The premise

Every once in awhile, I have these crazy ideas that I just can’t shake. Gene’s company was running a monthly steps competition, and in order to put Gene in the lead, I suggested we do a very long day hike. After some discussion, we agreed to do the Skyline-to-the-Sea, which a two-day backpacking trip from the Castle Rock through Big Basin to the ocean.

The plan

This trip required a bit more planning than your average hike. I had to manage our time, ensure we had transportation there and back (it’s a point-to-point hike and didn’t want to mess with two cars), and the right supplies and food.

Time management

I planned that we would hike about 2 miles per hour and therefore determined the following mile markers to ensure that we would stay on track throughout the day:

  • 6 am: mile 0 - Castle Rock headquarters
  • 7 am: mile 2 - Castle Rock Trail camp
  • 9 am: mile 6 - Saratoga Toll road
  • 11 am: mile 10 - Waterman Gap
  • 1 pm: mile 14 - China Grade crossing
  • 3 pm: mile 18 - Big Basin headquarters
  • 5 pm: mile 22 - Berry Creek falls
  • 8 pm: mile 28 - Waddell beach

Also, a big shoutout to that was instrumental in providing detailed maps and elevation gain/loss for this trip!


We decided to take a ride-share to the starting location and get picked up by our friend at the end, but since there was no reception in Big Basin, we planned to check-in with him around mile 18 using a payphone at headquarters.

Supplies and food

Since we planned to be about 14 hours on the trail, I wanted to be more prepared in case we got stuck in the wilderness because of injury or fatigue. Therefore, I packed our backpacking first aid kit, multiple layers, headlamps, emergency blankets, and water filter.


After a strange ride with our Lyft driver–I think he was surprised to pick up two hikers so early in the morning–we started around 6am. We watched the world wake up around us as we hiked the Saratoga Gap trail, and we were ahead of schedule when we reached Waterman Gap at 10am.

However, we lost our time advantage by China Grade crossing because of the few miles of steep incline. The trail to the headquarters was a welcome change, and we were able to quickly move downhill, reaching headquarters by 2:30pm. With the extra thirty minutes, we checked in with our friend, rested and took care of blisters, drank an energy drink and were back on the trail by 3pm.

Miles 18 to 22 were by far the worst miles. Until then, I was in high spirits, excited by what I had already accomplished, but I think either my body had run out of endorphins, my perception of distance was warped, or I was suffering from inertia after resting. Regardless, those 4 miles felt like the longest of the entire trip.

We didn’t even bother to stop at the waterfalls as we were quite exhausted and ready to be done with the hike so we continued drudging towards Waddell beach. I started to get stiff towards the end of the hike because I had stopped my stretching regime at every fourth mile. We got to the beach around 7:30pm, just in time to see the sunset and take our victory photos.

In 13 and a half hours, we had just hiked 28 miles, and even with 54,000 steps, Gene still didn’t win the steps competition.