Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Garrapata State Park

Memorial Day Hike
May 28, 2007
Rocky Ridge – Sobranes Canyon Loop
6 Miles – 1,600 elevation gain
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Jan, Marianne, Julie

I decided to do a Memorial Day hike since it was my only open weekend until July. I knew it was risky – I usually try to stay off the road for the entire weekend and ideally don’t leave the house. I hoped everyone else had the same idea. It could either be really crowded or not. Jan said she was in right away. I talked Marianne into coming on Sunday afternoon. It’s our first hike together, though we have known each other many years.

Marianne has done Garrapata several times, while I had only done it once, years ago. Jan had some concerns about the elevation gain, since her knees can be problematic. I told here it would probably be hot and exposed. I shared a memory from the hike years ago – where the trail was badly eroded and one of us got stuck in a bad spot. It fed into Jan’s fears from her own past scary stuck-on-a-cliff experience in Big Sur, so she was expecting the worst on this hike. She decided to go for it anyway.

We met at the Soquel Park and Ride at 9:00 a.m. on Monday. It was foggy and overcast and we wondered whether it would clear. It would be a bummer to do this hike and not be able to see the ocean. It has happened to me before in Big Sur. The Memorial Day traffic was very light as we headed for Monterey. We exchanged life stories and reached the Garrapata pullout in no time it seemed. There weren’t too many cars and still several parking spaces.

We were on the trail by 10:30. We left the book in the car with the map. Marianne was confident to be navigator on this trip. We crossed the highway to the trailhead. There was a holder for maps – but sadly none inside. The bulletin board had information on whales – but no map of the park. We weren’t worried since there aren’t too many side trails on this hike.

We followed the trail which began by crossing Sobranes creek, then clung along a ridge above the creek. The weather was still foggy and cool.

The trail followed the ridge. Eventually it dipped back down to the creek with lovely ferns and redwoods. I never found the spot that had been so scary so many years before. We passed a mother and daughter hiking, but otherwise there was no one on the trail.

We started climbing out of the forest and up the hillside. Marianne and Jan were busy discussing marathons past (for Jan) and future (for Marianne). It was a steep climb and the path was often eroded. It was easier going up then it would have been coming down. Marianne in her Go Light sneakers has a bit of trouble finding traction on the slippery sand slope.

As we climbed the sun started coming out. The wildflowers were growing in profusion. I was afraid that we had missed the season – since it has been such a dry winter. I needn’t have feared. I wished Jane as our botanist-in-training and Barbara as our staff photographer was there to properly document them. They were lovely. We saw Indian Paint Brush, Sticky Monkey Flower, Morning Glories, Purple thistles, Lupine, Poppies and possibly Delphinium to name the few we knew. Yellow, purple, red, orange, white, blue flowers, everywhere.

As we climbed higher up the hill you could see the hills in the distance. We stopped to admire the flowers and put on sunscreen. The mother – daughter team caught up to us. The mother looked rather winded and both were concerned about how much more elevation gain there was. They had obviously taken on more than they expected, though we didn’t see them again, so they must have made it.

We kept climbing to the top of the hill. We followed the crest to our lunch spot, a rock outcrop with a great view of the ocean. We arrived at 12:15. The sun was out, but it was windy up top. Out came the fleeces and Marianne (who runs cold) put on her gloves. As we got ready to hike again – I noticed that the fog was rolling in from all directions. I wanted a photo with a slice of ocean in case we didn’t see it for the rest of the trip. (shades from the Montara Mountain hike). I needn’t have worried.

The path came around a bend and there it was. The path led down with ocean views on one side and hills in the other directions. The flowers became even more intense on the ocean side – perhaps because of the ocean mist and fog. This hike was definitely about the flowers.

We stopped at this bench which would make a great lunch spot. My hiking book recommended coming up Rocky Ridge – then circling down to the canyon. I liked having the ocean views as we came down. We ate dark chocolate and wished for a glass of red wine to go with it. The bench overlooks Highway One and you have a good overlook of Garrapata and Sobranes Point. From here it was just a hop, skip and a jump to our starting place.

We got back at 2:15 and Jan and Marianne were anxious to hit the road and avoid the Memorial Day afternoon traffic. I convinced them to take a quick jaunt to the ocean side of the Garrapata. A very short trail led to coves and beaches. The steps to the beach were completely eroded away. The water was that lovely turquoise unique to the Big Sur Coast.

