actually go over to the Bar and Grill, had some Carne Asada, a martini and some vino, since it was nearly 7:00 pm and I had accomplished a grueling yet enjoyable 21.6 mile, twelve hour day!!! One more left on this tiny portion of the California Missions Trail.