Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

This was the wrong trailhead
This is actually not the correct trailhead, but it was the only sign near the trailhead that had “Skyline” written on it.

Doc and I successfully completed the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail! It was very relaxing, a lot of fun, and so very beautiful. Highlights included both the skyline, and the sea (if you can believe it).

This was the sign by the ACTUAL trail head
This is the actual sign by the Skyline-to-the-Sea trailhead. Even though it only talks about the “Saratoga Toll Road.” Go Figure.

Inspired by this guy, we did the whole thing without cars and just public transported the whole thing. Thanks, guy! I had briefly considered doing what Doc and I termed the “Mega Gnar,” where we would take public transit to Saratoga and then hike the ~10 miles to Castle Rock. The one thing that kept us from doing the Mega Gnar was the fact that most of those 10 miles would be on spooky windy 1-lane roads with no shoulder. I couldn’t find a trail-alternative, and thus the Mega Gnar has yet to be hiked. We just ended up taking a Lyft to the trailhead instead.

That really made planning the logistics of the trip easier. Ironically, it is much easier to get back to SF from Santa Cruz than it is to get from SF to the beginning of the trailhead (or indeed, even just from SF to Saratoga is way more complex). One thing that I noticed earlier when we did the Angel Island trip (and a few others), is that if you take public transit to your backpacking trip then people will think you are a hobo. This was still the case. FACT!

For the first leg of the journey, the trail basically mirrors Highway 9. This means you get to see loads of dead cars that fell off the highway because of people that love going way too fast around windy blind corners! Joy! Guess how I feel about these people when I encounter them on the road.

Loads of Dead Cars that Fell off of Highway 9
A grim reminder to all that would go fast down windy mountain roads.
A Dead Car off of Highway 9
So many dead cars.

The second day, we woke up to the characteristic mists of the Redwood Rainforests, and we actually got to experience the redwood trees taking the fog and mist, and turning it into droplets of “rain” which they poured down onto their roots. It was absolutely magical.

A Magical Morning in the Redwood Rainforest
Like a fairy tale.

When we got to the Big Basin Park Headquarters at about 2PM on the second day, we had just barely been in the wilderness and sober for 24 hours. So, of course, when we saw they had beers in the park store, we bought six beers and immediately drank them all.

Doc and Big Daddy
Big Basin had pretty good taste in beers, too.

It also turned out that Monday nights are Big Basin’s “Community Campfire Nights,” wherin they teach you about nature facts and provide marshmallows to roast (as well as a fire over which to roast them).

Doc roasts a marshmallow
Doc roasting some mallows

This was quite fortunate, as I had pretty much assumed that since Jay’s Camp was right next to Big Basin Park Headquarters, we would have marshmallow roasting. It turns out that the backpacker camps at Jay’s do not allow fires (though the bicyclist camps do)! So we still got our marshmallow roasting on.

We saw lots of my little slimy friends on the trail.
Berry Creek Falls from Aclose
Berry Falls was a worthwhile detour
Waddell Creek
The last ~10 miles of the trail exactly follows Waddell Creek all the way to the sea.
Our First Glimpse of the Sea
Our first glimpse of the sea!

Waddell Creek Beach was pretty cool. Lots of kite surfers and wind surfers and other windy… things going on. Of course, and we knew this before, the bus to Waddell Beach only GOES to Waddell Beach on the weekends! And we got there on a Tuesday, so we walked along Highway 1 until we were able to hitch a ride into Davenport. It was only six miles (of which we walked about 3), but it was kind of spooky walking along the very narrow shoulder of Highway 1, so we decided it was safer to hitch it. By-the-way, this six-mile portion would also be included in the Mega Gnar.

Luckily for us, the amazing band Henhouse performs at the Davenport Roadhouse Inn every Tuesday night! They were so good, Doc and I just sat at the bar watching them perform all evening. I really felt lucky to be able to hear this group! They had a slide guitarist who was the most amazing musician ever.

Henhouse Performing Live at the Davenport Roadhouse Inn
Henhouse performing live at the Davenport Roadhouse Inn

Then we went outside and watched the sun set. We got a room at the Davenport Roadhouse Inn so we could spend a full day at Santa Cruz on Wednesday.

The Classic Davenport Sunset Shot that Everybody Takes
The Iconic Sunset over Davenport Shot that Everybody Takes

The slide guitarist of Henhouse told us that the planets were supposed to be lined up later that night, and it would be a very beautiful sight. As she said, it looked pretty spectacular, especially since the planets were also forming a line which looked parallel to the seashore.

And if you ever wondered where cormorants go when it is night time, apparently they roost in the trees on the sea cliffs.

The Classic Three Cormorant Moon
Ahh, yes, the classic “Three Cormorant Moon.”
Doc soaks his feets
I did promise you that this trip included both the skyline AND the sea, right?
Tidepooling in Davenport
Lots of good tidepooling to be had in Davenport
Feeling Crabby
Why so crabby?
High Tide Brings an End to Tidepooling
The tide coming in on the tidepools.
Exploring Davenport.
Doc exploring Davenport

In Santa Cruz we went to our favorite thrift shop, Moon Zoom, which I have been going to for… what must be at least 10 years now. I get so many amazing clothes from Moon Zoom. We also got to go to the Downtown Santa Cruz farmer’s market, where we bought and drank shots of sauerkraut juice. Because apparently that is a thing. It was surprisingly delicious and refreshing!

I would rate this trail as very fun and beautiful, with enough to keep experienced backpackers entertained, but also straightforward enough (and keeps the gnarly to a minimum enough) for beginner backpackers (like Doc) to enjoy it, too.

Author: Steen

Steen is a nerdy biologist who spends a lot of time trying to cultivate Chloroflexi, who also likes to draw comics, play video games, and climb.

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