Didn’t Get to Sleep Last Night Til’ the Morning Came Around

I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares. Tomayto tomahto. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares.
Tomayto tomahto.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Hey did you know about these seaside cabins that you can rent at the foot of Steep Ravine, in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up in Marin County?

These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Oh, you had heard of them, vaguely?  Yeah, me too; but for some reason I never looked into renting one of them, even though I’ve been living 20 miles away for the past 18 years.

Admit- If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you'd totally believe it. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Admit-
If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you’d totally believe it.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Then a few weeks ago my friend Stu called me up and said he had rented one of these very cabins for an upcoming Monday night, and did I want to go up there with him to drink some beers, listen to the waves, and play some Dead tunes on guitar (not necessarily in that order).  What was there to say no to?

There's a cabin on the hill Psychedelic music fills the air (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
There’s a cabin on the hill
Psychedelic music fills the air
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We left the city in the late afternoon, and stopped for a few basic supplies at the Safeway in Mill Valley; and there I made the tragic mistake of leaving Stu to do most of the shopping, while I took care of some other pressing business.

It's not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds god-fearing Americans running for their cabins, before the ne'er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to haunt the night. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds all decent, god-fearing folk running for their cabins, seeking to take what shelter they might before the ne’er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to stalk the night, preying on the luckless and the witless alike.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Here’s the thing with Stu- left to his own devices, he will purchase $100 worth of groceries for a 12-hour trip; and this is exactly what he did.  I came out of the bathroom to find, in our cart, two half- sticks of butter, a full-size carton of milk, a large bottle of orange juice, a package of cookie dough, a package of cocoa, two boxes of Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a 12-pack of Great White Ale, a 32-oz tub of yogurt, a package of granola, a pack of blueberries, 4 bananas, two oranges, a bag of chips, and a tub of hummus.  And a roast chicken!  All this for one night.  And there’s probably even some stuff I neglected to mention.

If I had done the shopping, we would have left the Safeway with a 12-pack and a bag of ice.  But hey- Stu was just looking out for us.  Good on’im.

Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering how the hell we're gonna finish all this food before 7 AM, when we have to leave to get him to work by 8. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering if he forgot anything at the supermarket.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Before dinner we took a pleasant little stroll along the beach and the bluffs, admiring the ocean’s handiwork and trying not to drop our beers as we scaled the crumbling cliffs and probed the driftwood sculptures peppering the beach- a tee-pee and some wind shelters .

Check out this tee-pee.  Now that's some serious early man shit. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Check out this tee-pee. Now that’s some serious early man shit.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Needless to say, we did not go hungry that night.

After dinner, we fired up the wood stove- you know, to keep the demons of the night at bay.  Then we settled in to play some music for a few hours.

Come on Stu, light my fire. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Come on Stu, light my fire.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Starting at around 11:30 PM, we kept saying we were about to go to bed; but for some reason it kept not happening.  Funny how it always seems to go that way when beer and its companion vices are involved.

Plee-ee-ee-eease don't murder me... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Plee-ee-ee-eease don’t murder me…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Satan came knocking for our souls sometime around 2:30 AM; and the only way to protect ourselves was to kill the lights and pretend we were asleep; but he continued to sniff around the windows for so long that we got sleepy and started to drift off.  So much for friends of the devil.

Fuck it, though- we were out of beer anyway.

The Devil sends the beast with wrath... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Devil sends the beast with wrath…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The most painful part of the whole proceedings was that we had to get up at 6 AM, so we could leave at 7 to get Stu to work in the city by 8.  I had been planning to give him my car and ride my bike back to the city; but I was hungover, under-rested, and anyway it was foggy and damp out; so I aborted that plan.

The Steep Ravine cabins recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But many good times must be paid for on the back end, with periods of exhaustion and stomach discomfort- this is just par for the course. Everyone involved knows the rules, everyone knows what’s at stake. It’s kinda like the mafia, but without all that pesky murder, betrayal, and bad-assery.

No remorse, no repent.

I set out running but I'll take my time A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep tonight (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
If I get up before daylight
I just won’t get no sleep tonight
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground  (that’s right, there are campsites too, some of them killer) are located on the west side of Highway 1, about two and a half miles south of Stinson Beach, and 25 miles north of San Francisco (plan for an hour’s drive under normal traffic conditions).

