:: Skyline-To-The-Sea Backpacking Trip - March 12 - March 14, 2005 ::

This is the record of my backpacking adventure in Desolation Wilderness.
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The scenery of Castle Rock State Park.
Castle Rock Falls
Looking west toward the fog and the Pacific Ocean.
Banana Slug
Travertine Springs
My campsite at Waterman Gap Trail Camp.
The trail meandering along the highway.
The road winding through Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
A nice redwood bridge.
A sign along the trail.
Stairs winding downward.
A Salamander
Berry Creek Falls
Ferns along the creek.
A make shift bridge.
A raft of forget-me-nots.
Tom at Waddell Beach.
Time to soak my feet!

:: Plan Your Own Skyline-To-The-Sea-Trail Trip::

If you want to plan your own Skyline-To-The-Sea-Trip here is what you need to do:

1. Make sure you have two cars, one to park at Castle Rock State Park and the other to park at Waddell Beach (18 miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1).
2. Try to find a decent map or set of maps for this trip. This is hard to do and I never got a satisfactory map before I did this trip.
3. Reserve your campsites in advance by calling (831) 338-8861. I stayed at Waterman Gap Trail Camp the first night and Jay Camp the second night. You can reserve both camps at this phone number. The total cost will be $10 per campsite per night, $3 for extra vehicle left at Waddell Creek, and $5 reservation fee for a total of $28.
4. Mail the $5 reservation fee, payable to DPR, to:
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
21600 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, California
Make sure to mail it at least a week before the trip. Otherwise the Park Rangers will give you a hard time.
5. Plan for 9.2 miles the first day, 9.5 miles the second day, and 16 miles for the third day. Our pace was roughly 2 miles per hour.
6. You don't need to bring a water filter if you can carry at least 2 liters of water (each person will differ). Waterman Gap Trail Camp and Jay Camp both have water that can be used for cooking and drinking.
7. Bring quaters for Jay Camp. Jay Camp has showers which cost 25 cents per 2 minutes which is a helluva good deal after you've backpacked 20 miles.
8. Jay Camp is right next to Big Basin Redwoods State Park headquarters, and they have a convenience store, so you can buy food at the convenience store for dinner and breakfast the next day. The food selection is limited to soup, hot dogs, and frozen burritos. I had the hot dog and it was pretty good.

:: Friday, March 11, 2005 @ 6:00 PM::
I originally picked this backpacking trip as a reward for meeting my weight loss goal. I would have loved to do a backpacking trip up in the mountains, but since it is still winter the mountains are still covered in snow. I've also heard good things about the Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail and I do like the fact that it is close to home. I'm all packed up and slated to meet Forrest and Cressica at Waddell Beach tomorrow morning at 6 AM.

:: Saturday, March 12, 2005 @ 6:00 AM::
I woke up around 4:15 AM, got showered, had breakfast, and was out the door by 4:45 AM. I had to drive from my house in South San Jose to Waddell Beach which takes me up Highway 85 North to Highway 17 South to Santa Cruz and then up Highway 1 about 18 miles to Waddell Beach which is also where Rancho Del Oso is. I got there just at 6 AM and only had to wait a few minutes for Forrest and Cressica to show up.

:: Saturday, March 12, 2005 @ 8:30 AM::
We parked my truck at the trailhead, which is near the beach, but across the street (gated road that you can get into) closer to the marsh. When I parked my truck I filled out my information on where we would be camping each night and put in $3 for the extra vehicle fee. With any luck my truck will still be there after we finish the hike. After that we drove Cressica's car to Castle Rock State Park which took about an hour. After getting our gear ready and paying the fees at Castle Rock State Park ($10 per campsite per night for a total of $20 into the envelope) were ready to start our backpacking trip. See this map for the location.

:: Saturday, March 12, 2005 @ 8:30 AM::
We did a side trip to see some of the rocks that people climb and then we got onto the trail heading toward Waterman Gap Trail Camp. We got on the Saratoga Gap Trail and hiked for a while. Along the way we saw Castle Rock Falls, some banana slugs, a small pond with some ducks, a car that had been crashed off the highway into the woods (our guess is that it happened sometime in the late 70's early 80's, and finally Waterman Gap Trail Camp.

:: Saturday, March 12, 2005 @ 2:30 PM::
We made it to Waterman Gap Trail Camp at 2:30 PM, which was a bit earlier than I expected. We were the only people there, so we had our pick of campsites. When we setup our tents I set my tent up right in the middle of a redwood grove. The top of my tent was mesh, so when I was laying down looking up this was my view. After everything was situated I settled in for a nap. An hour or two after dozing off, I woke up due to the noise made by the Ranger. The Ranger asked if we had a reservation, and I told him that we did. I gave him my name and then he radioed it to park headquarters. I could have sworn he called himself eagle-1. Headquarters confirmed that we did indeed have a reservation but that they had not yet received the $5 reservation fee. He asked me if I had paid it. I told him that I had mailed it to park headquarters earlier in the week, and if it hadn't gotten there I could give him $5 now and then they could tear up the check once they got it. He asked for my name and address, and then radioed headquarters again to see if they had my check in their stack of mail. They confirmed that there was a letter from me. At this point the Ranger told me that he would assume that the check was in the envelope since they had the envelope and then went away. I have to admit that I was a little surprised by how serious the Ranger was and I was perfectly willing to give him the $5 for the reservation fee just to be left alone. Luckily I didn't laugh at any time during the interaction. After "eagle-1" went away I went back to sleep. The rest of the evening consisted of dinner and discussion.