We walked to the other point and watched waves crash against the rocks. We were all refreshed and knew we would bring this joy back with us as we faced the Tuesday after a three day weekend.

We headed out and once we got turned around the traffic was not bad at all. We decided to go to Manuel’s Mexican restaurant in Aptos for a bite to eat and the celebratory post hike Margaritas. The food and company was good (though the margarita was weak) but it was a nice way to end the afternoon. The traffic was light all the way back to Santa Cruz.

Garrapata is the quintessential Big Sur hike – creek with redwoods, wildflowers and beautiful coastal views. All our fears about this trip were unfounded: heavy traffic, crowded trails, too hot, no view due to fog, too hard, too scary. Instead it was a lovely uplifting day. Once again nature did its magic.

Lessons Learned: Fear naught. Stop and enjoy the wildflowers while you can.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Big Basin to the Sea

May 12, 2007
12-13 miles
Hiking time: 6 ½ hours
Graciela, Barbara, Julie

This was another amazing hike. I did it once years ago and we had chosen the higher route to Howard King Trail – which was hot and dry chaparral terrain. Reading a book the night before I got really excited about taking the other route which sounded much greener.

The date didn’t work for most of the hikers, though Jane and Tara tried really hard to make it happen. In the morning I thought it would just be Graciela and I, but Barbara called at the last minute and then we were three.

Barbara and I caught the bus at 9:05 in Felton. Graciela was already on the bus, which was quite crowded. There is only one bus in the morning that goes all the way to Big Basin.

I noticed a young couple with a big suitcase, the kind with wheels. I wondered where they had arrived from. When they didn’t get off at Boulder Creek, I asked him if he was staying at a cabin in Big Basin. He replied, “No, we’re camping”. He was a UCSC student and didn’t have a backpack – so they were camping out of a suitcase. What a unique approach – as Barbara said later – he will probably have an interesting life.

We reached headquarters at Big Basin at 9:45. The line was too long to get a new map. The store wasn’t quite open, so we decided to just use my old map. I hadn’t brought the best map, since I always try to get new trail maps – it’s interesting the see how they change.

We stopped and tried to determine how to begin. The beginning is always a little confusing. There the sign says 12 miles to Waddell Beach – though other signs had said 10.5. We saw the young couple rolling their suitcase off to their campsite, cute as can be.

We walked through the campfire circle at Big Basin which was very nice. Then we climbed up to Skyline to the Sea trail. Barbara and I shared
memories of previous trips – both of us wanting to avoid past trails that were less than pleasant, but not sure what those trails were. When we got to the top of the ridge we debated one last time about taking Sunset trail – but decided on the more direct route of Skyline to the Sea.

Big Basin has trail maps at trail junctions, but the most relevant area is always blanked out. An odd piece of vandalism – which I had forgotten about. Once again, I wish I had brought the better map.

This part of the trail was through beautiful redwoods. The trail wound up and down. Banana slugs were plentiful – though Barbara worried about the dry conditions for them. She “watered” one as an experiment, but couldn’t tell if it helped.

People describe this hike as being all “down hill”. The hiking book had an elevation loss of 1100’ feet, but let me tell you – there is definitely some elevation on this hike. It was beautiful and much more picturesque than I remembered. When we reached Kelly Creek the ferns were incredibly lush. We stopped to look at some dead redwoods and tried to determine what killed them. If anyone knows –please respond in the comments box.

Barbara’s son wanted photos to make into screen savers for his two computers, so she was on a mission. Taking continuous shots in different areas. Graciela was
always trying to take alternate routes – climbing over logs and inside of trees.

We took a quick break at a lovely spot beside the
creek. We were moving at a fairly leisurely pace, stopping along the way. It was four miles to Berry Creek Falls and we figured that we would have lunch there. We came to the trail junction a little before noon – but this was the Timm’s Creek junction. That meant we were only ½ way to Berry Creek Falls. It was a freak out moment.

Barbara remembered that this first part took a long time – but the second part after the falls went quickly. It was like being in the Bermuda Triangle of hiking - time and distance was becoming distorted.

We picked up the pace and reached the bench across the creek from Berry Creek Falls at
12:20. The bench was open so we chose this as our lunch spot. It has a nice view of the falls.

