Friday, March 6, 2009

Big Basin State Park - 20 Mile North Rim, Berry Creek Falls and Mt. McAbee Loop

Date: 2/28/2009
Distance: 20 miles
Elevation: 4,000' total gain
Weather: 50s-60s, partly cloudy

Last Saturday I organized a 20 mile Big Basin loop through the San Jose Hiking Meetup. I designed this route to show the contrast between the dry, sparse and scrubby terrain at the high elevations around the rim of the basin, with the lush, dark and dense redwood forest down inside.

Our route started relatively flat, heading northeast along the Opal Creek on Skyline to Sea trail. Eventually Skyline to Sea starts to climb up and around the basin in a counter-clockwise direction.

This part of Skyline to Sea has a lot of big sheets of rock which are tons of fun to hike.

At the junction with Basin Trail I had to wait for some hikers who had fallen behind. I spent the time snapping some photos of the flora.

A left turn on the Basin Trail continues our arc around the rim until we reach Lane Camp. From here we take Hollow Tree Trail to Middle Ridge Road where we take a quick lunch break, enjoying the warm sun on the open ridge.

Middle Ridge delivers us to Johansen Road to continue the trek around the north rim until we hook up with Anderson Landing Road. The terrain through the fire roads of Big Basin was dry and sparse and we were treated to some beautiful views of Chalk Mountain and the surrounding ridges. Unfortunately I was moving too fast to capture any on camera.

Eventually Anderson Landing Road begins a descent deep down into the redwood forest and connects to Berry Creek Falls trail. We take this down along the falls passing Golden Cascade, Silver Falls and of course Berry Creek Falls. After all of this rain the waterfalls were really gushing and we were getting sprayed the whole way down. The trail was a big freeway at this point. Every hiker in the Bay Area was out to see the falls today, including another Meetup group, "Let's Hike and Maybe Take a Break If We Get Tired". So we made it quick and continued on for the final leg of our hike, up and over Mt. McAbee by way of Howard King Trail and Hihn Hammond Road..

Mt. McAbee was a steep, grueling slog on an empty tank and sore feet, but my bag of blueberries got me through it. The sky from the lookout was clear low on the horizon, with storm clouds gathering above. We were able to see a nice little sliver of the ocean in the distance to the west. From there it was a just a couple of miles downhill along Hihn Hammond Road, back to headquarters, my sandals and a cold beer.

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