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Road Trip Day Five: Hiking Limekiln Falls, Driving, and Driving Some More

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It took five days but I think the right side of my brain is finally starting to warm up nicely.  I’m finally starting to see shapes, colors, and light again in more than just an analytical, scientific way.

Limekiln Falls Hiking Trail

I went back to hike the Limekiln trail at Limekiln State Park at 0730. If you recall from yesterday, I hiked it when I arrived at the park in the early afternoon. The bright overhead sun made for a very contrasty scene in the forest – it was absolutely beautiful but doesn’t work well for all but the most expensive modern camera sensors. Unless your photographic style is all about contrast, which isn’t my bag. There was surprisingly no fog this morning, but the light was much better to compliment my style and there wasn’t a single other person on the trail.  I was rewarded with some of that diffused light I always hope for when in a forest.

As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, this is a fairly easy trail. The elevation gain is only 225 feet and the total round-trip distance is a mile and a half. This hike starts at the end of the redwood grove campsite, crosses a bridge over Limekiln Creek, and heads northwest. The trail is lined with massive redwood sorrel (like a giant clover) whose greens provides a great contrast to the reds of the trail and the trees. It follows Limekiln Creek for the entire hike and quickly comes to a signposted fork. You can continue straight to the lime kilns or make a right to Limekiln Falls.

limekiln creek

Creek crossing at the fork to go to Limekiln Falls

The spur to Limekiln Falls has a number of stream crossings. You can get by rock-hopping a couple of those crossings, but most of them require balance on felled logs and large branches. But don’t worry, none of them are high off the ground, rather just tall enough to help keep your feet dry. This trail follows a small canyon lined with bright green ferns and redwoods and you quickly get to the end of the canyon, presented with Limekiln Falls right in front of you. You can scramble up the rocks and dip in the pool, but it was a little chilly this morning so I opted to pass on that.

limekiln creek

limekiln creek

limekiln falls

limekiln falls

Follow this trail back down to the fork and then take a right to the lime kilns. This short trail gradually climbs with the west fork of Limekiln Creek. There is a large, felled log crossing the trail and the continuation of the trail itself isn’t obvious here; trust me, just climb over the log and you’ll pick it back up. The furnaces will be on your right and are roped off for safety.

These giant iron furnaces purified limestone in immensely hot fires starting in 1887. The lime was then transported to ships waiting offshore using a network of bridges, wagons, and wire cable slides. Lime was a key element in constructing the rapidly expanding port of San Francisco. The site itself was only open for three years when in 1890 the limestone deposit was played out, and the redwoods used to stoke the fires were all cut down. Logging was set to resume in the late 20th century but some efforts by conservation groups helped preserve the land, construct the trails, and handed the land off to California State Parks.

limekiln state park

limekiln state park


On northward

My Tepui rooftop tent was still soaked with dew when I returned from my hike. The sun was now up and drying it out, so I took my time with breakfast and coffee to give it some time.

As I drove out of the park the attendant asked, “where to next?” I replied with, “I don’t know. North.” It was true, I didn’t have a set destination, and there’s also something satisfying about saying that. I think it’s refreshing in this world of appointments, schedules, and smartphone reminder alerts. Years ago when I was ready to leave the marina in North Carolina to sail into the mighty Atlantic, people wanted to know where I was headed to first, expecting me to answer with a specific port. I’d always respond, “south, I think,” because that’s really all I wanted to hold myself to.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how long of a day this would turn into.

I continued north towards Big Sur and the fog started to roll in as soon as I left Limekiln. You can’t drive towards Big Sur without making the obligatory stop at McWay Falls, taking the same photo everyone else takes. So here you go, now with fog.

mcway falls

There wasn’t a lot going on in Big Sur. The entire coast was enveloped in a thick fog now, and I just kept my foot on the gas. I arrived in Carmel right around lunch, and you can’t pass through Carmel at lunchtime – or any other time for that matter – without stopping at the Hog’s Breath Inn. The burger and beer totally hit the spot.

The drive continued through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought about camping at the Marin Headlands but I kinda wanted to get further from the city, and I always love Point Reyes.

But I somehow missed the turn for the PCH and ended up staying on the 101. I realized this well after Marin, so I cut over to Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road, arriving at the Point Reyes visitor center just a few minutes after closing. This did not bode well for getting a camping permit.

I read the kiosk which was pretty clear that all same-day permits need to be issued during business hours. After-hours permits are only available to those who have already reserved them. The NPS ranger was walking to her car as I realized this, so I attempted to get a Mercy Permit.
“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m confused by this information – the first section says No After Hours Permits and then the next section says Permits After Hours. Does this mean that I can’t get a permit for tonight? I was really hoping to get a primitive site.”
“No, sorry, we can’t issue permits after hours.” Then we had an awkward moment to see who would flinch first. Okay, you win, I’m sure you want to go home.
“Alright, well I should be able to find somewhere else to camp tonight.” Pobrecito. I drove through the park anyways since I was there because you’ll always see something new.  Case in point:

roosevelt elk

Cattle and Roosevelt Elk at the farms at Pt Reyes National Seashore

roosevelt elk

Still north…

I kept driving north with limited camping options until I arrived closer to Bodega Bay. But by that point I couldn’t justify spending $35-$55 for a spot to pitch my tent in the dark only to pack it up early the next morning. My new mission became finding a spot off the side of the road to just rest my eyes for the night. I ended up well north of Bodega Bay at a vista point off the PCH. There was one other van in the parking lot. I was beat. I didn’t even get out of the driver’s seat. I just reclined it all the way and threw the unzipped sleeping bag over myself, falling asleep with the sound of the waves below me eroding the cliff I was parked on.

And now bringing this full circle to my first point – I didn’t have anywhere to be by any specific time today.  So why did I end up driving for so long, passing so many things and ending up sleeping in my car?

Your guess as to where I’ll end up tomorrow is as good as mine.

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