Four club members and an associate made it to Big Basin State Park on Sunday, February 27. As usual the ride over to the park was spectacular because the forest was wrapped in a winter morning mist. Those who arrive early, as we did, are rewarded by unlimited parking options and we slid into one of a hundred berths unchallenged. The rangers were just opening the visitors’ center and we paid our fees and immediately got down to the business of shooting. This day was “Fungus Day” and we encountered numerous specimens within the first hundred steps of our hike. We started on the Redwood trail and walked up to an area where a few large trees collapsed in the same place. All of us captured numerous macro images of the fungi, often groveling in the sticky, brown clay soil of the forest floor to get our shots.
After our fungi-a-thon, we drove up to see the waterfall we visited last year. It was flowing robustly and pouring over its rock shelf, making a spectacular show for all of us. (Probably all our pictures are nearly indistinguishable, but it was worth taking the time to go see.) After the waterfall we decided to go get some lunch in nearby Boulder Creek and ate at a pretty good Mexican place on Highway 9.
Big Basin is California’s oldest state park, established in 1902. It is home to a large stand of ancient coast redwood trees and has more than 80 miles of trails to hike. The park covers more than 18,000 acres and rambles from the Pacific Ocean shore to the 2,000-foot ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The park has many campsites near the visitors’ center and many other excellent facilities. Campsites are offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Usually there are many visitors in the park and the facilities can get a bit crowded in the late spring, summer and fall, but off-season visits are rewarded by greater accessibility. Having come to the park twice in the off-season, I’d have to say that winter is the best time to see the park in its full beauty. You can’t see the truly vibrant greens and delicate colors unless abundant winter rains have freshly doused everything.
The road from the east (Highway 236) is extremely curvy and very steep in places. If you are prone to carsickness then you’d better drive to Santa Cruz and approach the park from the much flatter Boulder Creek road that comes up from Highway 1.
Big Basin is an excellent place to bring subjects to take their pictures—you couldn’t find many more spectacular backgrounds. One thing, bring your fill-flash. The supreme challenge for landscape photographers is bringing a lens that will do justice to the huge old trees. Those old giants also create severe metering problems in their deep, dark shadows—better bring your gray or white cards and double-check your exposures!
Visiting the older parks, such as Big Basin or Muir Woods always makes me glad to be a resident of one of the most beautiful states in the nation. There are more than 270 State Parks, reserves, state beaches, underwater preserves, wilderness areas, recreation areas, historic parks, historic homes and reservoirs in the California state system. The system manages more than 280 miles of the scenic California Coast, almost one third of the state’s coastline, and it controls more than 625 miles of river and lake shoreline. There are 18,000 campsites and about 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails within the system. In the Bay Area region alone, there are about 30 state-managed parks and other attractions. Sure, the crowded conditions and overblown prices in this state give you plenty to gripe about, but there are few places on earth where you can enjoy so much environmental diversity and natural beauty. When it comes to our public parks I never complain!
© 2005 S.R. Hinrichs