Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Eagle Rock – March 2007

3.1 miles round trip
Elevatation Gain: 1,328 feet
Hiking Time: 1 ½ hours
Julie and Bill

The hardest thing about this hike was finding the trail! I did this hike seven years ago and I had always wanted to go back – but couldn’t remember how to get to the trailhead. I knew it was on some side road on the way to Big Basin. I knew that you came out at Eagle Rock over looking the top of Empire Grade road. What I didn’t know until I looked at several hiking books – is that Eagle Rock is part of Big Basin Park. Though you wouldn’t know this because signage is minimal. It is an unconnected square area of the park – surrounded by private property.

I found the hike in “South Bay Hikes” by Jeans Rusmore. It was an impromptu hike. I asked Bill on Saturday whether he wanted to go for a hike. Since we were going to our friend Hans’ house for dinner in Boulder Creek – we decided to try and find Eagle Rock.

We stopped for sandwiches in Felton and I realized I had forgotten the hiking book with instructions to the trailhead. I was ready to turn around and drive home, but Bill insisted we could find it on our own. I looked in the Santa Cruz Trail Book at the map of Big Basin and saw the section of the park off Little Basin Road – so we decided to go for it. Our friend Hans thought the trail was on private property owned by Hewlett Packard and didn’t realize it was actually part of Big Basin. He suggested if we got lost to ask someone at the HP camp.

From Boulder Creek you take 236 almost to Big Basin and then turn left on Little Basin Road. It’s a one lane road (reminded me of Lompico). We saw a fire road and turnout with one car parked there. The gate opposite marked HP “No Trespassing”. We decided to see if we could ask someone at the HP camp – but the road split and there were more No Trespassing signs. We turned around and I was going to go to Big Basin to ask – but we decided to try the place the other car was parked. I walked up the fire road and sure enough there was a State Park Boundary sign and the unmarked but very well defined trail.

I didn’t know the elevation of the trail – but now I see that it is over 1,300 feet in a little over a mile. It was uphill all the way – though an easy grade. The trail follows Brooks Creek and there were two creek crossings and a nice little waterfall. It is a forested trail that climbs steadily.

One thing I remembered from this hike was a beautiful arched bridge that is made with wooden nails known as “runnels”. There are metal screws in the support beams but the rest is all wood. It has a neat design so that the boards stick up a bit, so it is easy to climb up and over.

The trail was shaded until the very top, where you hit chaparral and the fire road leading to Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock overlooks the “Locatelli Ranch”. Great 365 degree views from the Valley all the way to the ocean. You could see the Boulder Creek Golf Course in the distance. The view is marred a bit by roads, telephone poles and the abandoned fire tower – but it is still pretty special.

We stayed up on top for about an hour, eating lunch, relaxing and watching the turkey vultures (no eagles) soar on the wind currents. At one point three small planes flew by low. One was only about 10 feet away from Bill at eye level. We sat waiting for the lunar eclipse at 2:45 p.m. but, obviously didn’t see anything. Two teenage boys came up from Empire Grade, followed shortly by two more.

When we went to explore the fire tower – it became obvious that it has become a party site for teenagers. It was covered with graffiti and the door had been ripped off. There were remnants inside of past parties and fires. You could climb to the second floor – but there wasn’t a way out onto the upper balcony.

There was probably going to be a party that night – since it was going to be a full moon. It was sad to see the vandalism of the tower and gave you a different feeling about the place.

The hike back was pleasantly almost all downhill. There was a side trail that I’d like to explore, which the book says leads to another rocky promontory. It only took us 35 minutes to get back to the car.

Lesson Learned: Trust your instincts and being willing to search for the trailhead.

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