When I lived in the Bay Area I frequently took advantage of the trails along the coast, but I never once made the trip to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. After hearing about a reasonably easy 10-mile hike that promised views of a magnificent waterfall, I knew I had to check it out the last time I was in NorCal.
I took off down the Berry Creek Loop just after 11am, and after plodding along at a steady pace for about 30 minutes, I became oddly anxious about wandering through the forest by myself. I’m far better on a trail than I am in a city, but for just a moment I secretly hoped I’d bump into another hiker. I got my wish just after the two-mile mark when I came up on an older man. I suppose I wanted some sort of reassurance that I was going the right way, but overwhelmingly larger part of me wanted to be alone as soon as I saw his backpack bobbing down the path. What can I say? Sometimes it’s fun to hang on to the fantasy that you’re the last person on the planet…
About a minute later I was on my own again, and for the next two miles I stopped at least twenty times to appreciate the size of the trees and the blissful sound of silence. From the smell of the damp earth to the pockets of cool air creeping up through parts of the basin, I felt like all five of my senses were fully engaged. Sometimes it's nice to experience this with another human, but as I've gotten older I've found it's just as important to have these moments to myself.
After four miles I finally hit Berry Creek Falls, and it was just as gorgeous as I hoped it would be. I admired the view for about ten minutes before I continued on, but I could have stayed there for hours. I've never been camping anywhere near a waterfall, and I could easily see myself falling asleep to the sound of the stream rushing down the 65-foot drop. As soon as I realized it was cold enough to put on my down vest, I packed up my gear and got moving.
The trail dips you down to the forest floor and all the way up to the tops of the trees, and though I was having a blast, by mile nine my knees were starting to ache. I had no one to complain to, but even if I did, why would I? Sure, part of hiking is taking in the scenery and admiring nature, but another part of it is the satisfaction in completing the journey. As soon as I saw that I was 0.2 miles from the parking lot, I felt victorious. Not only was this the longest solo hike I've ever done, but I felt like this experience was very representative of how I'm going to be this year: Strong, independent and present.
Keep up with Elisabeth on her website elisabethbrentano.com.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.