Fall creek redwoods


13 June 2009

Up a few minutes early, about 5:10. While the coffee brewed, I considered where to go today. Pulled down a handful of trail maps; near the top was a map of the San Lorenzo valley, never used, purchased a few months ago with the best of intentions. Well, why not! Out of the house about 6:15, on the trail by 7:15. Cool and foggy, raining in the redwoods. Glad I had casually stuffed my rain jacket into my backpack, even though it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need it.

I think I was here once before, many years ago, but I have no visual memories of it, merely words that recognize the name and the word, “beautiful.” And it really is. Exceptional, truly.

I usually just leave the white balance setting on my camera set to auto, and I get blue pictures in the forest. Today, I set it to the cloudy day setting. The difference is dramatic.

Not far up the trail is an old lime kiln area, where they mined limestone from a nearby cliff and burned it in a redwood fire for three or four days, then packed it in barrels and sent it to the new city of San Francisco, where it was turned into mortar. Hours later, I passed the ruins of the barrel mill, also pretty interesting.

A couple of runners who passed me said they had heard there was snow at the top. I don’t believe it, but – wouldn’t that be wonderful!

I don’t know the history, but the names are provocative: Lost Empire trail, Lost camp. The road somewhere over there is Empire grade, and I came out once on Pine Flat road, a road whose claim to being flat is that its grade is *only* 7%, a mental calculation I once did while riding it on my bike, back when I had an altimeter bicycle computer.

There’s a Big Ben tree that anchors the center of the park, more or less. Above it, the trails are out and back; below it, you can make a loop. I did all of the out and back trails, since – who knows – it may be a long time before I’m here again.

Completely quiet but for the patter of raindrops nearby and the hiss of raindrops further away and the soft pad of my boots on the forest duff. And a few banana slugs yelling, “Gonzo!” as they rocketed downhill at full speed. Well – the shouts of the banana slugs didn’t disturb the quiet very much.

The sand in the creek showed flecks of gold – wow !!! So I fished up a little of it: the finest of pyrites, right here for the taking.

I hiked something like two thirds of the total trails in the park (17 miles, 3700 vertical feet), and met fewer than twenty people all day. The locals know it, but no one else. It would be possible to do an easy hike along the creek – admittedly it gains a thousand feet in about four miles – and there are enough alternatives to construct a serious industrial grade hike for those who want more. And it could be precatenated with an afternoon in Santa Cruz for those who didn’t want to spend a whole day hiking. Definitely a place for friends and family, one to come back to.

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2 Responses to “Fall creek redwoods”

  1. Jim Coffis Says:

    Nice photos and recap of a very popular local hiking spot. I’m about to launch a local website and if you’re interested I would love to include links to your adventures in our neck of the woods (fyi your tag should be Henry Cowell’s not Henry Coe i think)


    • 86dave Says:

      Thanks, Jim. I would be pleased to have a link from your site.
      And you’re quite right, it should be Cowell (I’ll correct it). I really do know the difference, but the names are so similar that I always tangle them up.


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