|Hiking along the Berry Creek Falls Trail|
|Turkey Tail fungi clinging to a rotting log, watched over by non-native Forget-Me-Nots|
|Horsetail and alders along Waddell Creek|
The trail was very peaceful once I passed Rancho Del Oso, which was buzzing with farm equipment and littered with invasive weeds. I didn't see another hiker until about three hours into the hike on the return trip. While I love solitude, the isolation did make me feel a little uneasy. I kept imagining how I would ward off an attacking mountain lion. Luckily, I had birds, banana slugs and newts to occupy my mind and keep me company. I found myself constantly looking down at the path to make sure I didn't crush any tiny brave souls as they attempted a trail crossing.
|A California newt heads for shelter under a canopy of Redwood Sorrel|
|Berry Creek Falls|
Beyond Berry Creek Falls the trail narrows and climbs past Silver Falls, The Cascades and Golden Falls. This is the most scenic portion of the trail, but also the most popular, so you'll likely be sharing the experience with others. My favorite part was a steep section of damp stairs that climbed right next to Silver Falls, like a mini version of Yosemite's Mist trail.
|Near the Cascades in happier times, before my body started falling apart|
The return trip was mostly uneventful, though I seemed to hit a wall with about 3 miles left on the trail. My feet and lower back really started aching and my water supply was running low. By the time I reached the Waddell Beach ranger station, I had registered about 30,000 steps and was about ready to collapse. Luckily there was a beautiful soft sandy beach there to catch me as I crumpled to the ground with my backpack.
|Waddell Beach, final destination on the Skyline to Sea trail|