As of a few weeks ago, the cabins cost $108 per night, and sleep anywhere from 6 to however many people you can cram onto the floor (though they might technically have occupancy limits, for all I know). Each cabin has an ocean view, comes with a wood-burning stove, a large oaken kitchen table, and a charcoal grill (outside).  The “beds” are just horizontal wooden spaces, so bring sleeping mats, bags, and pillows. No electricity, so bring lanterns or headlamps.

The only downside:  Lamely, here, as everywhere else in the California State Park system, dogs are not allowed.

Stu really ties the room together.  Unfortuanately for you, though, you have to bring your own, or go without. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu really ties the room together. Unfortunately for you, though, you’ll have to bring your own, or go without.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The cabins can be seen on Google Maps here, and they can be reserved here.  Be advised, however, that they are very popular, and reserving them is a cut-throat business that requires a certain fortitude and determination which Stu possesses, and I do not.  But I have other strengths.

If you want to walk in our footsteps, reserve Cabin #5 (Willow Camp)

Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to look as if this and all the other photos were not staged and attempted multiple times. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to make it seem as if this and all the other photos in this series were indeed spontaneous, candid shots, and not the fully staged, precision-blocked and exhaustively choreographed burdens to capture that they in fact all were.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

Addicted to Steel – A Walk on the Bay Bridge Trail

Looking back towards Oakland from the western end of the Bay Bridge Trail, the ever-diminishing structure of the old bridge still dominates the view. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Looking back towards Oakland from the western end of the Bay Bridge Trail, the ever-diminishing structure of the old bridge still dominates the view.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Spent a recent Sunday afternoon hiking the newly-constructed Bay Bridge Trail, a 4.3-mile one-way out-and-back route which stretches from Emeryville almost all the way to Yerba Buena Island, by way of a multi-use (both pedestrians and bicyclists) paved, surface trail .  The trail opened to the public on September 3, 2013, the same day the new span opened to vehicular traffic.

In the days immediately after the September 3, 2013 opening of the new eastern span, an observer positioned on the east end of Yerba Buena Island's summit would have this view, with the busy new span channeling traffic as the just-closed old span sits in darkness, awaiting the imminent commencement of its dismantling, which would commence in the following months. (image property of en.wikipedia.org)
In the days immediately after the September 3, 2013 opening of the new eastern span, an observer positioned on the east end of Yerba Buena Island’s summit would have had this view, with the busy new span channeling heavy traffic as the just-closed old span sits in darkness, awaiting its dismantling, which would commence in the following months.
(image property of en.wikipedia.org)

From Emeryville, the Bay Bridge Trail runs along the approach freeway to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and then alongside the eastbound lanes of bridge traffic, on a steel-girdered suspended walk/bikeway which, at present, dead-ends about a third of a mile east of Yerba Buena Island, though an extension all the way to the island is in the pipeline, awaiting the completion of some deconstruction work on the old eastern span which is currently blocking the path’s right-of-way.

The now-defunct old eastern span of the Bay Bridge still dominates the southern view from the new Bay Bridge Trail. In center frame, the western span can be seen touching down in downtown San Francisco. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The now-defunct old eastern span of the Bay Bridge still dominates the southern view from the new Bay Bridge Trail. In center frame, the western span can be seen in the distance, linking Yerba Buena Island to downtown San Francisco.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The trail begins along Shellmound Street in Emeryville, just outside the IKEA parking lot and garage (parking at IKEA is technically not allowed; but ain’t nobody messed with my car, which I parked in the garage, before flagrantly crossing the lot and meeting the trail, without so much as a gesture, step, or even head-fake to suggest that I was going to shop or browse inside the store).

The Bay Bridge Trail starts in Emeryville, underneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that comprise the I-80/I-580/-I-880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Bay Bridge Trail starts in Emeryville, underneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that comprise the I-80/I-580/-I-880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The first part of the trail passes beneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that is the I-80/580/880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange, and then runs for a couple of mostly-unremarkable miles alongside the eastbound lanes of I-80, as they touch down into Oakland from the Bay Bridge.

Before beginning its long, slow rise over the waters of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge Trail closely parallels the eastbound lanes of I-80, as it deposits eastbound drivers  into Oakland. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Before beginning its long, slow rise over the waters of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge Trail closely parallels the eastbound lanes of I-80, as it deposits eastbound drivers into Oakland.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Right where the roadway and the Bay Bridge Trail pass out over the choppy blue-green waters of San Francisco Bay, the old and new bridges diverge, the old eastern span cutting off to the left a bit, the new span barreling straight on ahead.