A group of high school backpackers came
up and I told them about the platform under the falls. After a quick lunch, Barbara wanted to go to the base of Berry Creek Falls.

The platform was completely covered with teenage bodies and equipment. Barbara said, “It’s a shame not to see the other falls – they aren’t that far away”. I felt we were already short on time, but everyone was willing to push on up to the waterfalls – so I said sure. I do love

Some hikers on the trail told us, we were probably about 30 minutes away. Up we went.The trail followed the creek. Barbara remembered Golden Falls as being spectacular, but they weren’t as golden with the red mud at this season. To get there you climb up stone steps cut out of the rock. The last time I did this hike the water was rushing right next to the steps. This time there was plenty of room. The waterfalls had enough water in them to make them pretty, but they weren’t overflowing.

We climbed up the steps holding onto the cable. It was sunny at Golden Falls, so I stripped down, put on sunscreen and wet my sarong for around my neck. Graciela was already
settling down – thinking we were going to stay awhile – but this was
just a quick visit. It was back down the steep steps for us.

The second time we came to Berry Creek Falls the platform was completely empty. We
stopped to enjoy the view.

Then back down to Skyline to Sea Trail. This next portion of the trail is next to the creek and was also lovely. The ferns were lush. We decided “verdant” was the word for this part of the trail.

We passed the bike rack. Many folks park at Waddell Creek and bike up Skyline to the Sea. It seemed a trail that even I could do on a bike. It’s an easy ways to have access to the waterfalls.
Several bikers passed us on the way down.

There are three “backpacking” camps along Waddell Creek. The first was filled with the high school kids we had seen on the trail. I was thankful I wasn’t camping there. We were pushing our time limit to catch the bus. I couldn’t remember if it came at 5:00 or 5:15.

On the road there was a sign saying “hikers take trail, bikers and horses take road”. Barbara wanted to stay on the road, but I thought it would be better to take the trail. No bikes.

The trail led us back through the camp and over a bridge. Up we climbed. Elevation? Where did
the creek go? The trail also seemed to go off in the opposite direction. We kept climbing higher. It was 4:30 and we could see we had a long way yet to go. We caught a view of the beach in the distance. Quite a far distance for 4:30. I liked the trail, though I was pushing up the pace. Barbara was less happy with the terrain. This was a nature trail – with numbers that must correspond to a handout. We just knew we were getting closer to the end. I was finally calling out the last numbers. “Here’s number four.” “Here’s number three,” "Number two.”
“Number one!” and we were out.

Of course out was just the parking lot – we still had to walk a mile out to Highway one and the
bus stop. We got to the bus stop at 4:55 and found out the bus didn ’t come until 5:15 p.m. Twenty minutes to run into the ocean. We had made it! The ocean was filled with kite surfers. We had someone take our victory photo.

A moment I always look forward to is taking my
boots off after a long hike. I stripped them off and ran down to the icy surf. It felt great on the tootsies. Graciela joined me in the surf. Barbara sat on a log serenely eating fruit. We had done it.

The wind was so strong I felt I could hold out my sarong and nearly lean back into it. I changed into my Tevas. Graciela teased me about all the unnecessary weight I was carrying in my daypack. It is true – it “go heavy”. But I loved not having to put those boots back on.

We got on the bus. The view out of the window was nice. Pleasant to just sit and look at the ocean. We had a few minutes at the metro center, bid farewell to Graciela and got onto the bus to Felton. The seat was very hard. There were “interesting” people on the bus. It was all part of the journey.

Barbara and I went to the Trout Farm for Bloody Marys. She was instantly spotted by a friend’s son and had some guy quickly join her when I went to get the drinks. We toasted a successful hike and called it a day.

This hike exceeded my expectations and memories. It was interesting and challenging. I love that we pushed ourselves to see the waterfalls. I will gladly do this hike again.

Four Lessons Learned: Bring your best map. This particular trail enters a space time continuum with ever-changing distances and times - expect to be confused. Push for the waterfalls. A hot bath is just the ticket after a long hike!

Fall Creek - Henry Cowell State Park

Cinco de Mayo 2007
Fall Creek Trail to the Barrel Mill – Limekiln
5.5 miles - Hiking time: 2.5 hours
Julie and Bill

Bill actually wanted to go on a hike so I started thinking about where to go. I thought of Butano because Bill coming from the Canadian Rockies likes forested hikes with lots of water. The morning was getting away from us though, so I didn’t want to drive too far. Finally, I thought – Fall Creek!

