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Hiking to the epicenter; it's a gentle 1.5 miles through redwoods near Santa Cruz.

A more serene setting is difficult to imagine: banana slugs creeping among ferns, sunlight filtering through coast redwood crowns. It was a very different story last October 17. Deep beneath Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Pacific plate lurched up and over the North American plate to generate the largest earthquake on the San Andreas fault since 1906. Hikers can now pay a visit to the epicenter of October's 7.1 earthquake on a short trek through gentle scenery-a reminder that the most peaceful landscape may be born of geologic tumult. In a redwood forest, lots of shaking but little lasting damage October's tremor was dubbed the Loma Prieta earthquake because it occurred on the 25-mile stretch of San Andreas fault named for Loma Prieta Mountain. The epicenter-the location on the earth's surface above the rupture-lay at the southern end of China Ridge in the Forest of Nisene Marks. The hypocenter-the actual point in the earth's crust where the fault slipped-lay 11 1/2 miles below. What was it like to be at the epicenter? State park ranger Gerry Waggoner say vehicles bounced as much as a foot in th air, and redwoods snapped like match sticks. But damage was less than might b imagined. Because Nisene Marks rides o sandstone, there was little of the liquefaction that produced destruction in Santa Cruz, Oakland, and San Francisco. From the park's Porter Picnic Area, it's a 1 1/2-mile walk to the quake's epicenter. To start, go around the locked gate and take the fire road-don't branch left on Loma Prieta Grade Trail. The road dips across Aptos Creek and rises beneath second growth redwoods.

In about a mile, you'll spot traces of a landslide-the only obvious evidence of the shaking. (More proof-fallen trees and more landslides-is farther north, along Big Slide Trail.) Within a few yards of the junction of the fire road and Aptos Creek Trail, you'll spy one sign marking the area of the epicenter. Then walk 1/2 mile east on Aptos Creek Trail to a second sign marking the epicenter itself. Return the way you came. Or, on the way back, keep an eye out for Mill Pond Trail, which follows the other side of Aptos Creek; then head south on Loma Prieta Grade to the picnic area. Park maps and quake pamphlets The Forest of Nisene Marks lies about 5 miles northeast of Santa Cruz. From State Highway 1, take the Seacliff Beach/Aptos exit and head north on State Park Drive; turn east on Soquel Drive and in 1/2 mile turn north on Aptos Creek Road; go just over 21/2 miles to the Porter Picnic Area. Park admission is free; dogs aren't permitted. For a free park map, call the park's office at (408) 335-4598. Maps (50 cents) are also available at the Aptos Library, 7695 Soquel Drive, Aptos (open daily except Sundays). The Santa Cruz Mountains Natural History Association may offer guided earthquake walks this summer; call the above number or 335-7077. For more about October's quake, the US. Geological Survey has published The Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989. This free pamphlet is available from survey offices at 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park (open 8 to 4 weekdays, to 7 Thursdays), and 555 Battery Street, San Francisco (8:30 to 4 weekdays).
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Date:Jun 1, 1990
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