Waterman gap, Big Basin


Sunday, 31 January 2010

On the trail at Waterman gap just at 8. The recent storms have brought down a lot of needles and small fronds from the trees. When the ground is covered with them, it sometimes becomes difficult to see where the trail is. More of a problem is the large branches and the whole trees that come down. On the first stretch to China Grade, there was a large madrone across the trail, but it was easy to walk around. Fortunately, the understory is *not* full of poison oak here.

Beyond China Grade, we enter Big Basin Redwoods state park. Here’s a view of the basin from the slickrock that borders this corner of the park.


Slick rock? It’s sandstone, a rough grainy surface. How could it be slick? Well, much of it was wet today, and I’m now a believer! Didn’t fall, but there were a few skids.

Below the slickrock, the trail goes through a sparse pine forest, a south slope sheltered from the weather. Eventually we drop into redwoods, and that’s where it gets interesting. Redwoods just love to fall over during the rainy season, and a goodly collection of them had fallen across the trail. Scrambling around, over, under and through, quite an adventure.

It was noon when I reached Big Basin headquarters. Bought a new trail map; the one I had showed only 200 foot elevation contours and was dated 1991. I can hardly claim it didn’t give me good service, but it was time for a new one.

Talked with a friendly, knowledgeable woman about returning by way of the east ridge trail. Even if it isn’t a lot better than Skyline to the Sea, it will be a change, and I prefer loops to out-and-back. She wasn’t sure about the distance. That could be a problem: it took four hours to get here; I could afford five hours to get back, but more than that would leave me benighted. The last few miles of trail runs along near the road, so in the worst case, if I couldn’t see in the darkness of the forest, I could always go walk on the road. Let’s try it.

In fact, I even added on just a bit more by going to see the Sempervirens fall. Nice

After the fall, I hiked on toward the east ridge trailhead. According to the map, I should have had a stream to my right, but it was on my left instead. That makes me uncomfortable. For the first time ever, I read out the lat/lon from my GPS receiver and located myself on the map (the old map didn’t show lat/lon – yet another reason I’m glad I got a new one). Turned out I was on the right trail, just not as far as I had expected to be. The stream on my left was just seasonal runoff, too trivial to show on the map.

Some steep climbs on the east ridge trail, but that’s not a problem. The forest was mostly douglas fir here, and douglas firs don’t fall over in the winter. Much better trail conditions. Now, how about the time? Will I end up hiking in the dark?

The GPS told me that sunset would be at 5:30. We’re a couple of days past the full moon; the GPS told me that moonrise wouldn’t be until 7:15. I set the starting point as destination for the GPS and asked it to track back. It estimated that we would arrive at the car at 5:30. Ok, no dawdling! Let’s do it.

I think the GPS has a pretty heavily weighted moving average function, because once I started walking, the ETA improved significantly. When it moved ahead of 5:00, I relaxed and took it easy. Even stopped for a few fungus pictures.

Black fungus is interesting: it hides so well, you just never see it at all.

The GPS trackback beeped just before each significant turn in the trail. After a while, I decided it was getting pretty smug. It would beep, and moments later, I would turn. The GPS doubtless thought of itself as the rider on a well-trained horse named Dave. (This is not the first time I have noticed my brain getting soft toward the end of a long day.)

Back to the car at 4:38. Not fully dark, but dark enough, with the sun well below the hills and the forest blocking the remaining light from the sky. 20.5 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Nice day.

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