Thursday, October 13, 2016
We drove for about 1 hour up into the mountains, through windy roads, out of the beach fog and into the blue skies. I got dropped off at Castle Rock State Park, and set out with my backpack back to the ocean, starting the 30 mile Skyline to the Sea Trail, passing through 3 state parks along the way.
The start had the best views, from the highest point of the trail at over 3000 feet. I could see the whole Monterey Bay from up there. Pretty damn epic, seeing the other side where Monterey and Carmel are, and then the ocean, and finally the end of the mountains so many miles away. This picture gives a great image of where I was starting and where I was headed:
Most people think that it is all downhill from 3000 feet, but it is far from that, as any hiker of the trail would tell you. Lots of ups and downs, going down to creek level, and then up on top of ridges seemingly every hour. All those hills you see above, well, I walked around them all, weaving through past towering redwoods. Here's a chart that shows the elevation change:
From the ocean views in the first few miles with peace and quiet, the trail descended to a heavily forested area, passing a couple creeks and then staying close to the country highway. Not much car traffic, but not the best part of the hike. The scenery was good, and it was nice to see some changing colors in the trees. Mainly sycamore trees were changing colors down nearby the creeks, as the pines and redwoods were just as green as ever.
I made it to the Waterman Gap Trail Camp in under 4 hours, cruising along with just a couple short breaks. Not much of a camp there, with just flat area for campsites and a drop toilet. Found a tree I could lean against, had lunch, read a bit and chilled. About 1/3 of the way done, time to kick it for an hour. Then back to the trail. Which lead upwards almost 1000 feet to China Grade, upon which there was a noticeable change in tree variety on the other side of the hill with more sunlight coming through. Here are some pictures from before China Grade:
|Autumn starting to kick in|
Towards the second half there was more water, which was great for my water filter I'd brought. Only had to use it once, but it was great to have along for the first time. Each trail camp, spaced out about every 10 miles, had potable water, so with 2 liters and a full belly, you could easily get by. But the water that you passed along the way got better and better. Some serene scenes along the way:
I camped out in the redwoods a half hour short of Big Basin, settling in and stretching the legs. Sun went down and I went down. At 7pm. I'd hiked pretty much from 9am and stopped around 5pm, with some breaks and the hour lunch, for a grand total of just over 6 hours of hiking. From the trail markings along the way, I'd hiked about 17 miles, over halfway there. Well deserving of sleeping under the towering trees, with just a couple squirrels nearby making noise.
The second day went pretty quick. Legs felt strong and I cruised through, stocking up on water from Big Basin Headquarters and then passing Berry Creek Falls on the way out. Around 5 hours after starting my hike, I saw the ocean after smelling it for the last mile. Such a good sight to see!
All together, the hike took just under 12 hours and was epic. Great scenery, elevation change and time to think and practice counting to 100 in Spanish. I finished with a swim in the ocean, then read more and watched the surfers before my ride came. I'd reached the beach 2 hours before the time I'd asked to be picked up at, as when you're moving, you're moving and can't stop. Nice to just keep going and finish strong. Great hike, and an even greater night when the Dodgers won game 4.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Here's a little video from the start of hiking the Skyline to the Sea trail. It spans 30 miles from way up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, through numerous ups and downs, peaks, valleys, creeks and camps, and ends at the beach. As someone who loves hiking and loves the beach, this is a sweet hike to have the ocean as your end goal. Hiking over 2 days, camping under the redwoods and knowing that the ocean is waiting for you to finish with a swim, well, you just can't beat that...