I did this trail over the weekend as an overnighter. it ended up being about 35 1/2 miles, as i did a small detour to stay at sunset camp and view the series of three waterfalls along the way.
i had the opportunity to use my new suunto vector-- so the elevation ended up being about 6500 descent and 3500 vertical-- nothing major.
the trail itself was incredible. the beginning is a bit confusing because the trailhead is a highway intersection with no posted sign for the trail. walking down the south side of the road about a tenth of a mile i saw the sign and dropped down below the one lane road.
you continue along the road for the next 20 miles, crossing the highway about 3 times.
the weather was unsettled. a few waves of hail fell as i was heading down the ridge. the wind was also a factor. but the coolness also allowed a faster pace and i cut through the oak and manzanita hills. you pass a couple of cars that have gone off the road and never been recovered. they're all rusty... spooky.
there is a trail camp ten miles in that has piped in water. i tanked up and moved on.
ten miles later i came upon the big basin park headquarters. that place too has water next to the main building. there were way too many people for me to even consider staying there; according to the map, there are some backcountry camps but no way, too many people. i didnt even bother getting an overnight permit either for sunset camp.
its funny... b/c i was carrying like a 5 pound pack, my ion, not a single person ever thought i was doing the whole trail as an overnighter.
the third section, from the HQ to berry falls, its a tremendous walk. the oaks turn to redwood and pines. hte air turned thick and stillness settled in. the late afternoon sun through the trees was like a religious moment!
about 6 miles down there is a series of three waterfalls. i was fatigued and hungry so i didnt linger too long that first evening to look at them... i could feel the 25 miles and was ready to eat and sleep. you leave the skyline to the sea trail to head up to the backcountry camp... its like a a mile up and its seemed like forever as i thinking only of food food food.
too bad all the camps were taken at sunset camp but i found a little flat spot off a trail where i inconspicuously set up for the evening. fyi, that spot was in between the lower and upper sections of the camp on a random trail that heads back down the hill.
it rained a little that night. i was wondering if my SMD poncho/ tarp would leak as i havent sealed the seams but it didnt. i stayed dry and relatively warm. it dipped down to about 41 inside the tarp in the early morning hours-- thanks again to the suunto.
the next morning was glorious. wildflowers were blossoming in the lower elevations. i was stoked! the three waterfalls are a highlight of this route so its nice that you get to go by them twice. i took my time and took some pictures. of course, it was April 20th, so that probably impacted my casual pace at the onset and my elated mood...
the last 9 miles is half down a fire road, which was pretty nondescript, then a single track following a contour around the last two ridges. the poison oak along that section was epic. i think i made it out without any damage. in several parts, it encroached across the trail so much that i had to do a quasi limbo dance to avoid it.
anyway, this is a great trail and highly recommended. for all its strengths, the greatest drawback is that it is so accessible to people who can park all along its length and just drop onto it. this time of the year wasnt too bad but i could see it being worse in the summer months.
there is something satisfying about coming from a ridgeline and dropping down all the way to the ocean, taking off your shoes and putting your feet in the water. i guess thats why they named it the way they did. too bad it was way too windy down on the beach and much too cold to put my feet in, plus i had a nasty blister on my heel that i didnt want touching salt water.