Monday, October 13, 2014

Skyline to The Sea

I've had this trail on my bucket list ever since it came out in BackPacker Magazine in 2012, when it won readers choice. The trail starts in Castle Rock State Park and goes through Big Basin down to the coast and ends at Waddell Beach. Parking for this trail is really tricky - in fact I have no advice to offer on parking other than call each park before parking your car there to make sure you're parking where permitted. We parked my car at Waddell Beach, then took Kevin's car up to the trail head. We both got tickets. Also, you'll need to book your campsites well in advance for this trail due to popularity.

The total trail length is 29.5 miles, we planned to do this in three days and two nights. We ended up doing it in two days instead, camping just one night in Big Basin.

We hiked this trail in October and it was really nice. The streams and the waterfalls weren't at peak flow, and the wildflowers had mostly passed, but the temperature was perfect and there was lots of wildlife.  We met a good number of people hiking the trail along side us, so I can only imagine how busy it is in the height of backpacking/camping/adventuring season. I would suggest doing the trail in either early spring or late summer/fall when fewer people are on the trail.

Butterfly Fried  
The best part of the trail is the section that follows the Berry Creek Falls loop in Big Basin. I'm sure some people would disagree since there are some cool views from Castle Rock... But Between Castle Rock and Big Basin, you're mostly following along a road, and at times hiking so near peoples homes I kept expecting a redneck with a gun to yell at me for trespassing.
California Newt Friend (they are poisonous)

After leaving Big Basin the trail turns into a fire road - which was pretty, but highly trafficked and lacked the feeling of being in the wilderness - a quality I generally look for when backpacking. However, considering the proximity to urban life - this trail is pretty satisfying for a weekend adventure less than 2 hours from home. In fact, that may even be the best part of this trail. It's incredibly accessible, and can be broken down into a series of day hikes for those who aren't craving (or don't have time for) a multi-day hike. In fact, I highly recommend just hiking the Berry Creek Falls loop in Big Basin. It's 1/3 the distance, it's the prettiest part of the trail, and you don't need to worry about booking campsites or getting a parking ticket!


The end of the trail nearing Waddell Beach

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sykes Hot Springs: Ventana Wilderness

For this trip, you hike along the pine ridge trail - starting from Big Sur Station and culminating at Sykes hot springs in the Ventana Wilderness.

I have hiked this trail a total of two times. The first trip I did was in the spring time, and it was absolutely beautiful! All the wild flowers were out, it was warm but not too hot, and the winter rains had washed away the previous seasons hippy filth (this will be explained).

For my first trip - I went with a group of friends and we started out fairly early in the morning from Big Sur Station, hiked to Barlow Flats where he had our lunch break, then finished hiking to Skyes hot springs. We spent only one night at Skyes hot springs campground, and then did the same hike only in reverse the next day. The whole trip is a little less than 20 miles round trip, which if you're in decent shape (and some of us weren't on this trip) you can do in a weekend relatively pain-free.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Pine Ridge Trail.   
River at Barlow Flats 
On my second trip to Sykes, we did things a little differently. We started late, and hiked about 4 miles to Ventana Camp, where we spent our first night. This is where I spilled boiling hot water on my boyfriends bare feet - causing second and (almost) third degree burns. Yeah - I'm classy like that. To make matters more interesting, this trip was me, my boyfriend, and his two male friends. Not only do I feel like I'm intruding on some epic bro-out, but after the boiling water thing I'm pretty sure Kevin's two friends thought they were going to be first hand witnesses to our break up, with an incredibly uncomfortable hike/drive out the next day. By what could only have been a miracle (or maybe love), Kevin never even yelled at me, just an awkward angry moment, and then things worked out. More amazingly Kevin finished the trip, 16 miles with very burned feet.

The river at Sykes Campground - where people were POOPING IN THE RIVER!  
From Ventana we hiked to Barlow Flats, where we had a lunch break, and a dip in the river to cool off. Then after being refreshed we hiked on to Sykes where we camped. DEAR LORD THERE WAS SHIT EVERYWHERE! And I'm being literal. People are really dumb, and decided that they didn't want to use the wilderness toilets because heavens forbid someone might walk up on them while they're doing their business. So somehow they reasoned that shitting on the river bed, where the river that we all get our water from, and people swim in, and walk along all day long, is some how a more private/safer option. I have never been so afraid that I was going to get Giardia, or worse.

