August 2, 2018
Distance: 21.7 miles Time: 7.36 hours Pace: 2.95 mph Elevation Gain: 3793 feet
After a day of mental and physical destruction on Mount El Sombroso I needed a good trail to get me back in the right mindset, and there's no better than the Skyline Trail. Running from the southern Purisima Creek Redwoods to Sky Londa along Skyline Boulevard, this is one of the most beautiful trails in all of the Bay Area, and an official route on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.
I began at the South Purisima Creek parking lot, which is surprisingly spacious given that Skyline Blvd is only one tight lane in each direction. Directly across the road is the trailhead, and I got moving quickly along the shaded dirt path.
One of the first things you notice about this trail is the density of the surrounding trees. Perfectly shaded under the redwood canopy, the dirt footpath is thrown into perpetual twilight and let me move quickly and easily without breaking a sweat.
It was refreshing to see regular trail maintenance along the entire route that never took away from the untouched feel of the hike, and obstacles blended in seamlessly with the natural surroundings.
After a few miles and surprisingly spry legs I took a short detour across Skyline Blvd to visit the Methuselah Tree, a giant old-growth Redwood estimated to be over 1,860 years old and 225 feet tall before the top broke in 1954. This thing is massive. Reportedly the oldest and largest living tree in the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of Big Basin SP, my pictures don't do justice to the towering and gnarled beauty overlooking it's outstretching forest. I was actually surprised at the lack of signage or advertisements of the tree from the main road, and the area immediately surrounding the tree was void of nearly all human activity save a simple wood fence and steps, but nothing stops visitors from walking right up and wrapping their arms across the girth of the trunk.
I took a short snack break here and spent time with the tree. I'm not the most spiritual person, and my connection with nature doesn't venture far behind the frequent hike, but there's something about sitting across from something that's been alive for nearly 2,000 years that forces introspection about one's place in the universe....but enough of the hippy stuff and back to the hike.
I kept a quick and steady pace until reaching the end of the Skyline Trail at the intersection of Skyline Blvd and Hwy 84, a place known to locals as the "4 corners" - a popular place for travelers, hikers, and cyclists with a small general store and the locally famous Alice's Restaurant.
Alice's looked packed, so I went for a deli sandwich from the general store and shared a table outside with a cyclist named Shoshonna, who told me (seriously) that my turkey on dutch crunch was a poor choice for hiking while simultaneously downing four consecutive ice-cream sandwiches and a coke. We talked about school and failed careers, then parted ways.
I typically do my best to avoid out-and-back style hiking, but returning along the Skyline Trail was just as exhilarating as the morning route. With light now hitting the trees from the opposite direction the forest was just as magical, if not more, the second time through. I saw little wildlife, but could hear all sorts of small furry creatures darting into the underbrush as I made my way back.
More than anything, I was excited about what this hike did for me mentally. I was energized and feeling good by the time I made it back to my car, and easily could have kept going if it wasn't for the dropping sun. Satisfied with my 22 miles and still-fresh legs, this was the perfect trail to get my confidence back up and my mind back in a proper hiker's mindset.