Sunset, June, 2003 by Clare Chatfield
Corralitos in bloom: near Santa Cruz, country roads lead to roses and redwoods
Travel: Northern California Day Trip
Nestled in the southern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Corralitos is an easy place to miss. It doesn't have its own zip code. Nor does it have lodging, gift shops, or beachfront real estate. But it does have acres and acres of apple orchards, a local sausage market whose wares attract a cultlike following, and a 50-year-old heirloom-rose garden surrounded by redwood forests.
Although it's only 15 miles from downtown Santa Cruz, Corralitos can feel as much like New England as it does California (redwoods aside). Maybe it's those apple orchards and the old farmhouses, or the gently winding backroads that lead in and out of shady forests. Whatever the reason, a visit to Corralitos is a wonderful way to escape.
The area is best explored on wheels, two or four. A bicycle offers country air and good exercise; a car has the advantage of giving you a place to stow your goods. You can begin your trip the way many locals start their day-at the funky Corralitos Coffee Court (2904 Freedom Blvd.; 831/722-5700), where each cup of coffee is made to order.
While some would argue that Corralitos is too small to be considered a town, none would deny that the Corralitos Market & Sausage Co. (569 Corralitos Rd.; 831/722-2633) is the town center. Referred to simply as "the market," this 46-year-old institution is the social hub of the community. There's a little store selling basic groceries, with a meat and deli counter at the back. More than 25 kinds of sausages (fresh and applewoodsmoked) are made on the premises. The top-selling sausage is Cheezy Bavarian, says president Dave Peterson, who has worked here 27 years. More adventurous eaters might want to bring home some venison or ostrich sausage.
If you're just here for lunch, grab a sausage sandwich and eat at the grassy park across the street. Those wanting to stretch their legs can explore the nearby grounds and outbuildings of the 1960s Corralitos Community Center, on Brown's Valley Road.
Rose lovers should head 2 miles north to the small, family-owned Roses of Yesterday and Today (803 Brown's Valley Rd.; www.rosesofyesterday.com or 831/728-1901). Stroll through the redwood-edged garden featuring unusual and oldfashioned roses of every size and hue. The company does a lot of business through the mail, but some popular potted roses are available on-site.
If you're not in a hurry, continue north on Brown's Valley Road for another 1/2 mile, then turn onto Hazel Dell Road (which eventually becomes Casserly Road), where you can meander through shady redwood groves for 10 miles before the road loops around and emerges in Watsonville. Or go back to the market and take Eureka Canyon Road through the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you like country roads, there's not a wrong turn to take.