Not only were people just pooping wherever they felt like it without even the decency to bury it, they were leaving trash, used toilet paper, beer bottles/cans, etc all over  the place. Now I can understand someone in a wetter climate thinking that toilet paper will biodegrade...but in what place do beer bottle compost back into soil? Oh right...that's no where on Earth. Sykes Hotsprings is a hippie mecca - a place where Big Sur Bohemians have trekked for decades. But these people who are supposedly nature loving, outdoor enthusiasts, in favor of preserving open and wild spaces for generations to come, clearly have a massive disconnected from the rhetoric they spew and 'the man' versus their own actions. I really don't understand why anyone would think it would be okay to poop in the water that they drink. PLEASE, DEAR LORD PLEASE, DON'T PARTICIPATE IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HOTSPRINGS BY LITTERING AND POOPING IN THE RIVER! Okay, done now.

After tootling around the springs for half a day we hiked out along the Pine Ridge Trail to Terrace Creek, where we broke for lunch (found more people who'd pooped in the stream which is once again you're only water source). Instead of continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we took the Terrace Creek Trail out to Coast Ridge Road. Once you hit the road, you can follow the road, which is dirt and not well traveled, to the Ventana Inn. WARNING: To do the trail this way you need to leave at least one car at Ventana Inn before starting out at Big Sur Station. Also Terrace Creek Trail is not recommended for beginners, it is a long and steep climb from Pine Ridge to Coast Ridge Road). The views from Coast Ridge Road are spectacular, however it is definitely less wild and doesn't feel as remote as the Pine Ridge Trail. More information about the Pine Ride Trail and Skyes hots springs here.      
One of the many stunning views from Coast Ridge Road

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oakland, I Love You!

So I moved, quit my job, got a new job, quit new job, got married, and am now moving again (this time across the country), and starting a new job.

I haven't been adventuring around Big Sur since moving to Oakland. I dearly miss Big Sur, but I've fallen in love with Lake Merritt, and Mt. Tamalpias (post coming soon). I live within walking distance of the lake (at least for the next two weeks), and it's wonderful. There's Fairy Land, the Lake Chalet, the Botanical Gardens and bonsai collection, and the park itself is just beautiful. My favorite thing about Lake Merritt is that it's actually not a lake, but an estuary. So every time I go walk around the lake my husband is terrified I'm going to fall in because I walk right on the edge and stare into the water. The algae, fishes, invertebrates, and birds that you'll see in and around Lake Merrit are just about the very last things I ever would have expected smack in the middle of Oakland.
Oakland skyline as seen across Lake Merritt, Oakland CA   
Along side the exceptionally large Canada goose population that seems to be resident and non-migratory, you'll see more black-crowned night herons than anywhere else in the bay area. They just happened to be one of my favorite birds, with their compact little bodies and long white feathers decorating their heads.
Canada geese being picturesque at Lake Merritt, Oakland CA 
I've only been living in Oakland for about 4 months, but I'm sad to be leaving this city. Oakland still has a bad reputation, and it's not completely unjustified. Luckily, that bad reputation keeps the rent lower than San Francisco, which in and of itself may have contributed to Oakland's gentrification. As San Francisco gets more and more expensive, the East Bay gets more and more attractive to young professionals and artists alike. Oakland is probably the most hipster city in the bay area - which has it's ups and downs. The downs being it's full of hipsters, the upside being it's full of hipsters and their incredibly cool restaurants and businesses. There are some really fantastic restaurants here, and I am most sad that 4 months is just not enough time to eat my way through my neighborhood, let alone the entire city. And talk about vegan/vegetarian food! Oh, so much meat-free goodness. There always seems to be vegetarian food wherever I travel, but that doesn't mean it's good. Oakland's vegetarian food is done right. I have seriously not had anything that wasn't worth eating. If you're vegan/vegetarian you'll know exactly what I mean.
Fountain in the Botanical Garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland CA
Well, there's too many good things to say about Oakland to put them all in one post. It boils down to this: If you live in the Bay Area - you should come spend some time in Oakland. If you're planning a trip to the Bay Area - you should spend at least a day in Oakland. And you won't experience Oakland fully unless you eat some delicious food at a spectacular hipster establishment, check out Lake Merritt, and imbibe in some locally made wine, beer, or spirits.    

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Been Lazy (and Busy..)

So I've been neglecting my blog. I don't really know what to say for myself other that I've been busy, and when I'm not busy I'm really lazy. So there you have it. I'm in the midst of quitting my job, moving, and getting married so any down time I have is usually spent doing whatever the hell I want. Which lately has been staring at the wall and eating cookies.. Then I feel guilty because I figure I'm going to get fat and I've already ordered my dress, and how awkward would that be if it didn't fit on the big day.