Bill’s been here four years and I can’t believe we haven’t gone to Fall Creek. It is so his kind of place. He loved it. I can’t believe that with all the local hiking I’ve done since moving to Lompico – Loch Lomond, Quail Hollow, and Henry Cowell – that I hadn’t come back to Fall Creek. With hikes I can have a “been there – done that” attitude. So many hikes, so little time. I’ve hiked in Fall Creek several times over the years, but now that I live in Lompico I really view it more as part of my backyard.

We loaded up the daypacks, stopped at Safeway for a sandwich. In my pack – I had the book with map, sunscreen, extra sarong and clothing and another bottle of water. I told Bill to put the sandwiches in his pack. I switched into my hiking boots and we were off.

There were only two other cars in the parking lot. I think of Fall Creek as being a crowded, popular spot. The trail begins heading down to the creek. There isn’t much elevation gain on this trail. We came down to the creek and the trail runs alongside it almost the whole way. “Water” Bill said. He was happy.

We hiked for perhaps a mile when I though about putting on sunscreen – even though we were in the shade. That’s when I noticed – I’d forgotten my pack! I couldn’t believe it. I had my fanny pack – but was it. We were too far along to back, so I decided to make the best of it.

We came to a split in the path – to the left Lime Kilns to the right Barrel Mill site. We headed to the right. The trail rambled next to the creek. Forget Me Nots were in bloom, ferns and some plant with huge leaves grew along the creek.

I dipped my sarong in the water to cool off my neck – figuring I could switch into my dry one – if it got cold. Until I remembered I didn’t have a dry one – it was all in my pack. We were getting hungry so we found a perfect little lunch spot. Right next to a deep watering hole – fed by a waterfall cut through the rocks. There was comfortable rock searing and dappled sunlight. I could see spending the day here reading, listening to the creek and sunbathing. The hole was big enough you could take a dip in it and sit in the “jacuzzi” waterfall on a hot day. This is going to become Julie’s special spot.

We had seen no one on our trail that day. I couldn’t believe it. After eating my sandwich, I told Bill I’d like to finish the hike to the Barrel Mill Site. I knew we were close. I left him scratching his lottery tickets and headed up the trail. There is something nice about hiking alone – it is like a moving meditation. The advantage of hiking with your husband is kisses on the trail and holding hands. The advantage of hiking with friends is the closeness that develops from sharing nature. Bottom line: hiking is always good.

I must say the signage at Fall Creek was very clear. Good thing since the map was in my pack. When I go to Barrel Mill the park has put up some nice bulletin boards explaining the site. There was rusted old machinery which was part of a lathe saw. At this site they would then bring down redwoods – cut them into chunks, core them and have the outside cut into staves. They would then ship these down to the Lime Kiln site – where they would build the barrels to ship the lime. This was from 1912-1927.

I walked back to the “spot”, then Bill and I walked down the road that the wagons used to haul the staves. We came to the Lime Kilns. We climbed up the path to see where they would dig out the limestone – then bring it to the kilns – break it up into pieces – fire it in the ovens and reduce it to lime. The lime was used in making brick mortar for San Francisco.

You could actually climb into one of the kilns. From this point on – we probably saw more then 30 hikers. This is the place everyone goes. It’s understandable – the trail back was beautiful. Hiking between narrow cliffs. This path followed the creek as well. When we got back to the parking lot it was filled with cars. This is such a beautiful spot and so close to home! I will definitely be coming here for evening strolls after work. Bill was ready to come back the next day! I’m glad I have found my spot.

As Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz – “Don’t go looking for happiness over the rainbow because you’ll discover it was in your own backyard the whole time” or something like that. This hike made me appreciate what a great area we live with such wonderful hiking options close at hand.

Lessons Learned: Don’t forget your backpack. You don’t have to travel far to get an amazing hike.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Portola State Park

April 29, 2007
Portola State Park
13 miles – 1200 ft. elevation gain
Hiking time: 6 hours
Julie and Jane

Jane and I were going to do a strategic hiking strike and pound out Mt. Manuel in Big Sur. Fortunately, Jane heard that the Big Sur Marathon was happening that same day, so we looked for another destination.

