Three Waterfalls of Big BasinMay 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Day to Day, Mind and Spirit, Santa Cruz Commentary | 1 Comment
I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for more than twenty years and even though April is the best month to vacation here (yes, I do prefer it to October, and–honestly–don’t you?), it is usually the busiest month at work. This year I resolved not to miss April again and booked something fun to do every weekend. The third weekend of April I rented a tent cabin at Big Basin and hiked to the waterfalls. Did you know that Big Basin has waterfalls? Yes, there are several. The largest ones can be seen in a twelve-mile round trip hike. The hike I did is well-described on this page if you’re curious.
The best photos of the falls are already available to you on flickr.
Just like with shooting clay targets like I did yesterday, what I get out of hiking is the meditation. Long hours alone tend to inspire me to put my brain to sleep and practice sinking down into awareness of my body moving through the real world, a world of light and heat and matter and breath and fatigue.
And yes, I do like to hike and camp alone. I like being with friends too, but the solitude is necessary sometimes, and yes, it feels safe and not lonesome. The tent cabins lock well enough to keep the ‘coons out, and the steep rental fees keep out the human riff-raff. Being nearly fifty years old helps too, as I find age gives a woman a cloak of invisibility that I didn’t have when I was younger.
In addition to hiking to Golden, Silver, and Berry falls, I found a memorial plaque and bench that I had been told about long ago by Haswell Leask when I interviewed him about the history of my house. Our conversation ranged far beyond the house, however, and our interview is on-line. Haswell’s father was Samuel Leask, a prominent Santa Cruz merchant for more than 70 years. He told me this story:
Haswell: Didn’t I tell you about the Boardwalk stock that my father had at that time? My father was — any money that he accumulated he put back into the business. And he was never interested in stocks or business operations that were different from his own. Well, you’ve heard about the famous Santa Cruz character named Fred Swanton who was a developer. Never made a penny out of anything he ever started; everything he was involved in went broke and he did it all on other people’s money–-though he lived in pretty high style. Well, he had a great reputation in Santa Cruz. He was important because he started things. They were all failures.
The Casino, the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, went bankrupt under Swanton and the greatest debtor was the utility company, the gas and electric people. At that time it was called the Coast County Gas and Electric. The Boardwalk used tremendous amounts of power. The man that constructed the Coast County firm was Waldo Coleman. Waldo Coleman’s family were early Californians and they had a very successful gold mine up near Auburn. And my grandmother was probably the first school teacher in Placer County and she was a friend of the original Colemans. [mother's mother.] Waldo Coleman was some of these people, and the families had always been friendly but not too closely involved.
Well, Waldo Coleman was stuck with this place in Santa Cruz and didn’t know what to do it. He came to my father and asked if he would become a director. And of course it was an important thing in Santa Cruz. He wanted to see if they couldn’t pull it out. And he was interested in getting his money back. Well, they did, and then management that they utilized, I don’t know who they were, but they were very successful right from the very beginning.
But father remained a director in the business although he had absolutely no interest in that sort of thing. He remained a director for 50 years and finally he made them let him out at 90. Eventually he died. We, in going over his effects, we discovered some Seaside Company stock. Evidently he thought that if he was going to be a director that he ought to have a little stock. Well, I can imagine that he hated to buy it, because he never went into anything of that sort. And then it developed, that he had purchased the stock at $6 per share. He bought it right at the rock bottom. At that time we ask what the stock was worth. It developed it was worth about $700 a share. What would we do with this stuff? We can’t sell it because it would all go to taxes. You know, capital gains. The family pondered about it, and we made up our minds. We will try the use this up for things that my mother and father would appreciate spending the money for. So, as Edna said, the first thing was the carpets at Dominican Hospital. We took some of the rest of it, and we bought some acreage of redwood land and added it Big Basin Park.
I had always wondered about the location of the Leask family donation and the bench. In another interview, Haswell had told me that the parcel and the location of the bench had been chosen because it had a nice view. I imagined that this bench would be along the trail somewhere–Big Basin park is full of memorial groves and memorial benches in random places. So as I hiked, I looked for this bench at every one I passed.
It was just like Haswell, in his humble understated way, to not say to me that the premier bench in all of Big Basin Park, with its stunning view of Berry Falls, (the highest and most spectacular in the park) is seen from the Leask bench and this little section of land that his family donated to all of us with the money that their father had invested in the Boardwalk when it was bankrupt and disreputable. The passage of time seems erased to me when I uncover these invisible connections that bind us to the people in Santa Cruz’s past, who loved it exactly the way that we love it.