The Sea to Skyline

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Saturday, 30 April, 2011

My colleague Jaume was in town, so it was an opportunity to hike from the sea to Skyline. This is difficult to do solo because you really want to leave one car at one end and get a ride to the other end. The Skyline to the sea trail is often hiked in the downhill direction as a three-day backpacking trip, but it’s of course easier uphill, and three days is definitely on the leisurely side.

We dropped off Jaume’s rental car at the Saratoga gap parking area well before daylight, and Jacky very considerately ferried us to Waddell beach, where we got on the trail about 6:20. There was a sign at the trailhead about trail closures, but we figured there were enough alternatives that we could manage. If necessary, we could probably even ford a creek, though the day was colder than expected, and I’m sure the creeks were even colder yet. As it happened, we didn’t get our feet wet.

 

I had expected the wind to drop and the day to warm up as soon as we got away from the beach, but as I should have known, cold air goes to the lowlands along the creeks. I debated digging out my jacket, but decided to just tough it out. The first hour or two were pretty chilly. Berry Creek falls, above, was about the point at which the day became pleasantly cool instead of uncomfortably cold.

Berry Creek falls was also the point at which we joined the course of an ultra-marathon that was being run today, so for the next few hours and the next several miles, we had to share the trail with runners (and walkers) out doing something presumably even more ambitious than our adventure. It appeared that there were several routes, but we didn’t find out what the choices were.

Beautiful sunny day, beautiful redwood forest. Could not ask for better!

Skyline to the sea trail was in fact closed not far from Big Basin park headquarters, but the detour was a slight jog to Sunset trail, which then goes toward park headquarters almost as efficiently, or maybe even more efficiently, than the official trail. In fact, we rejoined the Skyline trail just outside park headquarters, and never went to the headquarters area at all.

The stretch from park headquarters to China grade sees the major climb of the day, out of the redwoods, through a pygmy forest and manzanita country, to exposed slickrock and a forest of California oak and buckeye. In the open sun, it was almost too warm, but still a perfect day.

We reached Waterman gap about 1:30, earlier than I would have expected, given that it’s only six or six and a half miles from there back to Saratoga gap. Getting tired, getting sore, but feeling good. We stopped a couple more times for calories, and to look for scorpions (found one, a small one), and missed our 5 o’clock estimate for the parking lot by about three minutes.

This is usually billed as something over 28 miles, so it was amazing that we had finished that soon. The GPS told me it was 25.5 miles (4970 feet of gain). I don’t think that Sunset trail detour took three miles off the route, but 25 miles fits the timing better than 28, so it’s probably correct.

A long day and a good one. Great company, great scenery.

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