Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California

May 20-22, 2012

This trip was divided into two sections; Point Reyes first and Big Basin Redwoods State Park second.  I have described the Point Reyes days as a separate Blog Entry.

We had enjoyed the Lost Coast trips in Northern California so much that we wanted to see if there was another location that had similar attributes.  This combination of parks provided both time on lonely beaches and time amongst redwood trees.

Relevant links

 May 20 – Up to Lane Camp

We arrived at Big Basin Redwoods at about 3:30.  We knew we were amongst the red woods even before we got out of the car.  We got our permit and moved the car to Jay parking lot which has a rest room and SHOWERS.  We repacked our packs adding the food we had held out for Part 2 of our trip and omitting a few things that didn’t seem necessary.  We filled our water containers behind the park store.  We were told the water sources near our destination, Lane Camp, were not dependable.  We expected to have plenty to get us to the waterfalls below Sunset camp about mid day, the next day.  We were walking on the Skyline to the Sea Trail by 4:50.  Why does all the miscellaneous stuff take so long?  We knew sundown would be about 8:20 and three hours seemed just enough time to cover the 5.5 miles.  At about 6:45, we got quite concerned.  With sundown over 90 minutes away, we could hardly see the trail.  We guessed that we were just so far down in the forest that the sun could not penetrate to us.  It was only after we finished the trip that we were reminded that there was a total solar eclipse!  What are the odds?  As we climbed higher, (and the eclipse ebbed) it got much lighter again, and we were relieved.  The last half of the hike was on the Hollow Tree Trail.  We walked a pretty fast pace, rested little and made camp about 8:00.  We got set up, hung our food and changed clothes before dark, but didn’t bother with Trivia before bed.
The campgrounds at BBRW have pit toilets and garbage cans.  These are conveniences we usually have to do without, but we had been spoiled at Point Reyes.

Note – We were on the Skyline to the Sea trail for portions of all three of our days.  Per Wikipedia “The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail is a 29.5-mile (47.2-kilometre) hiking trail that descends from the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California to the Pacific Ocean, passing through Castle Rock State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Big Basin is California's first state park. It contains beautiful waterfalls and some of the largest, tallest, and oldest Redwood forests left in existence.  The trail usually takes two to three days to complete, with nearly all thru-hikers traveling from East to West (towards the ocean). It is possible to walk the entire trail in one day, though this is unusual and very difficult. Many hikers like to take a detour up Berry Creek Trail to see the waterfalls or to camp at Sunset Trail Camp, adding an additional 2.7 mi (4.3 km) to the hike.”

May 21 – Down to the Waterfalls and Twin Redwoods

As Norm ate his oatmeal, he noticed Jerry laying everything out on his ground cloth and opening every bag, repeatedly.  His spoon was missing.  You know you must be good friends if you take turns with the same spoon for three days. 

As we had discussed with the ranger when we obtained our permit, our plan was to take the Hollow Tree Trail back a mile or so and them go onto the Johansen Road.  We took the trail back to where we believed we could find the roads, i.e. at Johansen’s shingle mill site.  There are some sizable relics at the mill site.  We saw no trail leading to any road as the map seems to show.  We wondered if the remnants of a road leading away from the mill site could be Johansen’s Road.  The names matched.  There were many fallen trees across this old road.  It didn’t seem like it would be on the map in this unmaintained condition.  Norm said, “The only other explanation, is that the roads are up there somewhere,” pointing northwest.  Jerry climbed up the hill and found a road.  It seemed most likely to be Middle Ridge Road and we couldn’t be sure where we could find Johansen’s Road, so Norm went north and Jerry went south.  Jerry found it, complete with clear signs.  And life was good.

Johansen Road took us to an amazing bit of human creation.  The first thing we saw was a long pipe fence with no trespassing signs.  Not commercial signs but artistic metal signs “carved” with a cutting torch.  Each sign depicts different aspects of this interesting place.  There are Native American style Teepees, a huge tree house under construction, play structures, zip lines, and full sized rail cars!  In the middle of the wilderness. 

 After walking more roads in both directions we determined our location and our next turns.  We followed Anderson Landing Road down to Sunset Camp and Berry Creek Falls Trail to the waterfalls.  We ate lunch at the foot of the Golden Cascade.   

The trail gets very wet at the top of the Silver Falls but there are posts and cables to hold onto and to keep one on the trail.   
Finally we arrived at the platform to view Berry Creek Falls where we rested and shared an orange.  All were beautiful.  They can be reached by day hike from BBRW HQ or as a short side hike from the Skyline to the Sea trail.

Just south of the waterfalls the SttS trail widens as it seems to have been a fire road at some earlier time.  Due to erosion at a few points, it will probably not function as a vehicular road now, but it is easy walking.  We completed nine plus miles by 4PM.  Norm originally thought we might want to drop the packs and go down to Waddel beach.  It is another 2.4 miles and we were in no mood to add 5 miles to our day, pack or no pack. 
There was only one other person at Twin Redwoods.  We filtered our only water on this 7 day trip at the campground.  We ate Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai.  Didn’t taste much like Pad Thai Norm had eaten, and both of us got hungry earlier than usual.  Won’t buy again.  Wouldn’t recommend.  This camp was inhabited by another pretty bird, the Steller’s Jay.  It is a crested bird with a black head and back and blue wings and tail.  Again, Jerry didn’t trust their intentions and tossed pebbles at them.  We tried trivia but had poor results with questions about presidents.  Wow, we just didn’t know much about anyone between Adams and Woodrow Wilson, except for Lincoln, Johnson and Grant.  This was our warmest night.  Single pair of socks, no gloves or hat required.

May 22 – Back to Park HQ

Backtracked up SttS trail as far as McCrary Ridge Trail.  The warning at the trail intersection is sobering.  There is a no bikes sign and the words say something like “Recommended for horses only, due to steepness of the trail.”  From the map, we could tell there was a whole bunch of up before we reached the ridge, but we didn’t appreciate how much up there would be.  Oh, and it is as steep as the sign warns.  

 As near as Norm could tell, it was like 20 of our training hills put together with no downs in between.  Every time the slope would decrease, Jerry would say we must be at the top.  We’d go around some little bend and find the next pitch.  Norm finally asked Jerry to stop talking. To distract ourselves we tried to think of a song with a girl’s name for every letter in the alphabet.  We got about 16.  We finally reached the road at the top and it did level out.  There is a redwood bench at Mr. McAbee Overlook where you have a clear look down to Waddell Beach. 

 The Howard King Trail crosses and recrosses the road.  We could not reconcile the map to the signs but luckily jumped on the HKT at the right exit to the left to get us to the SttS trail with only .8 miles left to the Park HQ.  We were back to Jay Parking by noon.  Talked to the ranger about our difficulty finding Johansen Road.  He said he’d go up there and see if a trail got obscured or a sign removed.  It was during this conversation that the mystery of Sunday’s early darkness was solved, when the ranger asked where we were when the eclipse occurred. 

We were so happy to see that there were showers, and not only showers but inexpensive showers.  If you hurry, you can get completely clean for 25 cents!  We’ve used pay showers that cost $2.00.  The amount is really not an issue, it’s having that many quarters.  Anyway, it was great to get cleaned up at the park and not have to wear our grungy clothes all the way to the motel.  Jerry found his spoon with the things he actually didn’t need for part two of the trip.  We had breakfast for lunch at Alice’s Restaurant. 

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