Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

So Much for Plans

Now that it’s official that I’ll be walking the Via de la Plata this spring, I’m in a sudden panic about getting in shape in time. So it’s hike, hike, baby!

Yesterday I visited Big Basin Redwoods State Park, with the intention of hiking from the beach up to Berry Creek Falls. Here’s the park entrance on Highway 1.
Entrance to Big Basin State Park

And right across the highway, the ocean.
The Pacific

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day, with comfortable temperatures, and I was looking forward to a nice 12-mile jaunt to the falls. I stopped at the entrance kiosk to double-check my route. I was pleased to see that the falls trail was relatively flat, and laughed at the fools who would hike the snake-like hairpin-turn steep connector route to the West Ridge Trail. (Note foreshadowing.)

So I set off. The trail splits at the ranger cabin, one path for hikers and the park road for campers and horse trailers. Being a hiker, I took the former, and immediately entered mixed forest. The abundant rain and warm weather brings forth wildflowers. I think this is a Checker Lily. (Those who know these things, feel free to confirm or correct.)
Lilies of some sort, perhaps Checkered

And a somewhat out-of-focus group of Chinese Houses. (I could have sworn I had the camera set to close-up mode.)
Chinese Houses

The trail dipped in and out of shade as it skirted the shoulder of the mountain.
Rocks and trees along the trail

I love the various textures where weathered roots push out through the rocks.
Textures of rock and wood

Thinking that I would be keeping low along the creek to the falls, and this would be my highest elevation, I took this panoramic set of photos looking out over farmland towards the ocean. (More foreshadowing.)
Panorama of farm and ocean

Another thing I love: the charred splits that one often finds in redwood trees. They seem so mysterious.
Redwood tree with charred gash

Banana slug!
Banana slug

And then these beautiful orange and black feathers. When I found the first one, I thought perhaps it had fallen from some jaunty hippie hiker’s hat. But then I found two more. Tanager? Oriole?
I was not a good forest steward. I took them home.
Orange and black feathers

And finally, I reached the creek.
Waddell Creek

Oh, oops. It had been a good five years since I last took this trail, and had spaced out on the fact that the hiking trail crosses the creek via a bridge… and the bridge is removed over the winter. I could see the fire road on the far side of the creek; it crosses the creek via a permanent bridge shortly after the turnoff for hikers. The creek was running fast, and I could see it got deeper on the far side. Now if I was with somebody else, I would have rolled up my pants and waded across. If I fell in and was carried away, they could alert the ranger or the Coast Guard or the medivac helicopter; whatever. But when I hike solo, I’m a bit more cautious. Sarah-Hope would be very sad if I was swept out to sea and never seen again. Besides which, I really really hate getting my feet wet. I suspect, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, that I was a cat in a former life, which would also explain my being a total Cat Magnet. (Nobody has ever accused me of having an inactive imagination.)

So what to do? I had only hiked a little more than a mile at this point, and a quick round-trip was certainly too short a hike. But I had just passed a fork in the trail… that went up. You know, that serpentine trail I had laughed at when I began my hike. The one where I had said, “I pity the fool who hikes that!” Yeah, that one. The two-mile-long nothing-but-uphill-to-the-summit trail. So up I went.
Trail sign

It was steep. Nothing but switchbacks for 2 miles, going up, up, up. I took a bit of a breather and had a bite to eat. And figured out how to use the auto-timer on my camera.
Taking a break

It looks like I’m so hot there’s smoke coming out of my head. Or maybe it’s a thought balloon. No, just some moss hanging from the trees.

Just before I reached the top I met my first hiker, an elderly gentleman with a long white beard and carved wooden walking stick. He commented that it was a veritable traffic jam: he’d climbed this peak around 100 times, and only met other hikers 5 or 6 times — and there were 2 more hikers on the top. When I reached the top and chatted with the two young hikers there, they said the man had told them he was 81 years old. It was a bit embarrassing to be huffing and puffing like a steam engine, and this old fellow was strolling along like it was the Boardwalk. Good for him!

The view to the west. The point of land is Ano Nuevo.
Looking out to Ano Nuevo

It’s amazing how a good view makes a tough climb worthwhile. And this view was very good.
Looking southwest towards Waddell Creek Beach, across the highway from where I had started.
The view from the summit

I found a grade calculator online, and found that a 2 mile climb to a point with 1000 feet elevation –which I think is about what the summit was– is about a 9.469 grade.

I took a little bonus walk on the beach at the end of the hike, just to get some salt air and stretch my legs. I think this is the hill I climbed.
Where I was

Later this week: attempt #2 on Berry Creek Falls. Stay tuned!

3 Comments

  1. “I hope your rambles have been sweet and your reveries spacious…”

    Emily D.

  2. Did you ever find out who that feather belonged to? I just found one today that is identical in Portland Oregon.

  3. Hi Sandra– Yes! My friend Stephanie wrote me an email afterwards and said this: “The filched feathers are from the formerly named red-shafted flicker, a cool woodpecker with a great call, now called the common flicker.”

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