Monday, June 22, 2009

SOS hike (Berry Creek Watershed)

Last week when I did my hike to Mustang Peak, I had chosen the route only the night before. Otherwise, with some simple preparations, I could have used that hike as SOS weekend hike. Coe is a state park, but with our printer out of color ink, I did not have a sign to use. Lame excuse right? So anyway, this week four of us planned a hike at Big Basin for our SOS hike. After we had already met up with Dave and Diane, and we had left for an early start, and during the actual hike, we came up with some brillant and creative ideas, but too late to really use them. Too late for this hike anyway. But we did play around and get some photos and videos we can use by just using printed signs. It would have been nice to be better prepared, but we did our best with what we had to work with.

On the way there while we were still in the valley, it seemed really warm for 7:30 AM and I was de-layering in the car. But after we got up to skyline, the fog was lying there like a great grey blanket up on the ridge. Down in the basin we had overcast and cool temps all day and my layers came back out. The sun almost came out for awhile just as we reached Middle ridge on our return trip to park headquarters, but our hike was mostly in low light and cool temps. We didn’t expect to see much water flowing. Maddock creek was almost dead, but Kelly creek, and West Waddell creek both had marginal flow. At least enough volume to make nice gurgling noises over the rocks. I always love to savor the water noises. With the blockage on Skyline to the Sea, we used the Sunset trail to get up to Middle ridge, and used the little cutoff trail to get over to Skyline to the Sea. All the trails seem to be in good shape, but some of the wooden bridges along the falls loop are beginning to fall apart from age. None of these bridges would create a major hindrance if they were out, but could cause public trail closures if they get much worse. All the more reason to be advocating for the parks I suppose. Beginning early makes all the difference on these popular trails. We didn’t see any other hikers until we had reached the Berry Creek Falls area, and the people we ran into were backpackers who had camped the night before. As usually happens, we passed quite a few hikers headed out the other way as we were on our way back using the Sunset trail. Just in time for summer solstice there were yellowjackets around, and we got some stings. I got one partial sting, but I saw it and brushed it off before full penetration. Poor Diane got stung twice. Oh for summertime joys! Luckily, the camp store at headquarters carries some kind of commercial remedy for her to use. I forget the name of it.

The 3 falls along Berry creek are still looking good if flowing unspectacularly following another overall dry year. Still this hike is always a pleasure to the senses; a really great time. It’s interesting to study the rocks that are normally hidden behind the plummeting water at Berry Creek Fall. They are polished to a near gemstone quality finish in the areas where the water and debris have honed the surfaces to a fine luster. This is one feature of the fall you cannot even see unless the water is very low, or virtually stopped like in late summer. The redwood dominated groves, and the lush green understory, thick with fern species, sorrel, and lots of huckleberry never fail to evoke a fairytale like image. The trilliums and clintonia are all gone now, but there are still a few yellow and white violets and Ithuriel’s spears around, and azaleas are still blooming in places (Sue’s favorite). Sue has a very sensitive nose and she can pick up the scent of azaleas about a mile away. This route has always been one of my bay area favorites in any season. It’s a classic worthy of being saved.

Click here to see the photos on flickr.
(Added) Click here to see Dave's pictures on
Click the play button below to see a short video of Silver Fall.
(be sure to turn on your sound for theriputic water sounds)

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