Castle Rock State Park is not my favorite place to hike. Not even in my Top 3 (Henry Coe, Big Basin, Sunol Wilderness) … too many people, too few butt-buster trails. I’ve gone there twice in the past three weeks primarily for social reasons — two weeks ago to get one last hike in with my Chinese friend, and Sunday to hang out with Mike & Kathy and some of their FOMFOK crew; hadn’t hiked with them in several weeks so I had to catch up on all the gossip (not that they’re the kind of people who gossip, mind you).

I felt like I knew the place pretty well but on Sunday I kept noticing things I’d never noticed before. And I noticed how much the park has going for it despite the mild trails and 18,000 Boy Scouts coming back from camping on a Sunday morning. Among the evidence:

Through the woods

So here we go through the woods. Pretty standard tree cover and State Park trails.

Wacky cavern

And of course there is the wonderful Castle Rock with its many caverns. I had been in this one before but had never looked up at the ceiling. Most excellent.

Mike in the rocks

Mike re-enacts his rehearsal of the “Department of Goofy Poses Bit” he pitched to the producers of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They went with “Silly Walks” instead and the rest is, well, TV history. This is another rock I failed to notice on previous hikes.

Up the trail

The Saratoga Gap Trail goes along this ridge and has all manner of dodgy footing.

On the edge

This is my favorite part: You cling to a cable bolted into the hillside. This is the view from the other side. If you slip, it’s a long way down.

Leaves and stone and sky

Goat Rock always seems to have something photogenic going on.

Signs of the times

Near the campground is an old shed full of park signs. Oddly photogenic, too.

So Castle Rock stays in the rotation. For one thing, it’s got lots of tree cover, which makes it an acceptable place to hike in the rain (though Big Basin and the other redwood parks are even better). For another, it starts out high on a ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which means it gets more snow than just about anyplace else in the area on the occasional cold-wet winter weekend.

And it does have all those cool rocks. (More Castle Rock pix at here.)