A Five Finger Falls Brick

July 20, 2013

It was the 50th anniversary of the event which sparked my enduring fascination with astronomy - a partial eclipse of the sun on July 20, 1963, which unfolded just as the predictions said, and the rationality and majesty of it all captured my imagination, and satisfied a deep need in me, at the tender age of 10 years old. To celebrate today, I would return to a place of beauty which I had not seen in ~25 years - Five Finger Falls, at a remote upper corner of Aptos Creek in Nicene Marks State Park, and about the most remote location accessible by running trail inside this large state park. I'd last visited this spot with Cabrillo instructor Sandy Lydon, taking his course "The History of Nicene Marks State Park" in 1988. The next year, was the great Loma Prieta Earthquake, and sometime thereafter, a huge landslide cutoff this area of the park from the lower trail up Aptos Creek.

Next weekend is the Donner Lake Triathlon, which I'm signed up for. It was time to do a "brick" (bike+run) to get ready for the transition from bike to run. Tough especially for me, with my chronic psoas tendinitis over my metal resurfaced hip, which is contracted during the bike portion. A month earlier, I wasn't even able to get out of the transition zone out onto the run before my psoas tendon inflammed. I don't want that to happen again. And, I wanted to do something adventurous today. My solution - don my CamelBak and ride from home out to Nicene, and up the fire road to the Epicenter, where the Aptos Creek Trail begins. Lock up my bike, and run up to the trail's end at Five Finger Falls, and back, and bike back home. 28 miles of cycling, 8.5 miles of very hilly running.

I arrive at the trailhead at the "epicenter" sign. Bike to run transition!

First creek crossing

A century old railroad cut through the hill, now home to this trail

Leaping a stream cut

This is the new bridge - a log shaved off on one side, spanning the abyss

Imagine doing this on a mountain bike - I saw almost a dozen on the run. After this, was an unending series of steep switchbacks. I'd forgotten how steep this trail is. At the top of the ravine...

...Huh? Monte Vista Falls? What's that? Did they rename Five Fingers Falls? Did some guy named Monte Vista donate to the Park??

Crossing another creek. It was just gorgeous here in the upper reaches of the creek basin. A delight to run.

Grab shot on a rickety bridge over another little creek.

Eventually the trail re-joins Aptos Creek. Some welcome fresh cold stream water to splash on, and drink deep.

A boggy spot, bridged by convenient redwood rounds

The going gets slow, as the canyon gets really narrow and steep. I have a feeling the trail's about to end

A moment later - Five Finger Falls, as the memory of it comes back in a rush. A 25 ft fall into a swimming hole, which empties into Aptos Creek right behind me. That water looks very cool...

That's better! In up to my knees.

I'd made a sandwich for this highlight moment of the run - mayo on 3-seed sourdough, sprinkled with fresh basil buds, sage flower and cherry tomatoes all from my deck garden, and kale. Time to drink up and fuel up.

Swimming in the swimming hole - newts!

At this point, my camera battery was done. End of shoot. A quick run back, mount the bike, and back along Soquel Drive to Santa Cruz. A great day in the wilds!