Mail Boxes heading towards San Gregorio

Mail Boxes heading towards San Gregorio

Back in November last year we set out to investigate the beaches and coastal access points on the San Mateo Coast. We didn’t have time to check out Pescadero State Beach so today that is our mission.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

At 7.30 we set off from home, driving first along Interstate 280 and Highway 84 to Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Blvd (see previous post). The weather forecast said it was going to be a nice day but we were driving through low fog up to 280. As we joined the freeway, the fog was gone. Ahead the Santa Cruz Mountains were clear, bright and bathed in early morning sunshine.

After breakfast we continued on 84 towards San Gregorio. I don’t think we have ever driven to the coast this way before. We either drive to Santa Cruz and turn north on Highway 1 or we take 280 to Highway 92 towards Half Moon Bay and then drive south on Highway 1. It is amazing how different everything looks driving the other way. It is a glorious day so that makes things look new and exciting.  At San Gregorio we turned right on Stage Coach Road.  We stopped so Tom could take some photos.  The view looking east, with rolling green hills, grazing cattle and distant hills was magnificent.

When we hit Highway 1 we turned south, driving past San Gregorio Beach and headed to Pescadero.  The ocean looked stunning.  At this time of

San Gregorio valley

San Gregorio valley

the year the whales are heading south on their yearly migration and although they are long way out, I kept my eyes skimmed for the odd water spout on the far horizon.

There are three car parks for Pescadero State Beach and we stopped at the first one.  From here, by crossing the road, there is a nice little trail round the lagoon and up the hill.  Today though we started by checking out the beach.  Ours was the only car in the car park.  Before we set off for the beach we filled out the self registration form and paid our $7 fee.  Normal price is $8 but we both can take advantage of the seniors rate.

As we walked towards the beach the sound of the surf was music to our ears.  Tom told me that there is a high surf warning at the moment and he advised me not to turn my back to the ocean if I was near the water.  A young girl was swept out to sea on the Sonoma coast recently.  Fortunately her parents saved her but it must have been a frightening experience for the family.

The beach is sandy and would be perfect for young children.  One word of advice though, the nearest place to buy refreshments is two miles away in Pescadero so take everything you need with you.  We had the place to ourselves.  Tom was busy taking photos and I wandered around.  There was a tiny lagoon and just one structure made from driftwood.  I found a handy log to sit on and sat in the sun enjoying the view.  The only thing disturbing the peace and quiet was its proximity to Highway 1 and the sound of passing cars.

We started walking south down the beach and rounded a small headland to a long stretch of sandy beach.  Still nobody else around, not even a dog with its owner.  There were lots of footsteps in the sand above the high watermark so there must have been plenty of visitors over the last couple of days.  As we walked we smelt something rather unpleasant.  Tom thought we might have walked through something a dog had left behind but the source soon revealed itself.  It was a dead seal.  It had been there some time and the only way we could tell it was a seal was by its flipper and the shape of the head.

There were a few more driftwood structures here.  One was not very high but it covered a largish area and was open.  Logs had been placed round in a sort of circle facing a bower like structure so obviously had been some sort of meeting place.  It is so beautiful here.  I can sit or stand, gazing out to sea for hours and hours watching the surf breaking just offshore and rolling in, with the sun catching and highlighting lots of different colors and shades in the water and watching the pelicans skimming the surface of the ocean.  There are no surfers here today but I’ sure this would be a great place to come.  Maybe they are all a bit further north at Half Moon Bay taking on the Mavericks.  It is usually at this time of the year the famous Mavericks meet takes pace.

I noticed there were a few other people around.  A group had arrived at the north end of the beach and to the south I could see a couple standing on the headland looking out to sea.

Further down the sand was strewn with driftwood.  What an adventure playground this would be for children.  They could spend hours building to their hearts content.  I’ve always wandered where the logs come from.  Some pieces are huge.  Are they carried in by the tide or are they washed downhill from the mountains by the streams and creeks which flow into the ocean?

I thought we could walk all the way to the most southerly car park but it wasn’t possible.  The Butano Creek empties into the ocean and it is too wide to wade through.  At this point, Highway 1 is a bridge across the creek.  It is possible to climb up to the highway but from where I stood it looks a bit dangerous to cross the bridge safely by foot.  What we did discover in the rocks of the headland was a small archway and we watched in fascination as the surf crashed and surged through it.

End of Part 1

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3 Responses to “Pescadero State Beach, Part 1”

  1. Sue says:

    Fascinating as ever.

    What/Who is/are the Mavericks please?

    S xxx

  2. Hi Sue

    Mavericks is where some the world’s biggest and most dangerous waves are to be found. Every winter the annual Mavericks Surf Contest is held and 24 of the world’s best surfers pit their skills against the big ones that can rise over 50 feet high, but nobody knows when the big waves will manifest themselves. A waiting period is declared some time in November and contestants from all over the world are given 24hours to get to Half Moon Bay for the contest. This year it was held on January 10. The waves break half a mile off the coast and it is difficult to view the event from the shore. For more information visit the official website of the Mavericks Surf contest – – there are some great photos and videos there.

  3. Sue says:

    Thanks very much for the info – and the web connection. Spectacular and terrifying! Have you actually seen them?
    I felt sure they were a band or group of people.

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