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After Diane decided Thanksgiving break backpacking was not in her best interests, Chris was naturally next in line to take her place. Chris had little experience backpacking, but that is rather irrelevant if you consider how competent of a person he is. We headed to REI several times the week before to buy Chris a backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Transportation was our biggest issue since Big Basin Redwoods State Park is closer to Santa Cruz than Mountain View and we did not have a car. Luckily Chris' aunt and uncle were RV-ing in California around the same time and offered to pick us up and drop us off on the ocean side of the park at Waddell Beach in Monterey Bay. Skyline Drive bounds the Bay Area suburbia to the East of State Parks like this one, which stretch to the sea in the West, and extend from San Francisco in the North to Santa Cruz in the South.

From the beach, we hiked with full packs up the flat valley, past the farms on the Skyline-to The Sea Trail. We took a right and hiked straight up the McGary Ridge Trail. In total, we climbed 1730 to the peak of the trail under the hot sun. Chris took a few hours to get used to the weight on his back, but in general picked up on the whole backpacking thing quickly. We stopped at the camp office before it closed, and checked-in to our reserved campsite at Sempervirens Campground.

As we approached camp, we came around a corner to find two 20-something black girls in leopard print leggings and jorts posing to music and snapping pictures of one another with a camera mounted in a steering wheel for a makeshift fig rig. A younger girl sat at the base of a giant sequoia nearby and watched. It took all the strength we had left at the end of the day to hold in our laughter for this strange encounter in the middle of the woods. We pitched my then-new tent between three of the largest trees I have ever seen in the dark and bear-bagged our food with a cordelette.

The next day, we ditched our sleeping bags, pads, and stove in the tent and set off for a day hike on the Sunset Trail and Berry Creek Falls trail. Every foot of the 9 mile loop was through a redwood forest, and after visiting Yosemite, I still believe that this State Park has beauty typically only found in a national reserve. Several 65-foot waterfalls cascade over the continental rise , and the bodies of fallen giants, which would normal fall into the streams at the base of the ravines, hit the facing hill since they are so tall. This has the effect of creating giant wood rafters above the trail, and far above the stream bed, some of which are usable as bridges. Several of the towering trees had carbon burns from forest fires, and many had hollow bases that could be used for shelter.

That night we had chicken, rice, and craisins for Thanksgiving dinner before bed. It's the best we could do given our resources, and it was delicious. It wasn't too long after crawling into our sleeping bags that we heard scratching. I tried to ignore it at first, but the scratching was persistent and too close for comfort. A family of raccoons had found our bear bag and was laying seige to the thick cotton laundry bag. Persistence does not necessarily imply intelligence though. Chris and I eventually moved the bag into another tree with a low branch (not common in redwood forests) and the raccoons couldn't figure out. They crawled all over the first tree all night.

On day three, it was time to hike out and return to Mountain View for work on Monday. We packed everything up, ate breakfast, and headed down the lower third of the Skyline-to-Sea trail back to Waddell Beach. It rained continuously the entire time, but we managed to finish all 12 miles in less than 4 hours. We wanted to get out of the beach so badly, we arrived at the beach four hours before the bus to Santa Cruz. Luckily, a friendly ranger was heading into town and offered us a lift. That cut down what could have been a public transportation nightmare to one bus and one train.

It turns out, our female ranger Ms. Foxworth was a total badass who used to be a firefighter and trained police officers how to drive aggressively (read: in excess of 100mph). Overall, the trip hooked Chris on backpacking and was incredibly beautiful. I can't believe my camera battery was dead!