Hiking and Camping
Hiking on Your Own
Berry Creek Falls
The Maddock Cabin circa 1930
What to see Opal Creek(1), Maddocks cabin site(2), old growth redwoods
Trail head location Parking lot across from park headquarters at the large Redwood Trail Marker. Continue past the restrooms and cross the bridge over Opal Creek.
Length 3 miles
Time 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Elevation Approximately +/- 200 feet
On Your Own
Hike down to the Maddock’s cabin site for a unique and historical stroll through beautiful old-growth redwoods. The route takes you along Opal Creek on the Skyline to the Sea Trail. As you follow the creek toward the site where Tom Maddock’s cabin once stood, imagine the life of a California Redwood Pioneer.
Tom and Alice Maddock with family
The cabin, just four miles from park headquarters, was built in the spring of 1883 by Tom and his 11-year-old son, John, with boards from a single redwood tree. Father and son felled a nearby redwood with an axe and hewed from it 24-foot foundation beams. They were shifted without the aid of machinery, horses, or oxen. Instead of bricks, Maddock used mud for his fireplace and chimney. His ingenuity alone provided the family with needed shelter and a means of survival.
The family planted an orchard and a vegetable garden. They fished in Opal Creek and picked huckleberries. Alice Maddock prepared venison, fish, fruits, and vegetables for her family. She remained courageous and determined as she faced life in the wilderness. Grizzly bears were a constant threat, and the ordeal of childbirth on her own while her husband was away on business must have been difficult indeed. In later years, a trail was cut through the forest, and semi-weekly excursions by horse began from Boulder Creek to Pescadero. Alice’s children recall these as her happiest years. She delighted in cooking for guests. Early frontier life was coming to an end. The Maddocks enjoyed contact with the surrounding communities as well as the goods that for so many years they had done without.
Stroll alongside towering redwoods, tanoak, huckleberry, and ferns bordering Opal Creek. (The nutrient-rich creek is named for its opalescent shimmer.) Look for the growling pacific giant salamander (that grows up to twelve inches long!) as well as fish, newts, and other creatures familiar to the Maddocks. Creek areas are the best place to see birds at sunrise and sunset. Listen for the acorn woodpecker, the deep caw of the raven, and the high-pitched shriek of the ever-present Steller’s jay. Other notable birds include the dark-eyed junco (a sparrow-like bird with a black hood), the adorable pigmy nuthatch, California quail, and the western tanager (a black and yellow bird with a red head, if male, or a green head, if female).
Once at the Maddock cabin site, you can continue along the Skyline to the Sea Trail to the Sequoia Trail or double back to park headquarters. The Skyline to the Sea Trail and North Escape Road both run parallel to Opal Creek. While North Escape Road is a paved fire road, it also follows the creek, taking you through stunning redwood groves.
Look for the California slender slamander (above, 2 inches)
and banana slugs (below, 4 inches) as you walk along Opal Creek.
Dogs (on leash) - North Escape Road
While dogs are not allowed on the trails, you can walk along the paved fire roads in the park, North Escape Road is a paved fire road that runs north, parallel to Opal Creek. This is a fabulous route for dogs and much of it is closed to automobile traffic. Explore the deep shade of the redwood forest along Opal Creek as you and your dog experience Big Basin’s unique environment.
As you travel south on North Escape Road toward park headquarters, keep your eye out for a striking example of a 19th century logging method. On the left side of the road, not far from the picnic area, look for a large stump with narrow wedge-like cuts in it. Planks were placed in the wedges; loggers stood on the planks in order to cut the tree at the height they desired.
© Copyright 2009 Jonathan and Kelly Knowles