:: Sunday, March 13, 2005 @ 9:00 AM::
We got on our way toward Big Basin Redwoods State Park at 9 AM. It was to be a 9.5 mile hike and I would say this was the toughest hike out of all three days. It wasn't all that bad but the trail took us up to the highway a few times and wasn't always well marked.

:: Sunday, March 13, 2005 @ 2:00 PM::
We arrived at Big Basin Redwoods State Park headquarters and before going to set up camp we decide to go to the convenience store to grab a bite to eat. The convenience store is a lot like any other. They had foot long hot dogs, frozen burritos, sandwiches, soda, water, beer, wine, etc... I decided to get a foot long hot dog and a bag of BBQ chips. That definitely beat the cup-o-noodles that were going to otherwise eat for dinner. After that scrumptious meal we walked over to headquarters to check in. Once we were there I found out that the showers near Jay Camp were 25 cents per 2 minutes. I brought $5 worth of quarters so that meant I would take a 40 minute shower. Talk about a great reward after hiking roughly 20 miles. In the end I only showered for 6 minutes. After checking in we walked over to Jay Camp and set up for the evening.

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 6:00 AM::
At some point during the night my backpack fell off of the picnic table in which case I got out of my tent to go find out what was going on. When I flashed my light in that direction a pair of eyes shined back at me. It was not a raccoon but it was a squirrel, a really big rat, or a possum. Once it saw that I saw it, it darted off into the woods. So I grabbed my pack and pulled it along with everything else into my one person tent (which made things a little more snug inside). Later on in the evening I heard something running around my tent and then even later I heard some growling and hissing. At some point throughout the rodent assault I was able to fall asleep. When I woke up later on I looked up to see that it was clear and that I had an amazing view of the stars through the canopy of the redwoods. It was such a clear and wonderful view that I stayed awake for about an hour looking at all the stars that I had not seen for a long time.

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 8:00 AM::
Since we knew the last day would be the longest (16 miles) we got up and out early. The hike up to the rim was the most difficult part, but after that it was mostly downhill. On our way through the redwoods we took turns leading. For some reason whenever I'm in the lead of the rest of the group I always feel like I'm not going fast enough so I want to keep picking up speed. It got to a point to where I crossed a stream and the n looked behind to see Forrest and Cressica and saw that they were nowhere to be found. So I had a seat in order to wait for them. In the process of sitting down I almost sat on a salamander. Eventually they caught up and we were back on the trail to Berry Creek Falls.

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 10:00 AM::
We made it to Berry Creek Falls. My first impression of Berry Creek Falls was that it was better than what I had been led to believe. It had more water running over it than I thought and it was taller than I thought it would be. I had read that it is 70 feet tall and I guess 70 feet is taller than I was visualizing. As I rounded the corner on the trail it first came into view from a distance and I knew we were there. We stopped to take a few photos before realizing that there is a viewing platform much closer.

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 11:00 AM::
After spending some time at Berry Creek Falls we decided to head up the trail for the side trip that would take us to Silver Falls and Golden Falls Cascade. It took a little longer than I expected to get to Silver Falls, but once we got there I was not disappointed. Silver Falls is about 60 feet tall and didn't seem to have the same amount of water flowing over it that Berry Creek Falls had. The trail took us right up along the side of the waterfall with cables to hold on to in order to keep us from plunging to major injuries. Once we got to the top of Silver Falls it was only a short hike to Golden Falls Cascade. While Berry Creek Falls looked like a transplant from Hawaii Golden Falls Cascade looked like a transplant from Southeast Asia. It reminded me of documentaries that I've seen where there were groups of women that would go to the falls to wash clothes. Of course it didn't have the humidity or armed rebels. After checking out Golden Falls Cascade we headed back down to the main trail so that we could get to Waddell Beach before it was too late.

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 2:00 PM::
Everything after Berry Creek Falls was pretty boring. The trail was fairly level and we eventual wound up outside the range of the giant redwoods. Once we got closer to the ocean we started to see more fields for farming and more wildflowers. We ended up making a lot better time then we had anticipated. It felt great to round a bend and then see my truck waiting for us at the trailhead. The cool thing about having a tailgate is that I could fold it down and have a seat on it. I changed out of my hiking boots and into my tevas as soon as I could. After that we threw our packs in the bed of the truck we drove down to the beach to take a few photos and soak our feet in the icy cold water. You would think that the coastline of California would have warm water but you would be mistaken most of the time. I think the only place where you might be able to get away without a wetsuit for a while would be the southernmost parts of our coast. After soaking our feet we headed back to my truck so we could go grab a bite to eat and pick up the car we left at Castle Rock State Park. But our backpacking trip was over.

:: The Aftermath::
If you want to see Berry Creek Falls and the rest of Big Basin Redwoods State Park which were the highlight of the trip, I recommend spending a day on the weekend to drive out to the park and take the trail from headquarters to Berry Creek Falls. If you go right after a rain you certainly won't be disappointed. We ended up having enough time to head to downtown Santa Cruz for lunch. We went to Togos. While we were walking around downtown I saw lots of bums, hippies, and general panhandlers. I wish the city of Santa Cruz would do something to clean up their downtown area. I would go there more often if I weren't asked for money a few times every block. After lunch we picked up the car at Castle Rock State Park and then headed our separate ways. Later on in the evening I had a soccer game. I made sure that I subbed out a lot but overall I played pretty well.