I'm still adventuring around Big Sur, we actually had quite a bit of an adventure last weekend when we tried to hike to the Circular Pools. The hike is really easy for anyone who hikes a lot. Even if you don't hike a lot, I would imagine the most challenging part of this hike is the stream crossings. Right now, because of this awful drought, the crossings were really easy. The water is shallow, and if you don't mind getting wet you can just sort of trudge across the river quite safely. However, I did witness two people fall while crossing the river - one who was in our party had to be taken to the hospital. Before you freak out though, the person in our party isn't a hiker. She doesn't like hiking, she's never really gone hiking, and this was the first time she's hiked in a year. In fact, if her boyfriend hadn't tricked her into going -  she probably would have chosen to stay home. The point is however, be careful while crossing streams. I'm a total klutz so I ALWAYS pay attention while doing ANYTHING in the wilderness. Because our friend fell and hit her head before we got to the pools, we never actually made it. Although I'm determined to try again. It's a 8 mile round trip hike, so if you're not in shape it's probably going to be a bit strenuous, especially considering the streams and downed trees. The trail after Fish Camp isn't the best but certainly isn't the worst either. In terms of elevation change, it's relatively flat, and extremely flat by Big Sur standards. I am eager to try again, especially because it was so beautiful. The trail follows the Little Sur River, and you just kind of wind through the canyon. There were trout in the river, the river banks were so mossy they looked almost like something out of middle earth, and there were ferns and big trees galore. All I can think is that if the hike getting there was as pretty as it is the circular pools must be gorgeous. I'll update soon with pictures. I believe my Fiance has commandeered the flash disk that they're currently trapped on, but I'm not sure...   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tassajara To Arroyo Secco

This was Brutal.

I'm not kidding. Brutal. It was hot, steep, dusty, 8 or 9 river/stream crossings, snakes, bugs, poison oak, trees and rocks to climb, you name it.

Our plan was to hike from Tassajara Zen Center to Arroyo Secco, where our friends would meet as at a drive in camp site with our gear. Then we'd all play for the day at the swimming holes, camp at Arroyo Secco that night, then Kevin and I would backpack our way back to Tassajara where we would rejuvenate ourselves in the hot springs. Sounds great right? Well...

We had a few problems with this trip. First of all we thought it was only 7 miles each way. It's more like 10.5. To be honest, we're not exactly sure how far we hiked this weekend, but we know it was closer to 20 miles than to 14. The trail maps for this area of the Ventana Wilderness are dodgy at best, and the trail signs and the maps did not match in terms of distance. Everything is fairly clearly marked however, so even if you weren't expecting a 20 mile trek, it would still be difficult to get lost. That is if you can manage to follow the remarkably unkempt trails that tend to disappear into the surrounding shrubbery every time there's a turn in the trail.

We had planned on starting early in the morning so we could take our time with the trip. We got a later start than we had hoped (which is usual), and we knew the road to Tassajara would be difficult and long, but it was more difficult and longer than we had allowed time for. All this meant we started hiking about midday. If you have ever spent any time at all in the Ventana Wilderness during the summer, you know what this means: unbearable heat. It must have been at least 85F with no shade for most of the hike. And due to our gross underestimation of the trip mileage, we had not brought enough water.

The trail starts out on a steep climb, which in high heat and no shade was enough for us to almost turn back after a particularly terrifying dizzy spell I experienced on a highly eroded section of the trail. However, after a moment to collect myself and a ton of water and salty snacks to raise my blood pressure, I decided we should press on. This hill is the most difficult part of this trail in both directions. Once at the top of the ridge, it goes right back down again; both sides of the hill (or should I say mountain?) the trail is fairly treacherous follows along exposed switchbacks. But once this part is over, the rest of the trail is great.

I wish my camera hadn't died because there were waterfalls, wildlife, wildflowers, and dramatic views of Los Padres National Forest. In fact, this might have been one of the most exciting trails I've done so far because of the sheer natural beauty of the Arroyo Secco River Gorge. It really felt like no one had been out there in years. Sometimes it even felt like no one had been there at all, and we were simply following deer trails through a remote wilderness. I saw at least 10 colorful garter snakes, and a slough of wildflowers I'd only ever seen in books before.

