Pescadero creek, Big Basin


You don’t get points in heaven for getting home with water in your bottles.

Or energy in your legs, either, for that matter. I wasn’t sure where to go for this weekend’s killer hike. I have recently been to all of my usual favorite killer hike venues, although I didn’t necessarily do killer hikes at all of them.

How about Pescadero creek county park? I haven’t been there for several years; it’s big enough to support killer hikes. Even better, there is a trail from Butano ridge over to Big Basin redwoods state park, a trail that I have never taken. I’m not sure exactly how far it is, because there are no maps that show all of that terrain. But it’s worth a try. As it happened, I explored a number of new trails today.

Up earlier than the usual 5:20 alarm, left the car at Wurr road, on the trail by 7 AM. Cool and foggy, with sun breaking through as I reached the crest of Butano ridge an hour later.

One of the reasons to come this way was that the inland areas were expected to reach about 35C today. It can be hot on the lower peninsula, too, but maybe not quite that hot. And in fact, much of the day was quite pleasant.

Just above the junction to Basin trail – which runs across an easement to China Grade road, thence into Big Basin park – a massive overhang of rock.

You see rock like this at the beach, sandstone weathered into sensuously curved shapes by the waves. We’re two thousand feet above sea level here.

The easement trail was not maintained all that well, which probably makes sense, given that no one really owns it. I fully expected to be alone most of the day, but there was another hiker up here. He passed me at a wide place, then took a wrong turning. While he was backtracking, I passed him, and he didn’t catch me again. Saw another couple hikers in the high country of Big Basin. Busy today.

The crossing into Big Basin was sunny and hot, the vegetation changing to manzanita and buckeye. Fairly steep descent into Big Basin; I took the Hollow Tree trail. Originally I had thought perhaps to go to Big Basin headquarters, but it’s clearly too far. Then I thought I might make the loop of Hollow Tree trail and Skyline to the Sea trail.

I thought 11:15 would be about the right time for a turn-around, surely not later than 11:30. At 11:15 I checked the GPS, which said I was almost at Johansen road. Ok, that’s a good milestone. Almost 11:30 by the time I got there, and then I’ll backtrack. Stopped for calories and a photo or two of the old shingle mill. There are still a couple boilers lying around, part of a pump, some timber framing lying in ruins.

It always seems strange that one of the largest of trees, the coastal redwood, is best suited for fences and shake shingles, rather than construction. Just too soft, and it doesn’t stand up to weather the way cedar does.

In the cooler forest, I saw more banana slugs than I would have thought possible, but this little guy defines the hot stretch between the parks.

When I got back down to Old Haul road in Pescadero creek park, I thought it was too early to head back to the car, so I decided to take a short set of the side trails to the north of the road. Well… I missed the trail I wanted, got on a trail that took me far out of the way, and even worse, added close to a thousand feet of unnecessary climb to the route. By the time I got back to the car, I was well and truly ready to call it a day.

I thought it would turn out to be at least 25 miles, a long day. But when I loaded the GPS onto the topo map, it only gave me 24.7 miles, admittedly with 4800 feet of elevation gain.

Sleep well tonight, Dave, and get on a plane tomorrow.

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