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?

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