Hanging out on Hecker Pass Highway

Though the Bay Area is known for it’s combination of rich history and the constant process of technological innovation thanks to Silicon Valley, it’s almost unsurprising that automotive culture here has flourished for decades. I say this, because one would not be surprised due to the amount of incredible driving roads nearby.

Thanks to the Santa Cruz Mountain range separating the coast from the Santa Clara Valley, there are plenty of roads where motorcyclists and automotive enthusiasts can take out their vehicles and enjoy cresting straights, banked curves, and switchbacks. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see sports cars with decals showing outlines of some of these famous driving roads; not unlike surfers having decals of their favorite beaches stuck onto the rear windows of their vans.

I consider myself very lucky that I get to drive one of these roads on a regular basis!

Hecker Pass Highway is part of California State Route 152, which goes from the Coastal Highway entrance in Watsonville to State Route 99 near Chowchilla. The highway is a low mountain pass which goes through the Santa Cruz mountains and over Mount Madonna, terminating in downtown Gilroy. Featuring banked curves, quick switchbacks, and incredible views of the Watsonville farmlands and the Pacific Coast, the most notable landmarks on the pass are the Mt. Madonna State Park, and the old Mt. Madonna Inn, which has unfortunately been closed since the early 90’s. Having not taken out my camera for a while, I felt that the old Inn might be a great place to practice some long-exposure photography of passing cars.

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A detailed Map of California State Route 152 courtesy of Wikipedia. Hecker Pass makes up the western-most part of the route starting in Watsonville and ending in Gilroy.

I managed to convince a friend to come with me and check out the view from the fenced-in hotel at the top of the mountain before we went on to do something else that night, and both of us stood and watched as darkness fell over the mountain the the bright lights of passing cars left trails in the camera’s viewfinder.

Though we didn’t stay for long, I did manage to get a few arresting images of passing cars just as they came around the final corner toward the Inn and started descending the mountain. Though we could have stayed there a little bit longer, the combination of the cold and a previous engagement meant we had to high-tail it back down the mountain and into Santa Cruz. Just as well; apparently the old Inn is supposed to be haunted, and I didn’t want to stick around for too long and find out.

There are other spots that I would love to set up a camera and take some pictures of the lush trees and the winding road. I’ll just have to figure out where I could do that safely away from the daily traffic.

In the meantime, enjoy these long-exposure shots of passing traffic at the old Inn.

Note: I wanted to try something different since the automotive season is a little slow thanks to the winter months. I actually thought about writing posts about some of my favorite driving roads for a while now, so I figured I’d give it a shot with one my regular routes. Maybe this will become a regular series as I explore a little bit more. Stay tuned!

-W

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