The only notable obstacle to hiking or biking the Bay Bridge Trail is this here bridge troll, whose lidless eye ever keeps watch, seeing all. The trick?  Slim Jims (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The only notable obstacle to hiking or biking the Bay Bridge Trail is this here bridge troll, whose lidless eye keeps a ceaseless watch upon the crossing, seeing all, but excepting none. The fee? Slim Jims
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

For almost two miles, the view from the Bay Bridge Trail is dominated by the old eastern bridge span, which towers high above the path, just yards from the new span.  The old bridge is actually quite a fascinating structure to see up close.  Eventually you get to a point where immediately south of you is a huge void of open air and water- where sections of the old span have already been removed, allowing sweeping long-range views of the bay, the peninsula, and behind it the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Here the old roadway ends abruptly at a sheer cliff of steel and concrete, hundreds of feet above the restless waters of the bay. Teetering at the brink of this drop-off sits a gigantic yellow piece of construction equipment, just daring the bridge to give out beneath.  But it doesn’t.

Pshaw- anybody can look good in this light. (photo by some random dude)
Pshaw- anybody can look good in this light.
(photo by some random dude)

Soon, sometime in the next year or two, the Bay Bridge Trail will be extended the final 1/3 of a mile to connect with Treasure Island, and at some point in the more distant future, all the way to San Francisco, completing a trans-bay crossing that has long been in the minds of countless Bay Area bicyclists and pedestrians.

IMG_6071
This dude set up shop in the steel undercarriage of the old bridge span.
He has no idea what’s coming.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Until then, we have what exists of the Bay Bridge Trail; and that’s still pretty cool.

 

 

 

Dreaming of a White Man Christmas

On the night of last week’s full moon, I took Peanut on a pale orb-lit hike up to Sweeney Ridge, a lovely crest from which one can, if they look west, see and hear the roiling Pacific Ocean assaulting the shoreline, two and a half miles and 1,200 vertical feet away, behind the lights of Pacifica.

Commemorating the Christmas season by pasting a big glowing star on a water tank on top of a mountain ridge is such a cracker thing to do. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Commemorating the Christmas season by pasting a big glowing star on a water tank on top of a mountain ridge is such a cracka-ass thing to do.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

If one looks east from this spot, one can see the San Francisco Bay Area: almost 500 square miles of orange-glowing urban sprawl, ribbons of red and yellow-streaked freeways, and far off in the dark sky, chains of white lights describing queues of airplanes lining up and making their way into the region’s three major airports from all corners of the globe (which actually has no corners).

And this spot, Sweeney Ridge, has another “thing” about it- it is what is known as the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, which is no more than a euro-centric term for the Columbusing of the Bay Area.

Thank god somebody finally "discovered" San Francisco Bay.  Just think how many years- centuries- went by with NOBODY having any idea it existed. (image property of www.weekendhike.com)
Thank god somebody finally “discovered” San Francisco Bay. Just think how many years- centuries– went by with nobody having any idea it existed.
(image property of www.weekendhike.com)

For, weren’t there some folks here before us?

The Sausalito Shuffle

Took a lovely walk with the Peanut the other day, from Sausalito, up into the Marin Headlands, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and across the northern part of San Francisco back to my home.

Here in Sausalito-by-the-Bay, nobody realizes it's Christmas. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Here in Sausalito-by-the-Bay, nobody realizes it’s Christmas.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

After poking around some of the very steep stairways connecting the terraced streets of Sausalito, we found a trail that I had not been aware of (this is noteworthy, anywhere within 50 miles of San Francisco).    Beginning at the junction of Edwards Ave and Marion Ave, on the southern edge of town, an un-named trail departs steeply upward into the Marin Headlands, which loom immediately to the west in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In Bizzaro Sausalito, the driveways are on the roofs of the houses, Peanut is inside out, and I am a lefty.  Curiously, this does not make my penmanship any worse. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
In Bizzaro Sausalito, the driveways are on the roofs of the houses, Peanut is inside out, and I am a lefty. Curiously, this does not make my penmanship any worse.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The town of Sausalito takes its name from the Spanish word sauzalito, which means “small willow grove”.  So it seemed fitting enough when we found ourselves climbing fairly steeply for about a half a mile through thick groves of willows and eucalyptus, eventually topping out at a ridge overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The rolling green hills of the Marin Headlands make the Golden Gate Bridge look like that much more of a bad-ass.  You, however, are a pussy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The rolling green hills of the Marin Headlands make the Golden Gate Bridge look like that much more of a bad-ass. You, however, are a pussy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We dropped down out of the Marin Headlands into Fort Baker, a decomissioned coastal defense station which sits at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the Marin County side of the famed strait.

