Big Basin Redwoods State Park
May 7-9, 2005
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Since I'm changing to my summer schedule this week where I work Tues-Sat, I ended up
with a three day weekend this weekend  So I decided to head towards the coast and the
coastal redwood forest. I drove up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz
where I met 4wheelbob at the Park Headquarters.

Big Basin was California's first state park and it's beautiful! It protects nearly an
entire watershed and its old-growth redwoods. There are lots of trails and trail camps
as well as car campgrounds and even tent cabins that you can rent. We car camped at
Sempervirens Campground on Saturday Night after we did a hike up the Gazos Creek
Fire Road and back down the Hammond Road. We saw several species of wildflowers,
several giant banana slugs as well as a tiny species of slug that were brown and less than
a centimeter long, and a newt (which I was so excited to spot one at the time, little did
I know I'd see many, many newts the next day!)

That night we made dinner and had a nice fire and talked until we were too tired to stay
up any longer. Sometime during the night it began to rain but it was never very hard, it
drizzled more than anything. I slept in for a time then got up, ate a Clif bar for
breakfast, and began to pack up. After helping 4wheelbob pack up his tent we headed off
to Park HQ again so I could pay for my backcountry camp spot. 4wheelbob then headed
home and I headed out on the trail.
I decided to do a 12 mile loop out the Skyline-to-Sea Trail to the Berry Creek Falls
Trail and back via the Sunset Trail. About halfway around this loop is the Sunset Trail
Camp. To stay there you need reservations and there is a $15 fee. No campfires or dogs
are allowed.

It rained, drizzled, off and on all that day. I was well prepared, though, with my Precip
pants and waterproof shell and silnylon pack cover and my REI Quarter Dome Tent. The
rain seemed to keep most of the other hikers away and I only saw 2 backpackers and 2
dayhikers along which apparently is a very popular trail. And it is popular for good reason!
The scenery is gorgeous! The old-growth redwoods are huge and dense. The trail follows
beautiful creeks whose waters bubble over and around rocks and fallen logs. Plant life is
very, very lush with ferns and moss and wildflowers carpeting the forest floor. And I've
never seen so many newts in all my life, I stopped counting at 47! In places I had to
watch carefully as to not step on them!

Faster than a speeding newt! No, they weren't that fast, but fast enough and it was
really hard to get a picture of a newt as they always scampered away from me and the
dim light did not allow for a fast shutter speed.  These are Coastal Range Newts,
Taricha torosa torosa, a subspecies of the California newt.
The waterfalls are definitely a highlight along this trail. First is Berry Creek Falls, the
largest at 60'. Above it are Silver, Cascade, and Gold Falls. The trail is crazy as it
climbs up very steep steps carved right into the rock beside Silver Falls. I was glad to
be going up the trail at this point because I think it would be even more difficult and
scary to go down!
This is looking down from the top of Silver Falls which is on the right and the trail
(believe it or not!) is on the left...
But even if there weren't waterfalls there would be much to love about this route. I
saw several species of wildflowers, including a very beautiful pink-red lily, Red Clintonia.  
There were many colorful mushrooms growing on the fallen logs. Gray squirrels and
robins were abundant. The mist and fog swirled around the impossibly tall redwood and
douglas fir trees. And every now and then I heard an owl hooting from distant tree tops.
I made it up to Sunset Camp around 4:00 pm and I had my pick of spots as no one else
was there nor did anyone else come afterwards. There are pit toilets here and
trashcans and a variety of camping spots to choose from. I set up my tent and crawled
inside to change into dry clothing. After I ate dinner I hung the rest of my food and
smellables in my Critter Sack. There are no bears at Big Basin but raccoons can be a
problem. I wrote in my journal and went to bed pretty early. It rained off and on all
night long and I slept well.

In the morning I got up with the sun, ate breakfast, packed up, and headed out. The rain
had let up and I made good time on the way out. The trails all go up and down and up and
down but never do you fall or climb more than about 400' at a time so it wasn't too
strenuous. For a while just past Sunset Camp you are on a high ridge above the redwoods
and there are many wildflowers here. The sun shone over the fog that was shrouding the
canyons below.
Overall it was a great backpacking trip! I was a little wary of my neck, this was my first
backpacking trip since that muscle spasm I had back in March, so I packed light and
didn't push myself too much. And I would definitely recommend this trail and I will
definitely go back someday to explore more of the park :)
Red Clintonia, Clintonia andrewsiana
Redwood Sorrel, Oxalis oregana
Pussy Ears, Calochortus tolmiei