Big Basin

Boulder Creek
Sunday, Sept. 24, 2000

Contact: Dan Greene, 408-732-4818

With its awe-inspiring redwood forests, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is probably our most dramatic orienteeering venue, and it certainly offers some of the most technically and physically challenging orienteering in the Bay Area. This year we will be returning to the intricate terrain in the western part of the map, where many of the larger fallen redwoods (that can be both obstacles and navigational aids) are individually mapped!


Nick Corsano has designed advanced courses (Brown, Green, Red, Blue) that I think you will find *very* technically challenging, and yet physically slightly less demanding than usual for Big Basin. They are a bit on the short side in order to achieve standard running times. The advanced courses will use electronic punching, so be sure to bring your SportIdent finger stick. (If you don't have one, they can be rented at registration for $2.)

Mark Rice's beginner and intermediate courses (White, Yellow, Orange) are well pitched to require the appropriate level of good navigation skills without the risk of getting seriously lost (unlike the advanced courses!). White, Yellow, and Orange will have standard manual punching.

Course  Navigational    Physical        Length  Climb   Number of
        Difficulty      Difficulty      (km)     (m)    Controls
------  ------------    ------------    ------  -----   --------
White   Beginner        Easy            1.7      30     10
Yellow  Adv beginner    Fairly easy     2.3      80     10
Orange  Intermediate    Moderate        2.8     140     14
Brown   Advanced        Moderate        2.5     215     10
Green   Advanced        Difficult       3.3     240     13
Red     Advanced        Very difficult  4.3     315     18
Blue    Advanced        Very difficult  6.1     430     24
Newcomers to orienteering should sign up for either the White or Yellow course, depending on your energy level and amount of experience with topographical maps. You are welcome to sign up for a second course (time permitting) after finishing the first one.

As usual, registration is open 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, with start times from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm. If you're new to orienteering, be sure to take a beginner's clinic. If you're an inexperienced orienteer looking to improve, we are also offering an intermediate skills clinic at this event. Both clinics will be offered 9:30-10:30 am, so you can bone up before heading out on your course.

NOTE: You must complete your course within 3 hours or by 2:00 pm (course close), whichever is sooner! If, for any reason, you do not complete your course, you still must check in at the finish, so that we know you've returned safely - otherwise, we have to initiate a search-and-rescue effort.

In the meantime, you can test your Big Basin knowledge with our Control Site Quiz. (420k PDF file; if you can't view it, download the free Acrobat Reader.)


All courses will have a remote start. It is about 1.2 km (3/4 of a mile) from registration, with a climb of 120 meters (400 feet). The closest restrooms are located near registration. There will be water at the start. From the registration area, you will cross the bridge over the creek, go left and follow the streamers.

White course participants will get their maps when they register. Yellow and Orange will pick up their maps at the start. For these three courses, the start triangle on the map is located at the starting line.

For the advanced courses, the e-punch Clear and Check stations are at the remote start. At your starting time, you will punch the Start control (your timing starts then) and follow streamers about 100 m to the maps. The start triangle is at the map location.


White and Yellow courses finish back downhill, across the creek from the registration area. All other courses will have a remote finish (about a 15-minute downhill walk).

For the advanced courses, the final e-punch control is located at the remote finish. Your time is computed at this point. You will still have to punch in at the download station, located by the White/Yellow finish. Follow the streamers back to the download station and registration area.


The operative word is "steep." We have done our best to keep the amount of climb within reason, and have shortened courses to compensate. Most of the map is white, but the actual terrain varies considerably. Some is delightfully runnable (recent fires in some areas have cleared away a lot of the vegetation and debris). Much, however, is covered with such a deep and tangled layer of branches that forward progress can be slow and tricky.


Just as the redwoods are the most prominent feature of the park, they provide the distinctive character of the map. If you have not orienteered at Big Basin before, here is a quick recap of the mapping and control description conventions we are using.

