Sunday, February 3, 2008

08Feb02 - Big Basin State Park

After spending a few days at a company off-site retreat in Aptos, we headed into the mountains east and north of Santa Cruz to explore in Big Basin State Park. To get here from the Bay area, drive down 880 to 17 going west, over the mountains, then jog west on 9 and you'll loop around and hit the park.

Diane stayed home, and I made this trip with my work associate and friend Caspar Harmer, who is visiting from Australia.

This whole region was heavily logged in the past, but 100 years have allowed the forest to regain it's balance, and there are still some giant trees to be found.

We've been getting steadily pelted with rain for the last two weeks, so the minor brooks were creeks, the creeks were streams, and the streams were raging rivers. There was many trees down across the trails, but they were still easy to follow. In one spot, the trail passed up and along the waterfall's cliff face cresting over the edge - a normal dry path beside the quiet woodland stream. On this day the water had lept over the river's banks, and had expanded across the brink just to the edge of the carved stone steps of the trail. Luckily there was a cable hand rail to give us courage to proceed.

Once we left the ranger station (and its roaring fireplace), we put on our rain gear and headed up the mountainside in a full downpour. The rich greens and reds of the verdant forest floor were accented by the glistening of fresh rainwater. The heaviest of the rain was deflected by the forest canopy. There were mushrooms and fungus popping up all over adding gum-drop like accent colors to the mix.

The summit ridges of these coastal mountains are covered in sand and crushed sea shells - having been the floor of an ancient sea, which has since receded when the land uplifted.

On our way to the park, we passed through the quaint town of Felton, which boasts the tallest covered bridge in the country. It was indeed a very tall bridge, and I can only presume it used to support teams of horse drawn wagons carrying the over sized timber down to the rail spur for milling.

Our second day was spent exploring Henry Cowell State Park, a similar tract of land just down the road from Big Basin on Route 9 near the town of Felton. Throughout the day as we wandered among the giant Redwoods, Doug Firs, and Madrone and spying the moss covered remains of the monster tree trunks, we could hear the forlorn wail of a steam locomotive announcing its arrival and departure from some long ago abandoned logging settlement. We imagined the forest crawling with lumberjacks, sawing the wide trunks of these 2,000 year old trees in teams of two - often taking several days of full time work to get through a single trunk. We imagined the steam engine wail mixing with the tree's unspoken wail, as its' hard fought existence through forest fires, droughts, and the swirling winds of civilization were so unceremoniously terminated for the benefit of some gold rush inspired endeavor. We began to feel like the steam engine's whistle had been swirling around in this forest even though the engine itself had ceased to pull itself along the railway for over a century. Upon returning to the parked car we discovered, there actually WAS a steam engine operating, carrying tourists on daily trips through the redwoods - Roaring Camp Railroads. We had just missed the departing train, but this might be just the way to manage a one-way mountain bike shuttle trip next time we return.

Big Basin State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Roaring Camp Railroads

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