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Wild Recovery
San Jose, California
November 01, 2014
Santa Cruz County
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The Place

November 01, 2014

Pogonip is an inspiring retreat of natural beauty. Pogonip is a city of Santa Cruz open space that comprises a scenic 640 acres of open meadows, woodlands and creeks. The park was purchased by the city in 1988 with funding from the CALPAW state bond act. Pogonipís habitat is of special value given its proximity to the urban center of Santa Cruz. Over the past 150 years the landscape has been significantly altered by human influence; it is far from being a pristine remnant of untouched wilderness. But as a testament to the resilience of nature, Pogonip survives as an enchanting refuge.

Pogonip features mixed evergreen forest (oak, madrone, bay and conifers) and upland redwood forest (redwood and Douglas fir). Stands of coast live oak also occur in smaller areas within the meadows. We will also hike through a prominent Pogonip feature, the Main Meadow. The Main Meadow is dominated by non-native grassland species though remnants of coastal terrace prairie still exist. Most of the rare and unique plant and wildlife species found at Pogonip are associated with coastal terrace prairie, including Santa Cruz clover (Trifolium buckwestorium), San Francisco popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys diffusus), and the rare, brilliant green-colored Ohlone tiger beetle.

Though the days of bear and antelope are gone, wildlife still exists in abundance at Pogonip. We have a good chance of observing black-tailed jack rabbits, California ground squirrels, Botta's pocket gophers, California voles and black-tailed deer. Present, though less likely to be observed are raptors, coyote, fox and bobcat. Both forested areas and grasslands are used by many bat species. Mountains lions have also been reported in Pogonip. Numerous birds, both resident and migrating species, are found at Pogonip. A few of those include owls, western bluebird, American robin, western meadowlark, chestnut-backed chickadee, acorn woodpeckers, sparrows and the raptors; white-tailed kite and red-tail hawk. Amphibians and reptiles are also numerous. The alligator lizard, western fence lizard and garter snake are commonly found in the grasslands while the redwood forests provide habitat for the Pacific giant salamander, California newt and the popular UCSC mascot, the banana slug.

Pogonip has substantial history. The Bay and Coast region was home to Ohlone triblets for 5,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. Few survived beyond the era of the founding of the Santa Cruz Mission in 1791 and its control by Mexico in the early 1800s. Their dramatic decline is believed to have been hastened by several epidemics and persecution from immigrants. It is likely Native Americans relied upon the resources found within Pogonip but no prehistoric sites have been identified. Logging production in the mid-1800s resulted in the massive loss of old growth redwoods. Only three virgin redwoods remain in Pogonip today. In addition to lumber, redwood logs were used to fuel kilns in the conversion of limestone to lime, an ingredient in mortar and plaster. The limestone kilns are still intact and the roadbed is visible at several locations. Pogonip was once part of the extensive Cowell Ranch, originally purchased for its lime and timber resources. Portions of the ranch were converted to livestock operations as the lumber was depleted and demand for lime declined by the turn of the century. In 1961, the western portion of the ranch was sold to the University of California and the remaining acreage eventually became known as Pogonip.

Time brought change to Pogonip. After the construction of the landmark clubhouse and the greens, the Casa del Rey Club and Golf Links was opened in 1912. When competition from other courses led to the closure of the course by the 1930s, the area was then transformed into popular polo fields. The Pogonip Social and Polo Club soon became internationally known, visited by movie stars and world caliber polo players. The Polo Club was especially noteworthy due to Dorothy Deming Wheeler and the winning women's polo team. Dorothy Wheeler ensured the polo club was not restricted to men, and Santa Cruz became one of the few areas where coed games were accepted. World War II brought an end to polo at Pogonip and for a short time the facilities served as a rehabilitation site for service men. The Pogonip Club reopened in 1948 as a private social organization. Today, the clubhouse is structurally unsafe and closed to the public.

Walking the Walk

We will start our hike from the Spring street entrance of Pogonip; the edge of the Main Meadow. Several spots include vast vistas of the Monterey Bay. From here we will be hiking through woodlands and by the creeks. We will have our meeting by the lime kilns and be able to observe and walk through intricate labyrinths. We will loop back to Spring Street through the woodlands, and then the Main Meadow and itís matchless views of the bay.

Level: 2       Miles: 5       Elevation: 500 ft       Hosts: Mary & Kent


Take Hwy 17 to Hwy 1 North, Right on Misson Street, first race Highland Avenue, left on High Street and right on Spring Street. The entrance to Pogonip is at the end of this dead end street. Drive Time: 40 minutes


Parking Free. Park where you can find legal street parking. Parking is limited so carpooling is a must.

Know Before You Go:

Santa Cruz weather is changeable Ė wear layers. It is likely to be foggy when we start then open up to sunshine. Poison Oak and ticks are plentiful. Bring something to sit on. Dogs are allowed. Do keep them on leash. You will get a ticket for off leash dogs.