The Golden Gate Bridge, seen here from Fort Baker, a mid-1800s military installation erected to defend San Francisco against a hostile advance by Sigmund the Sea Monster (who, it turned out, just wanted to be friends). (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Golden Gate Bridge, seen here from Fort Baker, a mid-1800s military installation erected to defend San Francisco against a hostile advance by Sigmund the Sea Monster (who, it turned out, just wanted to be friends).
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Then we made our way up to the pedestrian walkway of the bridge, which, as it happens, doesn’t allow dogs.  Lucky for me, though, I don’t give a shit about arbitrary rules; and so proceeded Peanut and me onto the walkway.  As usual, every 50 yards or so I was stopped by tourists who couldn’t seem to stop raving about how handsome he is.  Nothing new about that.

The lidless, all-seeing-eye of Big Brother tirelessly scans the Golden Gate Bridge for any sign of non-acquiescence to the status quo.  Servants of the military-industrial policing establishment are ceaselessly standing by, ready to quell any and all harmless human intercourse. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The lidless, all-seeing-eye of Big Brother tirelessly scans the Golden Gate Bridge for any sign of non-acquiescence to the status quo. Servants of the military-industrial policing establishment are ceaselessly standing by, ready to quell any and all harmless human intercourse.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

On the bridge we met some guy named Nick, who was scoping out the city for a possible (and likely) immigration.  He was traveling with his brother and another friend.  We spent 15 or 20 minutes plying each other with questions and information, talking about the weather (in an interesting and productive way), and laughing at how ridiculous conservatives are.  Then we went our separate ways.

The completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1938 shortened the commute from San Francisco to Sausalito from 229 miles to 9 miles.   (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1938 shortened the commute from San Francisco to Sausalito from 229 miles to 9 miles.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Touching back onto terra firma on the San Francisco side of the bridge, me and the Pean made for the Presidio, cutting irreverently through its cemetary en route back to our house.

I see dead people. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I see dead people.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Don’t worry- I didn’t let him piss on anybody’s grave.  He would have, though, had I not stopped him.  Last year, when we visited Hendrix’s grave outside of Seattle last year, he totally lifted his leg to douse Jimi’s crypt.  But I do not brook urinations on guitar gods; so Peanut’s designs came quickly to naught.

Look at him, acting  as if he wasn't just a few seconds ago trying to piss all over Jimi's remains.  Today's youth has no respect. (photo by K. Riley)
Look at him, acting as if he wasn’t just a few seconds ago trying to piss all over Jimi’s remains. Today’s youth has no respect.
(photo by K. Riley)

After almost five hours and 13 miles of walking without any annoyances whatsoever, I got my head shit on by a bird as I was walking up to my front door.

Ho Ho Ho.

 

 

No Talkin’, Man… All Action

Look, Ma- no brains!! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Look, Ma- no brains!!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Nothing for a mother to worry about here.

The ruins of the 120-year-old Sutro Baths, far out in the northwesternmost corner of San Francisco. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The ruins of the 120-year-old Sutro Baths, far out in the northwesternmost corner of San Francisco.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

They call them King Tides; and for about three days each year, they hurl the ocean harder and higher against the coastline than at any other time.

I made my way down to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths this morning, arriving about a half an hour after the peak high tide.

The beach is a place where a man can feel he's the only soul in the world that's real. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The beach is a place where a man can feel he’s the only soul in the world that’s real.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

There sure was a lot of water being tossed about – all the more noteworthy when you consider that this was a day with no wind and no other aerial, aquatic, or tectonic upsets that might stir the soup up that much more.

Let the tide in, and set, me free.   Set me freeee!! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Let the tide in, and set, me free.
Set me freeee!!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Standing in a spot where I’ve stood and stayed dry many times before, I got myself soaked.

Yeah, I've got your King of Tides right here! Take that, Lowenstein! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Yeah, I’ve got your King of Tides right here!
Take that, Lowenstein!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I’ll tell ya, it was touch-and-go with the camera triage for a little while there.

 

Dude, Check Out This Sideways Waterfall

The water is flowing once again up in Marin County; and not just “flowing” flowing- but flowing flowing.  It’s going shit-house.

