Despite the smog, forget the traffic, disregard the surly demeanor of the locals, and ignore the over population. There is much more to the outdoor world of Northern California. Known to many as the Bay Area, or, to those industrious individuals, the Silicon Valley, there is much to offer the outdoor community. No activity is more than a stone's throw away. Pick your poison: surf the icy shores of Santa Cruz, hike the numerous trails lacing the Coastal Range from Los Gatos to San Francisco, climb the famous sandstone rock at Castle Rock, or saddle up and hit the open road with your bike; mind the cars.
The choices are many, but there is nothing more beautiful than the thick redwood lined Santa Cruz Mountains. A mere twenty minute drive off the highway finds you engulfed in a green wonderland. Thick, lush and year round vegetation meets you just out your door. The air is a bit cleaner and the world is much more peaceful. Take a walk up Soquel Creek, cross over and hike up the steep bank. Watch out for ancient and fallen trees, skirt the leaves of three and meander down the old logging trails. If you are lucky you will catch a glimpse of some or many of the numerous creatures that frolic through the mountains. A family of deer, an assortment of birds, or even the locals; banana slugs clinging to the rocks. And, just in case, you might want to read up on how to ward off mountain lions. They might be hungry.
After you have seen all that you can see get back on the road and follow it down into Soquel. Come to a stop at New Brighton State Beach and relax on the cool sand as the sun goes down and waves drum melodically before you . Only then will you know why it is called the Golden State.