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Plan B: Pomponio Trail, Memorial County Park

My boyfriend and I have definitely worn down many a tire tread driving to the perfect little redwood pocket known as Butano State Park, just off Highway 1 at Pescadero Beach. So, imagine our surprise when, after an hour-long drive from the city on Saturday, we roll up to the park entrance and instead of the usual newts and banana slugs and towering redwoods hailing our return, we find bright orange barricades and a sign that says, "Closed for the season." What happened next launched the flying pigs from their pen in a frozen circle of hell: I did not panic. I did not curse my luck. I simply—and calmly—stated the obvious, "It's time for Plan B."

Plan B consisted of a seven-mile drive up the road to Memorial County Park. The list of hikes on its trail map consists of kid-friendly less-than-a-mile nature walks circumventing large pinic groves, campgrounds and one good-size Pescadero Creek, a refreshing depot for aqua-frolickers of all ages. We decided to aim for the park's longest hike, the 3.5-mile Pomponio Loop Trail, which begins at a trailhead across the street from the park entrance. You'll need to pay the $5 entrance fee to park in the entrance lot, even though you theoretically don't need to enter the park proper to access the trail. The hike itself comprises a slow-and-steady incline of about 800 feet on well-marked, mostly shaded trails. Granted, if you're comparing it to the hikes at Memorial's prettier neighbor, Butano, it's not lush. The Pomponio Trail landscape is more douglas fir and chapparal and blackberry brambles and poison oak than the rich population of looming, coastal redwoods we originally had in mind for this daytrip, but it's a pleasant ramble through nature nonetheless. It was over sooner than I thought, owing to its high enjoyability factor and low-level of difficulty. Still, the fact remains: Pomponio is a Plan B hike. Like scoring a date with Owen Wilson only after Luke turned you down. If you do stumble upon Butano when it's actually open, take the gorgeous Little Butano Creek trail and you'll see what I mean.