But who are we kidding?  You won’t go up there.

Whatever dude.

 

Is it all just smoke and mirrors?

California really is an amazing place.

 

IMG_4110
Go Sox!! (photo by S. Jernigan)

Where That Pesky California Current Can’t Find You

Anybody who lives on the West Coast of the United States, north of Santa Barbara, knows how goddamn freezing cold the water of the Pacific Ocean is, all the way up to Alaska. Many sleeplessly-astute observers have noted that , for the most part, East Coast beaches at comparable latitudes tend to be significantly warmer than their Left Coast counterparts.  So what gives?

You’ve heard of the Gulf Stream, right?  You know- that river of warm ocean water that originates where the tip of Florida meets the warm waters of the Caribbean, and is then driven northward along the east coast, warming its beaches and creating thousands of miles of recreational summer coastline?

Well honey, it’s not one of those.

Weekend festivarians pepper the sands of Wildcat Beach, at the mouth of Alamere Creek in Point Reyes National Seashore. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Weekend festivarians pepper the sands of Wildcat Beach, at the mouth of Alamere Creek in Point Reyes National Seashore.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

A meteorological counterpoint to the Gulf Stream can be found in the California Current, a wide river of icy arctic water that is channeled southward along the West Coast of North America, rendering most of its beaches, while indescribably gorgeous, places of recreationally-prohibitive water coldness.  But don’t take my word for it- some roasting hot day, pay a visit to any beach along the upper two thirds of the California Coast, and notice how there are thousands of people on the sand, and only a handful in the water- and most of those in wetsuits, to protect them from hypothermia.

A brave fool ventures into the North Pacific Ocean without a wet suit.  What is his problem? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
A brave fool ventures into the North Pacific Ocean without a wet suit. What is his problem?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

However, as much of a buzz-kill as this icy Pacific Ocean water situation is to would-be wave-frolicking beach-goers, there are a few spots where workarounds can be achieved. Probably the best example in California is the inner coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore.

A brave fool ventures into the North Pacific Ocean without a wet suit.  What is his problem? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
A brave fool ventures into the North Pacific Ocean without a wet suit. What is his problem?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The peninsula of Point Reyes, which juts southwestward off of the (southeastward-trending) coast of Marin County, creates what is in effect a 12-mile-long natural breakwater, deflecting the chill California Current out and away from the coastline for a stretch.  The primary upshot of this is that the beaches in the shielded area have water that is far less cold than is the norm for the Pacific Ocean at this latitude.  Sometimes you can even get in it and hang out in relative comfort for a little bit; whereas a standard, everyday wade into the Pacific in Northern California comes complete with numb, buckling ankles and rapidly-slowing bloodflow within a minute of immersion (a truly hazardous, not to mention unsustainable, situation).

It's not quite the Half Dome Cables; but nevertheless the steep, brittle descent from the top to the base of Alamere Falls offers plenty of peril for those with less than sure footing- or those who find themselves below those with less than sure footing. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s not quite the Half Dome Cables; but nevertheless the steep, brittle descent from the top to the base of Alamere Falls offers plenty of peril for those with less than sure footing- or those who find themselves below those with less than sure footing.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Adding to the allure of the inner coastline of Point Reyes is Alamere Falls, one of only two waterfalls in North America that dump directly into the ocean (these are called “tidefalls“), the other being McWay Falls, in Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park, a couple hundred miles further south, along the Big Sur Coast.   The shortest and simplest way to reach Alamere Falls is via an 8.5-mile round trip hike north out of the Palomarin Trailhead in Bolinas, CA, at the southernmost coastal extreme of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Wildcat Beach, with Alamere Falls dropping in from the right. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Wildcat Beach, with Alamere Falls dropping in from the right.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The hike also passes by Bass Lake, one of very few lakes in the state that sit so close to the ocean (less than half a mile).  Bass Lake is a perfect place to hang out and go swimming; and there is even a killer rope swing there.  Yesterday there were about 100 young sexy people parked around the lake, sunbathing, swimming, and generally just frolicking.  And for some reason that I cannot explain, in light of the ongoing extended statewide drought, Alamere Falls was flowing healthily, spilling its waters over a mossy ledge, in horsetail formation, onto Wildcat Beach.

The Bass Lake/Alamere Falls/ Wildcat Beach hike is easily one of Northern California’s biggest bang-for-your-effort-buck dayhikes; and for the next couple months, the weather along the Point Reyes coast promises to be consistently dry, with clear sunny skies.

