Particulars

The tale

It’s said that travel isn’t seeing new places, but seeing with new eyes. This was the case when I explored a new trail with more than 20 other hikers one foggy June morning.

In May I joined a large meetup group with the promising name of “Sleep Late and Hike.” They were planning a 10.5-mile hike on June 1 through one of my favorite state parks, The Forest of Nisene Marks. The route would follow a trail I hadn’t explored to a waterfall I’d never seen.

About 25 of us set out from the George’s Picnic Area, near the park’s popular Steel Bridge, walking single-file to avoid occasional runners in a marathon I hadn’t expected.

Thick gobs of poison oak lined the West Ridge Trail, making me glad for my boots and long zipoff pants. Low clouds rolled in off Monterrey Bay, keeping the air damp and chilly.

Low-hanging clouds obscure a forest
Low-hanging clouds kept the first part of the trail chilly.

As the trail ascended to about 1400′, our group spread out. Everyone walked at their own pace, sometimes forming groups of four or five. Everyone stopped at trail junctions for a head count, which and the meetup organizers took care that no one got left behind or lost.

The sun came out by 1pm, steadily warming the forest. Luckily the poison oak gave way to more amiable ground cover, and I was down to my shorts and t-shirt by the time we reached a narrow groove that was Bridge Creek Trail.

Hikers in a ravine
The last leg to Maple Falls followed a ravine that was more creek than path.

This trail was less of a path and more of a scramble over rocks and the babbling creek. The only bridge was a fallen tree that crossed to the final leg before Maple Falls.

Hiker crossing a creek
The Bridge Creek Trail had many water crossings, and a few natural bridges.

We reached the falls by 3pm. The setting was idyllic, with a pool knee-deep pool (so long poison oak) and ample sunshine.

Maple Falls with hikers
Cooling our heels at Maple Falls was worth the effort required to find them.

The group returned to the Steel Bridge more or less together, but split up for two different restaurants in Aptos. I opted to join new friends at Aptos Street Barbecue, where the music was better than the pulled pork. But I enjoyed both. It was a good day to sleep late and hike.

Hikers in a narrow ravine
Look close and you’ll see the hikers, dwarfed among gravity-defying trees.

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June 1, 2019