Jane has been chomping at the bit to do a more challenging hike – so I decided to do Portola State Park – Peters Creek Loop – one of my favorite hikes – but one I haven’t done in years. Fourteen years to be exact.

Long ago when I first started hiking – this was the first big hike that I did alone. Another fond memory is years ago, my friend Victoria and I skinny dipped in the creek without realizing how just close to the trail, we really were until multiple groups of hikers walked by.

This hike is out to a loop of old growth redwoods. The unusual thing is after five miles out you have to hike down to the redwoods – a 700 foot steep climb down and then you have to climb back up, of course. It’s always nice to get your elevation out of the way early in the day – but it doesn’t work that way on this hike.

Portola Sate Park is located off of Skyline Blvd. Jane grew up in Redwood City so this area is her old stomping ground. The area we drove through was full of memories for her from her bicycling and horseback riding days.

The way were planning to get to the park was closed – so Jane navigated us through Woodside and over to 84, then back on Skyline. I was confused, but Jane as always had it well in hand.

We hit the trail about 11:00 a.m. The summit trail was closed so we took the Slate Creek Trail to the trail camp. One of the things I love about this hike is that it is shaded almost the whole way. There is a bit of elevation – but it is so quiet and peaceful. The Forget Me Nots were in bloom – swaths of blue amongst the redwoods. They are so delicate – I love them. Jane told me these beautiful flowers turn into those annoying little burrs that stick to everything and that’s why you can’t forget them.

We saw many bana slugs along this trail. It took an hour to hike to the trail camp. It is a backpacking camp. I’ve never been impressed with the sites, but when we hiked out I went and closely investigated the campsites – some were quite nice in redwood groves. The problem is it’s a dry camp – no water source and a hot area. It would be a pain to carry in all the water.

From here there is a sign “strenuous 7 mile hike from this point – allow enough time to return.” You climb along a ridge through the forest. There is one exposed area of sunshine – a little meadow and then back into the blessed shade. One of the landmarks I was looking for was an old abandoned car from the forties. It has become completely covered with brush – never did find it – though we looked closely coming and going.

As you come to the edge of the descent, you have a few glimpses of a view – but no panoramic views. This hike is all about the trees. You do feel like you are descending in time. When you reach the bottom you are surrounded by lush ferns, a carpet of green clover between giant redwoods along a babbling creek.

We ate our lunch on a giant redwood that had fallen across the creek, next to a little bridge. A perfect dining spot. The peace and quiet of this place fills you. The redwoods just fill your heart and soul with awe. It’s a primal spot.

The loop is a secluded mile and a half loop. I would have liked to do it twice, there are so many beautiful groves. There were interesting burls about ten feet off the ground which looked like the tree trunk had swallowed a giant ball. In another spot the creek had washed away the soil to expose the elaborate root structures of the redwoods. Beautiful.

We saw a total of three other groups of hikers all day and they were all down by the loop. The trails were empty and quiet. Jane and I dipped our sarongs in the creek so we could have cool cloth against our necks for the hike up. I’ve been trying to convince Jane of the necessity of sarongs when hiking and this little trick helped. We started the climb out. It wasn’t as hard as I anticipated, but it was a good climb. It’s good to have to work for things – it makes you appreciate and value them more.

The hike out was a revisiting of wooded pleasures. We stopped to lay down and take this picture in the flowers. You can see a mosquito about to bite Jane. Richie (Jane’s husband) entitled this photo “High on Hiking”. It’s funny how coming back can always seem longer. Jane kept saying “this isn’t a really strenuous hike.” I say any 13 mile hike with elevation is good long hike. We got back to the car around 5:00 p.m. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day.

I loved this hike as much as I remembered. It is indeed a special place. Jane and I took Highway 9 back. We stopped in at the Trout Farm for our traditional Bloody Marys. Quite a few cars in the parking lot. Turns out they have Karaoke from four to eight p.m. Quite a little scene. They were all regulars. Neither Jane or I can sing, - so we didn’t indulge – though that didn’t seem to stop any of the regulars. It is good to do the things you love.

Three Lessons Learned: You don’t know your own strength until you make the uphill climb. Challenges are good. There is Karaoke at the Trout Farm on Sunday afternoons. Who knew?