Sempervirens Point is located off Highway 9 about two miles southwest of the Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) junction. On a clear day, the view of Monterey Bay from Sempervirens Point is spectacular. Views of the upper San Lorenzo Valley hardly show how heavily it was logged by the Dougherty brothers’ Santa Clara Valley Mill and Lumber Company in the last part of the 19th century. Sufficient water and light has aided the quick recovery of second growth coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens, which now cover the previously exposed slopes.
To access their logging camp, which is now within Castle Rock State Park, the company constructed a narrow gauge railroad that delivered the logs to their mill north of Boulder Creek. From the mill, the cut lumber was loaded on a train headed to the depot at Boulder Creek, where the flatbed cars where then transferred to another train that continued south. The route continued down the San Lorenzo Valley to Felton and then went back north, up through the mountain tunnels to San Jose. As circuitous as this might seem, it was more efficient than dragging logs by oxen and hauling lumber on horse-drawn wagons on steep, winding mountain roads.
Teamsters (stagecoach and wagon drivers) hauled lumber from the Hubbard and Carmichael lumber mill, which was located at what is now Camp Chesebrough, a Boy Scouts of America camp on the west side of Highway 9. They traveled on Oil Creek (a tributary of the Pescadero) up to a landing at Sempervirens Point and on up to Saratoga Gap. At the summit, the wagons were doubled up for the trip down the Saratoga Toll Road toward San Jose.
After visiting Sempervirens Point, head down Highway 9 out of the South Skyline region. The junction of Highway 9 and Highway 236 is called Waterman Gap, where you’ll find a four-way stop but little parking. At the beginning of the 20th century, Waterman Gap was a much busier place. It was the site of an innovative wire cable “logging road” used to hoist logs out of the isolated Pescadero basin into the San Lorenzo basin and had rail connections to the port in Santa Cruz and to the city of San Jose.
The wire cable system was constructed in 1901 by the Santa Clara Valley Mill and Lumber Company. This was an elaborate arrangement of pulleys, winches, a steel cable, and a skid road with an irrigation system. Power for the operation was supplied by a steam “donkey” (boiler), which was stoked with wood, of course. After they cleared the ridge, the logs were loaded onto a company railroad which transported them to the company’s mill above Boulder Creek. Later, other companies established mills within the Pescadero basin, and processed lumber was taken out on a wagon road.
Timber cutting still occurs in the upper Pescadero watershed, but times have changed. Now, the logs can be delivered to distant mills by truck. Also, rather than cutting down every tree in sight, harvests are conducted in a sustainable manner. Old Mill Road, a private road leading down into the Pescadero basin from the junction, is now occasionally used to haul logs to a mill near Davenport.
To learn more about the history in the redwoods, visit the charming San Lorenzo Valley Historical Museum located in a historic church just south of the main business district in Boulder Creek.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
Much of the information in this tour comes from a book called The South Skyline Story by Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society, 2014. It is a well written, fun and informative read from the Native Americans, through the early loggers and ranchers, commune dwellers, wine makers, conservationists and homebuilders. You can get a copy at Alice’s Restaurant in Skylonda (the junction of Highways 35 and 84) or by contacting Skyline History President Chuck Schoppe, email: email@example.com or phone: 408-867-9229.
- The South Skyline Story, by Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society, 2014.
- California Central Coast Railways, by Rick Hamman. Pruett Publishing Company, 1980.