“You know it’s already past 3 p.m.?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes, we know.”
I’d masterminded the ultimate adventure—a “strenuous” hike followed by dinner at Laili, a Mediterranean-Afghan restaurant in Santa Cruz—and no ‘noid ranger was gonna stop me.
“We can hike 12 miles in 2 & 1/2 hours easy,” I bragged.
“Thirteen. It’s actually 13 miles,” said Mr. By-the-Book, who insisted we leave a note on our dash for his night relief.
“Dearest Ranger,” I wrote, “We pre-parked a car at the finish near Waddell Beach. Please don’t worry if we don’t return for our Prius until after 9 p.m. See you soon!”
Then, map in hand, Jimmy and I were off. “What’s his problem?” I scoffed. “There’s plenty of light.”
We trekked through stunning old-growth redwoods and fern-lined canyons, and in no time passed Mile Marker 1. “Only 12 more miles to go!” I exclaimed.
Forty-five minutes later we came upon Berry Creek Falls, the crown jewel of Big Basin. The 60-foot waterfall was so tropical it felt like Hawaii…
…except darkness was closing in and we still had 10 miles left, so back onto the trail we hustled.
Moments after leaving the Falls the trail suddenly dead ended. Through the dusk, I spied another path — on the opposite side. The only way across was atop a wobbly gutter MacGyvered across the deep, gushing creek.
One slip and down we’d plunge into the icy water.
We crossed unscathed, but a rained out, mucky Slip ‘N’ Slide of a path awaited.
Ironman took the lead, mud skating over the puddles, his neon orange Nikes beacons guiding us through the ever darkening forest.
Thirty minutes later we found ourselves enveloped in blackness.
We clicked on our iPhone flashlight apps, a sorry light source for the dark, creepy forest. Just then a mountain biker coming from the Falls zoomed past, his headlight momentarily illuminating the woods.
“Hello!” I cried. “How much longer to Waddell Beach?”
I expected him to say three, maybe four miles MAX.
“About eight miles,” he said.
“Nooooo!” I wailed.
Having depleted our almonds ages ago, all I could think of was the roasted pumpkin borani we planned to devour at Laili later–that was if a hungry mountain lion didn’t devour us first.
“I’m scared, Jimmy. What if we wind up like that couple in the ’8os who got stranded in a blizzard for five days. They made a TV movie of the week starring Neil Patrick Harris, remember?”
“If they make a movie about us who would should play you—Rob Lowe?”
“No way,” sniffed Jimmy. “Rob has man boobs. I need someone like Marky Mark, only more yoked.”
Time passed–An hour? Five hours? Time drags when you’re so cold you’re dreading losing your toes to frostbite. ”How many days do you think Tanner and Saxon will keep playing Minecraft before they notice we’re missing?” I asked Jimmy.
“Dunno. At least a week.”
Just when I could not take one more step there it was: Mile Marker 13!
We hugged, then looked around.
Maybe my fuzzy vision was distorted from staring at the tiny pinhole of light for so long, but our car was nowhere to be found. All we saw was an unlit paved road leading into the dark unknown.
Little did we know the additional three miles out to coast where we’d parked ratcheted our hike to 16 miles.
Shivering, hungry, clutching our phones with swollen sausage fingers we soldiered on, until…
…finally, off in the distance…wait, could it be? Yes, high beams of cars whizzing down Highway 1 beckoned us like a lighthouse.
We dragged ourselves the remainder, then collapsed in the car.
Ironman and the Yoga Queen ate some serious humble pie that day.
Then, after thawing out, we hit Laili and feasted on pumpkin borani.
“We made it!” we said, clinking frosty mugs of Belgium pale ale.
“You didn’t have to amputate our toes in the middle of the forest!” I exclaimed.
“And Rob & his moobies didn’t have to star in my life story!” Jimmy added.
If you’re craving adventure, this is a great one. Just take our advice~park at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, hike the Berry Creek Falls loop (7 miles roundtrip), then head straight for Laili for roasted pumpkin borani. Cheers!