Gilroy Gardens: One Man Dreamed of Trees (Part 2)
by Marc Ricketts
Rock on, everybody, because this isn’t a hedge maze; it’s a rock maze.
And there’s a local connection. An hour or so down highway 101 is Pinnacles National Park (the country’s newest). The park’s namesake rocky outcroppings serve as an inspiration for this maze. And that local focus is apparent throughout the park. Anyone that has driven 101 between Gilroy and Salinas has seen a big red barn full of collectables, Antiques and weekend traffic jams. A gift shop here is modeled off it, another example of the park’s symbiosis with the community at large. The roots here are agriculture; with the most famous crop being the garlic. In a park setting that means the Garlic Twirl, where you can ditch that tea cup for a spinning bulb.
Here that swinging pirate ship becomes the Banana Split. Other rides are called Strawberry Sundae, Artichoke Dip, Apple and Worm, and the Mushroom Swing.
The Rainbow Garden Round Boats, seen in the foreground above, meander through one of the six Majestic Gardens. Some of these are seen on foot, like the Holly Garden or Camellia Garden (the camellias only bloom between fall and spring).
The South County Backroads Garden is seen from the rider’s choice of an automobile from the 1950s,
Or the 1920s.
Sharp eyed viewers will note the back seat in only one option. Although the cars are steerable within the confines of a center rail, there is no accelerator pedal; they are powered electrically from a bus bar. So there’s no need to stop at Mack’s, just settle in and enjoy the ride.
Bonfante’s Splash Garden, with its replica Circus Tree play structure (we simply must get to those trees sometime), serves as a place for kids to cool off as well as a stopping off point for an increasing focus on water and how that figures into our lives and the world around us. From droughts to floods to growing our food and washing our cars, water has always been a primary concern in this state and the entire west.
A smaller play area takes the common ground level fountains and adds some spitting frogs to the mix.
And here’s the brand new Water Oasis.
Which looks suspiciously like a construction fence; let’s peek through.
OK. So a bit more work before opening day. At least Bonfante Falls are still flowing in all their grandeur.
Veterans of the Jungle will instantly recognize the backside of water!
Roller coasters are represented as would be expected. Like most of the rides they are tucked behind so much foliage that they aren’t really visible until you’re right up on them. The smaller of the two is Timber Twister which occupies a similar sized space as Gadget’s Go Coaster. Gadget might be frightened, though. Lot’s of people do freak out over SNAKE!
While it’s a short ride, they do allow the train to circumnavigate the track twice. And in the spirit of learning, rattlesnakes do indeed hold their tails high when crawling, to prevent rattle damage.
The larger coaster is the Quicksilver Express, a double lift terrain coaster. This mine train was inspired by the local Quicksilver Mine where the liquid metal (more commonly called mercury) was obtained to fill the need for separating gold and silver from other elements in their ore.
Unlike the 30 minute wait for the South County Backroads however, the coasters were both walk ons. As best as I can figure, this is the anti-teen park. I started looking around. I was counting. I can honestly say that the following photograph from the Events Plaza is a gathering of a full 10% of the people I saw at Gilroy Gardens on Father’s Day 2014 that were between the ages of 12 and 25.
The Coyote and Redwood Railroad is the train that draws a crowd. It is assumed that riders will take a round trip unless you tell them otherwise. This matters because they load the first three cars at the station near the park entrance, but only the last two cars at the other station. With only one train on the line, it was necessary to wait until the circuit was completed several times. And………it was…………something just seemed……………..this is strange…………right in front of me, reality isn’t quite right, but why? I’ve stood in lines. Holy mackerel, there’s only one person in the whole queue staring down at his phone! In fact, parents are engaging in what can only be referred to as conversations with their children. Or playing games. There was no tension. There was no whining about the wait. And there’s the train, finally ready for us to board.
Along the way the C&RRR goes through the Monarch Garden in the photo above. This garden is particularly lush because it is indoors where the climate can be strictly controlled. It can be viewed at root level on the C&RRR, ground level on the walking path, or in the canopy on the Sky Trail Monorail.
Although the display of namesake butterflies was closed, there was no shortage of color, not to mention palm trees that looked straight out of Suess Landing.
No, that’s not one of the vaunted Circus Trees, But the Arch Tree at the entrance to Claudia’s Garden is, named in honor of Michael Bonfante’s wife.
It is, in fact, two trees which have been grafted and shaped. Even more intricate are these six trees merged into one Basket Tree.
And that very first effort from the 1920s, the Four Legged Giant, still survives within Gilroy Gardens. For a tree, it’s got to be the most diverse neighborhood on Earth.
If you missed Part One of this report, you can read it HERE.
For more information go to https://www.gilroygardens.org/
WHILE YOU’RE IN THE AREA.
That same garlic that originally put Gilroy on the map is celebrated every year at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. With everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream in addition to cooking events along with arts and crafts venders, tens of thousands descend to Christmas Hill Park, located inconveniently to any major freeway. If you can, go Friday, go early. This year it all happens July 25-27. Remember, if everyone has garlic breath, no one will notice your garlic breath.
For more information go to http://gilroygarlicfestival.com/