McWay Falls, Big Sur:  aside from Alamere Falls, the only other tidefall in North America. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
McWay Falls, Big Sur: aside from Alamere Falls, the only other tidefall in North America.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Tracin’ The Basin: Berry Creek Falls

The glistening waters of Berry Creek Falls take a 70-foot horsetail plunge into this shallow collecting pool, framed by fallen timbers. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The glistening waters of Berry Creek Falls take a 70-foot horsetail plunge into this shallow collecting pool, framed by fallen timbers.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Great Redwood Empire is seen by many as the crown jewel of Coastal California’s many natural wonders. Stretching north from the Silver Peak Wilderness, at the extreme southern end of Monterey County, to Oregon Redwood Park, just over the state line at Brookings, the redwood empire spans a north-south range of close to 470 miles, and occupies an east-west range of as much as 50 coastal miles at its widest point.

This coastal redwood behemoth is so immense in scale that you can barely even see me standing in front of it. Look for a splotch of red. (photo by I. Stout)
This coastal redwood behemoth is so immense in scale that you can barely even see me standing in front of it. Look for a splotch of red.
(photo by I. Stout)

Enter Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest (est. 1902), and the redwood-seeker’s Bay Area alternative to Muir Woods National Monument, up in Marin County.  Nestled deep in the coastal valleys of northern Santa Cruz County, Big Basin offers a far more expansive area of old-growth coast redwoods than its counterpart to the north. Located about two hours south of San Francisco, the park sees huge numbers of visitors throughout the year, but its size allows visitors the opportunity to get deeper into the redwoods and feel much more thoroughly enveloped by these massive giants than they can at the much smaller Muir Woods.

On their journey from the foot of the Golden Cascade to the top of Silver Falls, the cool waters of Berry Creek trickle rhythmically into this green-hued splash pool. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
On their journey from the foot of the Golden Cascade to the top of Silver Falls, the cool waters of Berry Creek trickle rhythmically into this green-hued splash pool.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

While there are miles of excellent trails in and around Big Basin Redwoods State Park, one hike in particular stands out as the signature redwood walk of the region, if not the entire Redwood Empire—the Berry Creek Falls Loop.

Dwarfed by the surrounding landscape, the king sits proudly on his mighty throne, with the slick curtain of Silver Falls as a worthy backdrop. (photo by I. Stout)
Dwarfed by the surrounding landscape, the king sits proudly on his mighty throne, with the slick curtain of Silver Falls as a worthy backdrop.
(photo by I. Stout)

This 11-mile round-trip loop starts at Big Basin Park Headquarters, and for several pleasant miles follows the rolling track of the Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail through a dense forest pierced by a meandering creek, eventually reaching a junction with the Berry Creek Trail, immediately downstream from Berry Creek Falls, the lowermost waterfall in the series.  From there the Berry Creek Trail climbs steeply past each of the three waterfalls, a route at points sufficiently precipitous so as to justify the presence of the steel railings that have been bolted into the rock at strategic points.  From the top of the Golden Cascade, uppermost of the three falls, the Sunset Trail winds its way back to Park Headquarters, along the way passing through several expansive groves of old and second-growth coastal redwoods.  Plan for 5-7 hours round-trip.

The Golden Cascade, uppermost of the three waterfalls along the Berry Creek Trail. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Golden Cascade, uppermost of the three waterfalls along the Berry Creek Trail.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Needless to say, this route can also be done in reverse- it just depends on whether you prefer to descend the falls or climb up them.

Also, to make a figure-8 loop, you can add in the Timms Creek Trail, which links the Sunset Trail to the Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail, roughly halfway between Park Headquarters and Berry Creek.  The Timms Creek Trail is less than a mile long, and passes through some positively Jurassic terrain, with stands of lofty redwoods through-cut by the trail’s namesake creek, along which flourishes an abundance of lush greenery.

Beneath the redwood canopy, the forest floor along the Timms Creek Trail can feel as soft as a wool carpet. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Beneath the redwood canopy, the forest floor along the Timms Creek Trail can feel as soft as a wool carpet.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Springtime is the best time to go if you want to maximize your chances of seeing the three waterfalls in all their misty glory.

Nature's tendency toward balance and equilibrium is universal, so always remember this: where flourishes lush scenery, so can lurk deadly peril. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Nature’s tendency toward balance and equilibrium is universal, so always remember this: where flourishes lush scenery, so can lurk deadly peril.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)