Whetstone Gulf State Park

Before I make any mention of my hike at Whetstone Gulf State Park I need to take a moment to talk about the photos themselves. They're all taken along the cliff edge of a winding gulf on a very windy day. The sun was high in the sky the entire time I was there and there wasn't a cloud in sight. Looking over the images I'm not very happy with most of them and I don't think they do a good job of presenting the park, which is impressive. So why include this gallery at all instead of pretending it never happened? Because it is a nice park, it's my first visit to this park, and it's likely to be my last visit to this park for a very long while. I feel better when I skip documenting a trip to Morgan Hill State Forest, for example, because I've been there more times than I can count.

I won't give the step by step account of the trail here. It goes around the gulf. There's only one trail. It's not very long on paper, but it's deceptively long on foot. The views are amazing and at the same time repetitive. It's tough to gauge progress by landmarks. Repeatedly I thought I was about to reach the big turn at the halfway mark of the trail only to find the trail straightening out again. A few steep sections also help to slow down the hike and make it an impressive workout given the fact that it's a state park, not a state forest. I guess that's just the way they do it up north.

One of the most interesting sections of trail was near the end where a short spur splits from the main path and heads toward a viewing platform. I particularly like this bit of trail because it doesn't just provide a nice view - it's a challenge. The spur begins with a descent into a small gully complicated by a carpet of loose leaves. After a short climb out of the gully comes a land bridge that drops precipitously on both sides, particularly on the left (north?) where a gusty wind was blowing. At the end of all this comes a short path in the woods leading to an opening where a sturdy wooden platform seems to protrude a short distance over the edge of the cliff. A few dates carved into the platform were over 30 years old. Sturdy indeed! The trees provided protection from the wind here and allowed me to take a few shots in peace. I was also lucky here to have the platform to myself because there were several other hiking groups in the area at this point.

Sadly, I couldn't salvage too many photos from this set, but I hope I've conveyed a bit of Whetstone Gulf. I'm not often impressed by parks. They're too civilized. Well, this one shows some definite park-like civilization: warning signs telling people not to step into the gorge, warning signs stating that the trails close at 3 PM (how does one close a trail, I wonder), picnic tables strewn across the part of the gorge nearest the parking lot, administrative buildings, and, of course, an abundance of hikers that you rarely see on all but the most popular non-park trails. But it's very easy to forget all that when you're on the trail. The forest looks endless. The gorge bottomless. It's enough to make a hiker feel as small as any patch of wilderness.


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