Big Basin State Park
"The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time."
- John Steinbeck
I've been lucky enough to see Muir Woods a couple of times during my brief time living in San Francisco, but this was my first time visiting Big Basin.
Big Basin is located just north of Santa Cruz, California. We stayed just outside of a little town called Boulder Creek, but you can camp inside the park either in an RV or tent. My husband and I were staying with friends, but if we ever to go back, we will stay in a tent and have a few nights under the stars.
When you drive up along the narrow, winding mountain road, you start to get a sense of just how amazingly powerful nature can be if left well alone. Our car felt like a toy next to 300 foot trees. It's a feeling everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
There are several hikes you can do inside the park that range in difficulty/distance from a nice loop that takes about 20 minutes, to more advanced that take several hours.
Our group wanted to see the "Mother" and "Father" trees that are just a stones throw away from the park entrance. If you take a good look at them, I think you can figure out how they got their names... (I mean... )
All jokes aside, the Mother and Father were very impressive. The entire park is impressive!
The walk to see the parents of the forest was only about half-an-hour. We learned along the way that the circles of trees really are connected like a family unit. They are all one organism, stemming from the 'Mother' tree in the center. So even though there is one tree in the park officially called the 'Mother', they are actually all around you!
We took our time taking photos and following the self-guided tour pamphlet, so you could probably do it faster if you aren't interested in the reading material and go at your own pace.
The next day, my husband and I were up for more of an adventure and decided to take the 4 mile loop to check out the Sequoia trail to the Sempervirens waterfall. In total, the 'hike' to the waterfall took us around 2 1/2 hours. I say 'hike' because it's really more of a nice walk. There is very minimal climbing, about the equivalent of going up a flight or two of stairs, and only minimal tripping hazards compared to other trails I've been on. I was told once that, "You can walk and you can take photos, but you can't walk while taking photos..." It's a simple phrase that's stuck with me through out the years, and very, very true! Unless of course you want to end up on some pretty great fail videos...
During the walk, you pass through tent camp sites that have picnic tables and water spouts if you find yourself needing a rest along the way. The toilets however we're all closed, but I for one, have never been shy about peeing in the woods - ha!
If you really want to see the falls but are pressed for time, or maybe a member in your group can't physically do the walk, we discovered the trail follows a road nearly the entire time. You can actually drive to the Sequoia camp site and walk 0.2 miles to the falls.
Once we arrived, we quickly realized most people only spend about 5-10 minutes at this particular waterfall. You walk down a flight of wooden stairs to a lookout deck, that wasn't designed for large groups or long periods of hanging out.
Not to be dissuaded, we came prepared with a tarp and a bounty of snacks to gorge ourselves on. We laid in the shade of the redwoods, listening to the ambience of the waterfall rushing behind us for over an hour. It was pure magic!
Or maybe that's just because we have a special fondness for waterfalls, given that we were in front of one when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him :) I'll save that story for another time though.
If you ever find yourself near Santa Cruz, do yourself a favor and make Big Basin part of your trip itinerary! Even though we only had a few short days, it was worth every minute we got to spend surrounded by trees as old as time.