The Arroyo Secco Campground was definitely your standard county park. It'd be great for a group or family camp out since you have all the convinces you want, with plenty of swimming holes for entertainment. After hiking at least 10 miles in scorching heat, swimming in the river was beyond heavenly. I wanted to cool off so desperately I was actually the first one to dive in, leaving everyone else to carefully test the water with their toes.

The trip back was less harrowing, although I have never needed to take painkillers in order to hike out before. But at least we had plenty of water, and we knew what to expect. We made it to the Zen Center just in time for the last serving of lunch, which was vegan and amazing. Usually vegan food is the last thing I'm craving after a long hike, but this was definitely satisfying and left me feeling less disgusting than when I binge eat a large pizza by myself. Once we'd had time to eat and clean up, we explored the Zen Center and indulged ourselves in a long soak in their hot springs. It was absolutely beautiful. The grounds of the Zen Center would inspire even the most highly strung person to stop and take in the scenery. The hot springs themselves are spa style and sex segregated, with partitioned outdoor pools alongside the river. It was certainly a pleasant way to end what we had affectionately began to call a death march, and I'm sure those hot tubs eased our aching bodies even more than I fully realized, seeing as Monday morning was not nearly as dreadful as I'd originally anticipated.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Big Sur River Gorge, Swiss Camp , and Partington Cove

This is the perfect weekend length adventure, although as it turns's not an official campsite anymore so I highly suggest you don't do it.

We started out on Saturday by hiking up to the Big Sur River Gorge. I had a hankering for a summer swimming hole - and this satisfied that desire perfectly. It's about a mile hike round trip from the parking lot to the Gorge, only some of it is on a trail so I highly recommend wearing good water shoes so you can easily scramble over rocks and wade through the river. Once you're at the Gorge, it's beautiful, lively, and fun. It's a popular spot, so don't expect to be alone! But if you're looking for some fun in the sun - this is the perfect place to go.
Big Sur River Gorge

After the Gorge, we stopped at Nepenthe for drinks and appetizers on the front patio. The view is amazing, but the menu is expensive. Drinks and appetizers are less expensive than dinner, and are just as filling! Plus on a nice afternoon it's far more enjoyable to sit outside and enjoy the Big Sur Coastline.

Tan Bark Trail
Our Camp at Swiss Camp
After refueling, we headed south to Partington Cove. The trail head for the Tan Bark Trail is located on the East side of Highway one, directly opposite Partington Cove. We took the Tan Bark Trail up to Swiss Camp (which has been renamed, and is also not an official campsite anymore) where we camped for the night. Despite the fact that it was only about three miles to reach camp, it felt more like five. There's about a 1900ft elevation gain between the trail head and Swiss Camp. Basically, if you're worried you're heart might explode, do not attempt this hike.

We continued up the Tan Bark Trail (amazingly it continued uphill for about another half mile) to the Tin House, which was a pretty cool little detour. After exploring the Tin House, we headed back towards the where the Tan Bark Trail dead ends into a fire road (which finally starts the descent) that leads back to Highway 1. The last three-quarters of a mile on this loop are along Highway 1 to Partington Cove. It's a little sketchy, but in general I thought it would be a lot scarier than it was. As a bonus, while we were walking along Highway 1 we saw about five California Condors perched just above the highway.
Partington Cove
Waterfall at Partington Cove

Once back to where we parked the car, we ditched our gear, hydrated, and then did the short walk down the Partington Cove. We went up Partington Creek to the waterfall first, and then followed the trail back down and took the left fork across the bridge and through the tunnel to the cove.

In total it was probably about seven or eight miles total (the Swiss Camp Loop was about six of those). It turned out to be just about the perfect distance for us, seeing as we both had to return to work on Monday morning.

In summation: we will definitely be visiting the Big Sur River Gorge again, most likely with a six pack in hand for a lazy day at the river. And Partington Cove? It's the perfect picnic spot! However, due to the fact that we now realize that we were most likely squatting on public land - we won't be returning to camp at Swiss Camp. Having said that I highly recommend the hike to the Tin House (it has a great view and is just plain cool), especially via the Tan Bark Trail because it was so very beautiful. Just be prepared for downed trees and some unmaintained sections of trail since this trail was only reopened in 2012.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Monterey in the Rain

It had been stormy all day, and finally around sunset there seemed to be a break in the weather. Mid-walk, the weather blew back in and I got caught in the rain. Fortunately I didn't get soaked for nothing; I was treated to a beautiful twilight display.

Del Monte Beach in the Rain at Sunset, Monterey, California