I had nothing to gain from this hike: I’ve already written a column about Big Basin for the Mercury News; the forecast called for rain all day; and it was with a group of over a dozen people, and I generally prefer walking alone.

I went because a) Vindu from work invited me along; and b) it was a chance to see Little Basin, a forested tract Hewlett Packard once owned to keep up its troops’ morale. It was private property unavailable to mere mortals. Well, it still is, only now it’s owned by the Sempervirens Fund, which bought the land from H-P last year (with help from the Peninsula Open Space Trust). The fund hopes to transfer the land to Big Basin someday but for now, the only way to see it (legally) is to accompany Sempervirens docents on a guided hike.

Come to think of it, I don’t care much for guided tours, either. Naturally, with so much going against it, the hike was a pure delight (a damp one, but still worth doing).

The three Sempervirens docents knew these woods like nobody else. Steve, a very large guy, had an encyclopedic knowledge of edible mushrooms and other forest fungi. Dave, smaller and bit more reserved, told us how the redwoods have survived despite massive human depredations. John, the third, walked “sweep” and made sure nobody got lost.

I’d hike with these guys again in a heartbeat. Vindu also invited a bunch of folks from Bay Area Linkup — which always makes for great fun as members try to persuade new folks to join despite the, shall we say, idiosyncratic methods of the outfit’s founder. As long as Vindu invites me along on these hikes, I can think impure thoughts to my heart’s content and save $6 a month.

Time now for some pictures:

Vindu coming up the hill

Vindu, left, works his way uphill with some of this BAL brethren.

Dave the Docent on redwood reproduction

At one of the Big Basin campgrounds, Dave the docent points out the male and female parts of a fallen redwood branch (I’m not sure which was which).

Looking skyward at an ancient redwood

Another in my series of less-than-original shots looking skyward at an ancient redwood (I thought the bark in the foreground looked pretty cool on this one).

Father of the forest

Father of the Forest, the fattest tree at Big Basin.

Gnarly knobs

Cool burls on another of the ancients.

Really roughing it

We broke for lunch at the park HQ in embarrassing comfort — warm fire and everything. It would be the last feeling of warmth for some time.

Back on the trail

Back on the trail, a madrone branch snakes past a tree trunk.

Not much of a view

On clear days the view is excellent from here.

Buzzard's Roost

We made our way up to Buzzard’s Roost, where wind and rain isn’t such a bad thing: it cools you down after the 1,200-foot climb to get up there.

Navigating past a fallen tree

The weather was good and nasty as we threaded our way through this fallen tree on the way back to Little Basin.

So, those are the highlights. I’ll close with a plug for the Sempervirens folks — they lead a bunch of hikes in the Santa Cruz Mountains on lands the Fund owns, and the only way to see it is to go along on their hikes. Here’s a list of some coming up soon. Also, their Santa Cruz Mountains maps are worth a look.

Here’s a Little Basin gallery, if you’re curious.