Summer Soaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Laine Otto, 9, is stoked to be swimming in water that isn't a pool. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

There’s nothing quite like swimming in the redwoods. It’s more liberating than swimming in a normal pool and less unsettling than treading water in the open ocean. There are no Great Whites in the San Lorenzo River, and the biggest risks are getting poison oak on your way there or maybe stubbing your toe. And even at its chilliest, the water is never as cold as the ocean is around these parts.

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A Day at De Laveaga Disc Golf Course

The trick to a long lob is learning to throw with your whole body. Photo by Pete Saporito.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and Asa Maestas, a Soquel High School junior, is standing on a concrete tee at De Laveaga Disc Golf Course’s fourth hole teaching a novice—me—how to play. Maestas instructs me to throw “nip to nip,” demonstrating as he pulls his disc horizontally across his chest and extends it out toward our target, a metal basket that appears to be several light years away.

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Scaling Sandstone in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Angela Avery makes her way up the face. Photo by Traci Hukill.

We gather in the parking lot at Castle Rock State Park, six people ranging in age from mid-twenties to mid-forties, here to learn the art and science of rock climbing courtesy Santa Cruz–based Treks and Tracks. Before we set off on the 20-minute hike to the site, our guide Daniel Laggner, who has a shock of curly sun-streaked hair and forearms like Popeye’s, warns us about what may be the greatest actual threat we face all day: poison oak. “Leaves of three, let it be,” he instructs us. Got it.

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Stand Up Paddle Paradise

Photo courtesy Covewater Paddle Surf.

Although I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for the last five years, unless it’s a fogless, 80-plus–degree day, it’s unlikely you’ll find me in the water. I’ll dive in on particularly hot summer days if the waves are looking friendly, but I’m not a strong swimmer. I’m the kind who watches the surfers out on Steamer Lane and marvels longingly at their athleticism, but surfing has always looked too physically (and mentally) challenging for me. So I content myself with being a sun-soaking landlubber.

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