Guest Post: A Visit to Castle Rock State Park


This is my first post on the CalParks blog.  As an East Coast native exploring many of the California state parks for the first time, I wanted to share a fantastic day trip to Castle Rock, which is now one of my favorite California parks.  While everyone visits state parks for different reasons, it’s our shared joy of what they offer that helps create a community and preserve them for the future.  Thanks to the CalParks team for letting me post this and for the work you do every day to help our parks!

Castle Rock trees covered in moss.

Castle Rock State Park jumped to the top of my list of hikes to explore a few weeks ago. I had learned from a friend that the park’s odd-shaped boulders and cliffs have been the stomping grounds for some of the world’s best rock climbers. Reading more about the park, I quickly discovered that Castle Rock is an equally special place for back-packers and day-trippers who love the park’s vistas, Douglas Firs, and wildlife.

This last Saturday I finally got to join the ranks of visitors as a few friends and I woke up early, bought oranges, and made the two-hour trip south from San Francisco to Castle Rock.

The park is now one of my favorites.

Dripping Wet, A Park Transformed

During a weirdly dry California winter, the Saturday we visited Castle Rock was one of the wettest days of the season. We arrived at the park to find it socked in by clouds and mist, leaving every nook and cranny cool and damp. Still, the parking lot was packed with excited hikers not minding the weather.  Before we took off we ran into a large Boy Scout troop hurriedly waterproofing their backpacks with plastic covers and getting ready for an overnight trip, all with big smiles on their face.

Castle Rock itself is covered in moss.  It hangs from overhead branches, and is attached to the trunks and limbs of nearly every tree you pass.  With the greenness of the park, you get the sense that so close to the Pacific, the park is in its most natural state with a bit of rain and fog.  For me, one of the best parts of the hike was getting to the top of the Saratoga Gap. We looked out over the famous vista and instead of an ocean view, were treated to a wall of fog, slowly marching up the cliff.  While not the traditional vista, after a tough hike, the lookout into the abyss of fog was incredible in its own way.

So Many Different People

One of the most shocking things to me about Castle Rock is the diversity of people who visit the park.  From hardcore rock climbers to day-tripping families, the park offers something for everyone.

On our trip we ran into a group of European trail runners, college students playing in the caves of Goat Rock, and photographers snapping close ups of the fauna.  At just over 5,000 acres of preserved wilderness, it really is amazing how much seclusion and adventure the park can provide to so many different people.

Hiking required ponchos on this soggy day.

A Bit of Urgency

Ultimately, our trip was marked with a sense of urgency given that Castle Rock is one of 70 California State Parks whose budget has been cut and whose fate lies in limbo.  The park now depends on community and non-profit support to carry on.  After visiting Castle Rock, I couldn’t imagine a future without it, and hope we can all pitch in to help it live on.  Otherwise I look forward to traveling down to Castle Rock again soon and seeing a new side of the park, on a clear day.  I would love to hear your stories or thoughts on the park. Feel free to share them below.


Nathan Parcells is a life-long backpacker and outdoorsman.  After interning for both the National Park Conservation Association and National Audubon Society, Nathan moved from his hometown of Bethesda to San Francisco to start, a company that helps students find internships with a focus on non-profits.


Park Advocates: Unite!

“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?” ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

More than 150 park advocates from throughout California will be traveling to Sacramento on March 20 to participate in our 10th Annual Park Advocacy Day! These advocates will walk the halls of the Capitol, meet with legislators and lobby on behalf of our state parks.

If you’d like to join us on March 20 at the Capitol, please register today!  There is no cost to participate in Park Advocacy Day, but registration and participation in an online/telephone training session is required. Registration closes on February 24.

Not sure if Park Advocacy Day is for you? Maybe you just need a little convincing! Read our FAQs, or check out a recap of last year’s event (including photos).

Over the past 10 years, over 700 park supporters have joined us for this event (many returning year after year) to lobby in support of efforts to keep California’s state parks open, safe, protected and well-maintained. The work of these park advocates has helped to educate and influence policymakers as they make important decisions about California’s state park system.

Now more than ever, we all need to help defend and Save Our State Parks. Please join us!  In the words of Captain Planet, “The Power is Yours!”

Watch it First: California’s State Historic Parks – Doorways to the Past

We are pleased to introduce a brand new video from our Magnificent 70 series today! This gorgeous video (produced by Doug McConnell and his team at ConvergenceMedia Productions) shows how one can tell the entire history of California through its 47 state historic parks.

Watch the beautiful video about California’s historic parks:

If you haven’t had the opportunity to look at The Magnificent 70 website yet, now is the time!

The Magnificent 70 is a site we created this summer as a celebration of 70 California state parks slated to close July 2012, and to serve as a reminder of what will be lost if they are shuttered. It is like a living photo book with gorgeous photos and original stories written by author Kerry Tremain about each of the 70 parks on the closure list.

