The winter of 2016 to 2017 was the worst winter that I recall while living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After five years of drought, California was pelted with rain again and again, thanks to the Pineapple Express. Although Santa Cruz County as a whole received a total of 37 inches of rain, Boulder Creek had over 80 inches of rain for the winter totals. That’s over six feet! There were landslides, trees down and tangled with power lines, sink holes, and of course, flooding. I, along with the rest of my neighbors were pretty much stranded in our neck of the woods. We couldn’t get to either the towns of Boulder Creek or Los Gatos as both directions on the main artery were impassable. It was nightmarish.

Bear Creek Road, January 2017

To get to Bear Creek Road (BCR) which is the main artery to the nearby towns of Boulder Creek and Los Gatos, we could go one of two ways. But these storms knocked off half of the road for going the “back way,” which left us with only one route. There are three roads connecting to BCR going the “front way,” and none of these roads are paved. (The back way isn’t paved either.) On a dry sunny day, it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to drive eight miles, going at about 15mph. Now, add some rain – it’ll take about five to ten extra minutes to drive those eight miles. Add LOTS OF RAIN, and turn those roads to complete mud… where when even in 4WD, you’re slipping and sliding – oh my gosh – SCARY!

Bear Creek Road heading towards Boulder Creek

I’ve been driving for a long time. I’ve driven through snow, blizzards, hail, dirt, mud, and have done my fair share of hydroplaning – nothing has measured up to driving up and down those muddy roads over and over again throughout that winter! And then when we were cut off from both towns for a couple of weeks… when I was having a true emergency. Talk about feeling absolutely helpless. It was horrendous.

Abygayle AKA: Aby

Aby at the veterinary hospital

Aby is my barn cat failure. She lived in the upstairs portion of my house with my other cat, Madeline. But when Maddie died unexpectedly, Aby was all alone. I got her a kitten as company, but she hated her little brother and hid from him. It was about five days or so before I had found her in a hidden compartment inside a drawer!

Oh my gosh, she was just sitting there. She was dehydrated, she was icteric – her skin was jaundiced. I have no idea how long she had not eaten as all of my cats are free fed. All I know is that she definitely hadn’t had any water or food for at least five days! This was an emergency – I needed to get her to the veterinary hospital STAT, but the roads were closed.

Luckily, I am a veterinary technician and have over 25 years experience working in emergency triage/ICU. I also have a stockpile of veterinary meds, fluids that were not unwrapped, fluid lines, and the like. I called and spoke with Callalily who’s also the veterinarian to my pets. I let her know what types of meds I had on hand, and she gave me the dosages. I started Aby on subcutaneous fluids and a mishmash of medications, but I knew that she needed to be seen as soon as the roads opened up.

On January 9, 2017, I was finally able to traverse the roads to the veterinary hospital… but it was later in the day, and it was still raining. Normally I’d just take Bear Creek Road to 17, but that was no longer an option. I had to take BCR to the cutoff of 35 to Gist to Black and then to 17. These roads are very curvy and because of the recent storms, many were down to one lane. Driving them was arduous. What would normally take me about 45 minutes to drive to the hospital took about three hours, but we finally made it. Aby was seen.


The road connecting to BCR

My truck, “Turtle” approaching the scary part of the road
Had to hug the mountain and drive very slowly in 4WD low; the orange cones are sheer cliff
Backside of orange cones
Looking back from driving scary part of muddy road

Black Road

Shortly after I drove Aby to the hospital, this road was closed down
You can see this in the image above further in the distance

Bear Creek Road

I drove under this on BCR the night I took Aby to the hospital.
BCR heading towards Los Gatos
Bear Creek Road 2017

Highway 17

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

It’s difficult to see in the bottom image the very small amount of sand so I tried to get another picture from the web to show the comparison.
This is a better image to show how very little beach there is – none! The boardwalk was actually flooded. The parking lot which isn’t shown was also flooded.
Somewhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains 2017