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18. Berry Creek Falls (10/05/96)

Hikers (6): Eugene, Gina, Peter, Russ, Sara, Taylor
Distance: 12 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Write-up by Peter

The trip to Big Basin always takes longer than people expect. It looks close on the map, but you have to get there on a twisting, winding road. Eugene darn near clipped a couple of other cars on the way, but we finally made it.

It was pretty chilly and the Sara and Gina hadn't arrived yet, so the rest of us had time to go into the snack shop for some coffee and hot chocolate. Mmmmmmmm! Sara showed up about an hour late, but still no sign of Gina. We waited a little longer, then figured she'd ditched us and started on the hike.

Ten yards into the hike, and suddenly Taylor jumped about 2 feet in the air. What was it? Mountain lion? Bear? No, just a couple of friendly deer. Grrrrrrrrrrr!

We started on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, and hiked up among the redwoods. This being October, Big Basin was not very crowded, so it was not a zoo like last time (see Hike #1). Russ took the lead, followed closely by Eugene, then Sara, then Taylor and myself. Some of us actually stop to look at the sights instead of blindly charging ahead!

It took us about an hour to get to Berry Creek Falls. The book had called it "the prettiest sight in the Bay Area" and it was hard to argue with it. There's a nice little wooden platform that looks out onto the falls -- the perfect spot for lunch! If it was a little warmer, it would be the perfect spot for a nap, but it was a little on the chilly side and other people showed up to share the platform, so we didn't linger too long.

After lunch, we continued on uphill, past the Cascade, Silver, and Golden Falls. To most people, the staircase going up the side of the falls is a piece of cake (with even a cable to hold on to), but to me it was a mini-Half Dome. I figured I'd better keep it to myself, so that other people did not try to "help" like they had at Yosemite (see Hike #10). Crisis over ... the hike continued.

After passing the falls, we went through some shiggy, and then hit a snag: the Sunset Trail, which was supposed to be our route back, was closed due to fire damage. We stumbled around for a while, then found ourselves in a overnight camping area. There was a fire road that led out of the camp and back towards Park Headquarters. It looked like a long way round, but what the heck -- we were here to hike, so we decided to take it.

The first part of the fire road was a decent uphill climb. By now, the sun had come out and it was pretty darn warm, so we were finally starting to get a workout. As we continued uphill, we could see the burnt hills that had been scarred by fire. There was even a faint trace of smoke still in the air.

Rusty soon left everyone in the dust. Eugene was starting to drag, so I stayed behind to keep him company while the girls forged ahead. The fire road flattened out, and then came a long, long, flat stretch. The road just kept going and going ... we were almost certain we had overshot the turnoff for the Park Headquarters, but we hadn't seen any signs, so we kept trudging along. Finally, we saw the signpost for Park Headquarters and picked up the pace for the final half mile in.

It turned out Gina had showed up a few minutes after we had taken off and had hiked the whole trail by herself in the reverse direction. Even though none of us had seen her, we were feeling generous and gave her a leaf anyway.

Gina's 1st leaf

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