The most accessible hike from where I'm at right now: The Skyline to the Sea trail.
At 34 miles, this popular hike traverses the gorgeous coastal vistas, as seen from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, meandering through old-growth redwood and banana slug inhabited forests that stretches west toward the powerful Pacific Ocean.
Since we didn't have the time for the full 34 mile hike, Jacob and I decided on an easterly bound out and back; by starting at Waddell Beach, a popular kite-surfing destination 18 miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Across from the beach parking lot we began our hike. We started by weaving through a freshwater marsh that, I imagine, is a welcome refuge for migratory birds. The first few miles follows an old fire road through ranches and fields before we entered into a dense, green, riparian zone consisting of fern, wildflowers and moss; moist, calm, inviting, and peaceful as reflective of the salamander crossings we encountered. I fell into the familiar rhythm that provides the melody for good conversation. Following Waddell Creek,
we walked at a slight incline deeper into the now redwood populated canopy until we reached Berry Creek Falls, an exuberant 70 foot cascade over sandstone bluffs. Jacob and I reached this first bench mark, about 6 miles from the our starting point in the mid-morning with a full day ahead of us. Instead of continuing on the Skyline to the Sea trail, we ran into a biker that told us about a pretty offshoot that went up onto the ridge line to the highest point in the range for a view of the coast. A cold stream crossing awaited us; so we rolled up our pants, took off our shoes and socks and waded into the crisp water. The slick rock below proved to be a bit of a hurdle and took Jacob waist deep into the current. Only the blackberry Jacob carried in his pocket protested the dunk, a reminder of our looming return to civilization.
Dense riparian forest gave way to a hot, dry, and exposed ridge; something I love about California, this representative diversity. Our conversation flowed as we walked, and I relished those blissful moments of freedom; serenity. We found ourselves at the highest point on the ridge, with a vantage point that, to the west, showed us where we had come from, the pacific blue; and to the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains, over which is our current place of residence. The only thing about an out and back that I don't like is retracing your steps. With unchartered territory, it's easier to get into a rhythm, whereas backtracking causes me to become increasingly aware that the time on the trail is coming to an end. So a recommendation to anyone who is going to do this day hike; try to find a way to make it a loop. After 8 hours and 20 miles that characterized this hike with my best friend, I felt peaceful, relaxed, and although reluctant, prepared to go back and face the everyday realities of my current existence.I highly recommend this mild, accessible, and beautiful day hike.