It’s the kind of idea that sounds so absurd that it must be tried out.

The past few days have been among the coldest on record in the Bay Area. Even though these temperatures dipping into the high 20s sound downright balmy to most folks enduring real live freeze-your-engine-block winters, they are nevertheless at the far extreme of what we’re used to around here.

The sane choice of a hiking locale in such weather is a nice sunny ridge among our many mountain ranges. The insane choice is along a canyon shaded by hundred-foot forest canopy which blots out every trace of solar warmth, and where the coldest of the cold air settles along the creekbed that runs next to the trail.

Such a locale was the Fall Creek Unit at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is where I joined Mike and Kathy and their hiking pals on Sunday for a FOMFOK hike along some of Mike’s favorite trails. Mike is fair-skinned and burns easily, so shady places like Fall Creek are right up his, uh, creek. Normally he and Kathy would take us on a waterfall hike at this time of year, but we’ve been rainless for weeks so the waterfalls aren’t much to look at. So Fall Creek is always a trusty fall-back.

It turned out to be a chilly fall-back, but we got over it. Compared to the pea-soup fog, blistering sun, driving rain and gale-force winds I’ve experienced on other outings, it wasn’t so bad.

But enough gabbing, check out the pictures:
The gang

The gang at the first major bridge over Fall Creek. It’s so shady, flash photography is mandatory, which bugs me because my flash always washes out the foreground and blacks out the background. I like it best when the sun does 99 percent of my work for me. Taking pictures in the shade requires things I go hiking to get away from, like thought and effort.

Up there, somewhere...

High above the trees, the sun’s warmth taunts us. The great thing about being a gigantic ball of flaming hydrogen that sustains life on planets 93 million miles away: people have no choice but to put up with your taunts.

The old lime kilns

A highlight of the Fall Creek Unit is these old stone lime kilns. Back in the Glory Days of American Capitalism, cutting down a thousand-year-old forest to extract lime from the hillsides was just how things were done. Fortunately, the Glory Days of Capitalism have relocated to Communist China, and it’s their thousand-year-old forests getting cut down these days.

Kristin at the old watering trough...

Kristin checks out goldfish living in an old stone watering trough. Yeah, somebody hiked up here with goldfish in those little bags from the pet store and gave them new homes here. (This, incidentally, is precisely the kind of attempted cleverness that has unintended consequences: somehow the goldfish get into the creek nearby; they eat up all the little fish they find there, causing the next-bigger fish to starve, causing the salmon to starve, causing the fishermen downriver to abandon their boats and become real estate salesmen. Next thing you know, civilization collapses.)

The goldfish

Some of said goldfish. They seemed like they must be getting enough to eat — none of ’em touched the bits of food we tossed in the water. With any luck they’ll go belly-up soon and an environmental catastrophe can be averted.

Fall Creek

The creek, falling.


Roots in a little cavern along the trail.

A the barrel works

Dave from Des Moines admires old barrel-making machinery that’s been busy rusting on this spot for several decades. Enterprising firearms enthusiasts have shot a bunch of holes in the side of this tubular contraption.

Inside the barrel

Here’s the inside of it. Cool eh?

Scary, eh?

One of my “let’s get funky with that ornery old flash” shots. Melissa says this’ll go on all the Halloween cards she mails out this year.

Fun with a flash

Here’s another one.

The woods, the creek

I’d call this a more-or-less representative shot of Fall Creek from along the trail nearby.

So, it was a cold Sunday morning following a very-cold Saturday night. Fall Creek was probably the coldest place for 50 miles in any direction. And this is why it’s so great to live in the Bay Area: the coldest place to be on the coldest day of the year does not rule out a refreshing 8- or10-mile tramp through the woods, no matter how crazy the idea might sound.