Embracing the Landscape

We always like to share stories on CalPark Voices of creative people who are using their craft to raise awareness for state parks. One Berkeley-based artist, Jean Sanchirico, has done just that. She taking action by is using her landscape drawings for a good cause. For every landscape drawing sold, Jean is donating 10% of the proceeds directly to CSPF in an effort to show her support for keeping our beautiful parks open and accessible. See her work here (she’s really good!).

“In this small way I to hope raise awareness, so that others can use their skills to support our parks,” said Jean.

Jean’s work, “Embracing the Landscape,” is currently on exhibit at Garage Gallery in Berkeley. Be sure to drop by to see her stuff. If you go this Sunday you may even have a chance to meet her!

The Garage Gallery hosts an exhibit of recent work by Jean Sanchirico
“Embracing the Landscape”
Exhibition dates: Three weekends, February 4-19
Gallery Hours:  Saturday & Sunday afternoons, 1 to 4pm
The artist will be present in the gallery Sunday afternoons, February 5 & 12.

Garage Gallery is located at 3110 Wheeler Street, one block East of Shattuck Avenue and three blocks South of Ashby Avenue, in Berkeley.

Since 2004 Jean has been drawing her impressions using chalk pastel, capturing, the feeling and moods that landscapes evoke with simple and broad strokes. Since the Department of Parks and Recreation released their proposed list of park closures due to a $22 million general fund budget cut, Jean has been giving back to the land with these donations.

Kudos to Jean and all the artists out there who are passionate about parks!

A picture is worth … a visit to a park

Long-time State Park Photo Contestant and park supporter Cynthia Leeder has been snapping photos of state parks for years (check out her photos here). She recently learned that her photos of her favorite state park, Henry Coe, have had more of an impact than she realized. She shared her inspiring story with CSPF:

The picture that launched a thousand ships. © Cynthia Leeder

“I recently attended a public meeting held by Sheila Golden, the former park interpreter for Henry Coe State Park.  Sheila is now attending graduate school at UC Davis and is putting together a master plan for Henry Coe State Park for her thesis.  This plan is required by the state before anything can be done to the park in terms of improvements for interpretation and the like.

As part of that effort Sheila developed a survey for park visitors asking how they heard of the park and why they came to the park and things like that.  I found out at the meeting that some respondents indicated they first heard of Henry Coe and came to the park because of the California State Parks Foundation calendar where a picture of mine was published.

Another gem from Henry Coe. © Cynthia Leeder

I love Henry Coe with all my heart.  It really is a special park, often rough scrabble and broken down, in need of everything, but Henry Coe makes me feel good inside when I am there.  I am not a religious person but the feeling of being up on the Ponderosa Loop towards sunset with the sound of a breeze blowing through the stands of Ponderosa Pines is nothing less than spiritual and renewing.  You have to experience it.  There is nothing like it and fits perfectly with the inscription Sada Coe had placed on the Coe Monument, ‘May these quiet hills bring peace to the souls of those who are seeking.’

To survive for the long term, the park needs more visitors and if my pictures can help promote Henry Coe and bring people to the park, then I feel like I have done something!”

Cynthia has been giving more to state parks than just her photographs, and it seems she is getting some great fulfillment in return.

“I am starting my third year as uniformed volunteer at Henry Coe.  I have already achieved Senior Volunteer status.  I often work the visitor center meeting the park visitors, suggesting hikes, and helping the backpackers plan their trips into the park.  I am loving it!”  

Thank you to Cynthia for your dedication to state parks!

Do you take photos in state parks, too? Upload them to our free photo contest or our Facebook page; we’d love to see them!

Upcoming Workshops to Help Find Park Partners

California State Parks announced yesterday a series of upcoming workshops that will help find partners for state parks on the closure list. There will be five workshops across the state designed to present a “How To” explanation and pathway for all parties interested in forming partnerships for operating a state park.

Say, is that a potential park partner in the distance?

This is great news for nonprofit groups who have the desire to help state parks in their communities. If you remember back in October Gov. Brown signed AB 42 into law so State Parks could legally have the option to enter into operating agreements with nonprofit groups that want to help. Now these workshops will add the wherewithal, too, so that we can really start to see some results in keeping parks open.

In addition to the workshops, State Parks also created a Partnership Workbook for Operating Agreements which will be available at the workshops and online soon.  The workbooks will have information like eligibility, partnership options, the application process, proposal checklists, financial plan requirements, and more.

Here are the upcoming workshops:

  • February 22 – Redding: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, 840 Sundial Bridge Drive, Museum Classroom.
  • February 23 – Fort Bragg: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the CV Starr Community Center, 300 South Lincoln Street, Conference Room 3.
  • February 24 – Santa Rosa: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Julliard Park, Church of One Tree Community Center, 492 Sonoma Avenue.
  • February 28 – West Sacramento: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the City of West Sacramento, Galleria at City Hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, Rms 157-160, West Sacramento.
  • March 1 – Los Angeles: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the City of San Fernando Aquatic Center, Upstairs Multi-Purpose Room, 208 Park Avenue, San Fernando.

Read California State Parks’ full statement here.

Will you or your group be attending a workshop?