A distinctive feature of the redwood forests are the "rings": circular formations of these giant trees. They are formed when new trees sprout from the roots of an old tree. After the old tree falls and decays and the new trees mature over many decades, the ring is formed. Many of the most distinctive rings are shown on the map as a circle (or oval or arc) of small black dots. For a control description the special "O" symbol is used.

When redwoods fall, they are usually uprooted. Their roostocks, looking like enormous-yet-intricate, many-armed abstract sculptures, dot the hillsides. They are mapped as brown X's. Other times, the trunks break off, leaving jagged stumps. The stumps are mapped as green X's. Both the rootstocks (roots in the air) and the stumps (roots in the ground) are shown with the rootstock symbol (a circled X) on the clue sheets. These features are the most frequently used control sites on the advanced courses.

The downed trees themselves, when they are longer than 35 meters and of large enough diameter to create an obstacle, are mapped as thin black lines. The angle and length of the lines are scaled representations of the down trees. Some shorter downed trees (less than 35 meters) are mapped when they are distinctive, or when they are in an unusual arrangement with longer trees. When used as control locations (which is seldom), the lone tree symbol with the "ruined" qualifier is used.

While this area was mapped very carefully, and we have made lots of refinements this year, you will still find many of these features, as well as small clearings and patches of denser vegetation, that are not mapped.

A final note on map symbols: The black X (person-made object) usually denotes either a bench or a small wooden sign identifying a memorial grove of trees. The bench is the more common in the vicinity of the White and Yellow courses, the sign is more common elsewhere.

We have observed the new IOF standard that no controls are placed on similar features within 60 meters of each other.


Poison oak: The advanced courses will encounter a smattering of poison oak on their northernmost sections (and Red and Blue also on their westernmost sections). The plants are seldom more than knee-high, but standard precautions should be observed.

Wasps: A large purple "W" on the map marks the approximate location of a known nest of wasps. None of us have encountered any while doing field work for this event. The Orange course comes within about 150 m of the location.

Sudden oak death syndrome: A hazard not to us, but to the trees of the park. To help save the trees, be to clean your shoes and other gear before coming to the park and before leaving for home.


Once you reach park headquarters, enter the parking area ($3 fee required), and follow the O signs and the road north until you reach the registration. Park along the road just beyond the registration area.

Basic directions: Take I-880 or I-280 to Highway 17, and go south over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Exit at Mt. Hermon Road in Scott's Valley, and go right 3 miles to Highway 9. Turn right, proceed about 6 miles to the town of Boulder Creek. Turn left on Highway 236, and go 9 miles to park headquarters.

There is no shortage of alternative routes. Here are a few member favorites:

Coming from the East Bay? Cross the San Mateo Bridge and continue on Hwy 92 up to I-280, then go south. Exit I-280 at Woodside Road (Hwy 84), and follow that through Woodside and up the mountain to Skyline Blvd (Hwy 35). Turn left and follow Skyline until you reach Hwy 9. Turn right on Hwy 9 and then follow the above directions to reach the park.

From the West or South Bay, a shorter, scenic, and winding alternative to Hwy 17 is to take Hwy 85 to the Sunnyvale-Saratoga exit (also known as S. DeAnza Blvd.), go south to reach the town of Saratoga, and then turn right on Highway 9 (Big Basin Way). Follow this two-lane road up, over, and down the mountain, about 13 miles in total, to the north end of Hwy 236. Go right and follow 236 about 8 miles to park headquarters.

Another even shorter (and a bit less windy) alternative: Exit Hwy 17 at Bear Creek Road (3 mi south of Los Gatos). Take Bear Creek for 11 miles, all the way to the town of Boulder Creek. Bear Creek Rd ends at a t-intersection with Hwy 9. Turn left onto 9, go about 0.1 miles, and then turn right onto Hwy 236. From there, it is about 9 miles to park HQ. It takes just under 40 minutes to drive the 20 miles from Hwy 17 & Bear Creek Rd to park HQ.

Coming from San Francisco or Marin? Follow I-280 south and then choose any one of the above options for getting from it to the park.