Saturday, 21 May, 2016. Waterman Gap to Big Basin HQ and Jay Camp. 9.84 miles
I woke and dozed intermittently with sunrise, the sounds of the birds, the various creakings and sighings of a camp coming to life. In the night I had also occasionally woken to the sounds of rain pitter-pattering on our tent. The drizzle would last barely a minute before stopping. This would be the pattern for the morning as we made our way to Big Basin headquarters.
We were the last ones out of the camp. We finally emerged from our tents relatively late, ~ 7am, but we were taking our time to be able to wait for Caiti. She arrived ~9:45, and had clearly hustled to get to where we were. She had arrived late last night at Castle Rock parking lot and ended up hiking in the dark. That didn’t bother her so much as a sketchy guy in the parking lot who had put wings to her heels and helped power her to Castle Rock trail camp 2 miles away.
We set off around 10:15 and were soon passing the last couple out of camp from site #1 who had left perhaps 10 minutes before us. The weather had been spitting light rain on and off for the last hour. It would sprinkle for a minute or two, stop and then start up again in another 10 minutes. That became the theme for the better part of the morning.
Before long I mentioned to DD that I wanted to hike faster and catch the 2 other groups who were ahead of us. And so we took our leave of Christina, Jared and Caiti and barrelled off. The hiking was easy – mostly downhill on soft woodland terrain with a few short and easy uphills. The trails were not all that technical, but did get a bit slippery from the occasional rain. I ended up falling very softly on my bum as I was trying to hustle and adjust a folded-backwards backpack strap at the same time.
There were several road crossings where the trail stopped at asphalt and continued on the other side.
Some of the more interesting segments of trail contained some traversing over more mounds of sandstone, similar to what we had at Castle Rock the previous day, but also a bit different.
We jogged some of the segments, and began to pass the last 2 groups who had left camp earlier than us. It was fun whooshing by other folks, saying our thank you’s and excuse me’s as we passed. It made me want to be able to run the marathon or 50k race options (put on by PCTR and Coastal) someday. Even with my pack on my back, jogging was surprisingly comfortable.
As we neared Big Basin, we naturally began to see more and more people, mostly day hikers, but we also ran into another group heading up towards Lane Camp, a little white dog trotting along with them (dogs are prohibited on the trails, but perhaps this was a service pup?).
After we reached Big Basin we decided to order some food from the cafe before heading off to find Jay Camp. While waiting, we also wandered around the souvenir store and browsed the camp store shelves. It seemed mostly targetted towards car campers rather than backpackers; food options included boxes of pasta and bottles of sauce; jiffy-pop pan popcorn, large bags of chips, and individually wrapped plastic bowls of cereal. They also had Cup-Noodles instant ramen.
The menu selection for hot/prepared foods is small, and the cafe only sells these items from 11am-4pm. We ordered a couple of paninis – one was in essence a tuna melt, and the other was pulled pork with cheese. We waited outside the cafe for a bit, and a toddler tried to steal one of DD’s Snicker’s fun size bars which had fallen outside of his pack. After our food was ready we trotted off on the barely quarter of a mile to Jay Camp, where we chose from the remaining campsites. Inexplicably, only the bike-in campsites had firepits and picnic tables. All sites do have bear boxes.
The paninis, by the way, were delicious, and also came with a small, fresh, green salad.
We chose sites #1 and 2 – they didn’t look completely ideal in terms of flat surfaces. Another group had arrived earlier than us and had probably taken the other best set of the sites. The 2 groups we passed in the morning still had not arrived.
Jared came trundling up about 45 minutes after we arrived and soon afterwards the girls rolled into camp as well. DD took the opportunity while folks were scoping out their campsites to do some laundry in the bathroom area (hot water out of the taps, even!). After folks had gotten settled we headed back to Big Basin HQ again to drink beer and hang out.
DD’s strategy was to eat lunch, dinner and obtain Sunday breakfast at the park store. So after his panini, he purchased a hotdog and some ice cream, also a cereal bowl and pop tart for the morrow. And I, after dithering a bit, also opted to go the lazy way and also grab a hotdog for my dinner.
Later at camp we shared Packit Gourmet’s Strawberry Cheesecake, which turned out to be happily not as fiddly as the other dinners we’ve had from them. Just add water and let sit, top with graham cracker crust and eat out of the bag. A decent-tasting item, but something I would repackage if I brought it on a longer hike.
We were spoiled at Jay Camp. Staying there felt like a modified version of car camping, due to the flush toilets and coin-operated showers, which were respectively very clean for campsite facilities. The showers were powerful and very hot. They basically cost $.25/ minute with a minimum of $.50 for the first 2 minutes. If exchanging bills for coins, the store only limits you to $2 worth of quarters per party, so make sure you bring extra if you need more coins. Oh, and the camp store has small travel-sized shampoos and soaps if you need them.
Back at our tents, the mosquitoes were out in force. We put on our head-nets at one point, and I noticed that they were still landing on my Patagonia Capilene leggings, which I had soaked in Permethrin last year for our West Coast Trail trip. It appears that they need another soaking. I escaped with 2 bites on my legs, neither of which were that itchy, thank goodness. I tried out Picardin spray on my neck and used my hands to rub some on my face. I’m not entirely sure if the Picardin was all that effective, but I managed to stay bite-free in that area. Perhaps it was the mosquito nets (which I didn’t wear for that long), or perhaps it was because DD and I eventually headed into the tent to get away from the mozzies, and fell asleep cozily listening to J, C & C’s chatter.