Archive for the 'Special Places' Category
Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose
Today we took a bike ride on the northern end of the Guadalupe River Trail. Tom and I have ridden the southern end, which is called the Upper Guadalupe River Trail from Chynoweth to Almaden Lake but have never attempted the lower end. The Guadalupe River starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flows northwards to the San Francisco Bay at Alviso. The Guadalupe River Trail more or less follows my route to work and recently parts of it have been paved over. It now runs continuously from the heart of San Jose to Alviso.
It was early when we started out and even though the sun was up, it felt a little chilly. We drove into San Jose along Monterey/Route 82 to Woz Way. We thought parking would be easy on a Sunday but we were wrong. There were a couple of car parks open but one charged $5 and the other $7, so we decided to park on the street somewhere. Finding a street where parking was allowed was impossible but we were lucky to find a parking meter right next the the trail. As it was Sunday, parking was free so we lucked out.
When I checked the route the night before it looked as if the trail ran along each side of the river but I was wrong. We started on the west side, riding through a little park with the purple painted Children’s Discovery Museum on our left hand side. It was all very pretty with information boards along the way and an elegant footbridge in the center of San Jose. The trail on the west petered out and we had to negotiate a couple of hairpin bends to cross over the river and join the trail on the other side.
It was interesting to ride through parts of San Jose I had never seen before and there were a number of parks along the way. For the most part it was picturesque. When we passed under Highway 87 we spotted a pair of ducks busily supervising their nine ducklings. There was a more depressing side of it as well as we passed a number of homeless people asleep in their sleeping bags with all their possessions next to them in shopping carts under the bridges and underpasses.
Giant hands covering a parking garage at the San Jose Airport
We passed the HP Pavilion – home of the Sharks – on our left as we rode through another park called Arena Green. Here there was a big children’s playground which also had a carousel. Sadly, due to the budget cuts, it has been temporarily closed down. We saw a sign ahead which said ‘Trail Detour Ahead” and once again we had to dog leg up and cross to the other side. We could see why there was a detour because an event was being set up with stalls. We never did find out what the event was for even though I checked online when I got home. I discovered there was a Fantasy Fair being held somewhere on the Guadalupe River Trail that day or it could have been something to do with ‘Little Italy’ which we cycled through shortly afterwards. I never knew there was an area or, to be more precise, three areas close by, in San Jose called Little Italy. We passed a few restored houses where new businesses were opening up. Might be worth doing a walk around the area one day.
Once again we found ourselves crossing over to the other side. After we had cycled under Coleman Avenue we found ourselves in an area called Guadalupe Gardens where a maze of trails intersected. By following the broken yellow line in the middle of the trail, we were able to stay on course. It is here that the Heritage Rose Garden can be found. Yet another trip of discovery to be made in the future.
Once passing under Taylor Street we encountered more trails off to the left. On my way home from work in the evening, I drive down Coleman and through the middle of San Jose and never knew this trail even existed. To think there is this oasis of peace between Coleman and the ever busy Highway 87. Until recently there was a huge homeless camp between the trail and Coleman Avenue but about a month ago it was completely cleared away and there appears to be no trace of it left. I wonder where they all went? About the time we cycled under Hedding Street, we caught our first whiff of jet fuel and knew we were approaching San Jose Airport.
Before long we were passing under 880 and the end of the runway. We saw a sign showing how much parking cost at the airport. Would you believe it costs $30 an hour to park but it is only $22 to park all day. I know which car park to head for in the future. (I found out afterwards that the sign is misleading. $30 is the daily maximum in the hourly lot). Soon we were passing the parking structure. This building has received a lot of criticism since it was built in 2010 not only because public parking is only available on the first level (rental cars take up all the other floors) but also for the public art on the outside. It depicts a lot of hands gesturing either ‘welcome’ or ‘farewell’. I’ve read that some people find it creepy saying it looks more like ghoulish hands rising from the grave. For the record, I quite like it because it is different. For the last few years I have passed it many times on Highway 87 but today I was able to view it much closer. Tom noticed that there are two layers to the artwork. The mesh behind is just a back drop and the hands are made up with white plastic disks, 368,718 of them to be precise. The artist is Christian Moeller and the hands were modelled by Silicon Valley residents.
Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso
We continued parallel with the runway and rode past the terminals. The trail crossed a bridge and we were once again on the east side of the Guadalupe River. Then we rod under 101 and suddenly we were in the country, or so it seemed. On our right we had a huge expanse of green fields and the river flowed serenely on our left. As we rounded a bend we spotted a blue heron standing motionless in the river. We must have startled him as he took off and disappeared. There were ducks swimming around and a couple of pairs of Canadian Geese were noisily calling to each other. The sun was shining and it was a pleasure to be out enjoying our exercise.
The next underpass was at Trimble Road. It was here in 2005 that the fossilized bones of a Columbian Mammoth were found. They are on exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. It was on this stretch of the trail that we passed the back of the old Rockwell Collins facility in San Jose which closed down a few years ago. In my previous job I visited the place on many occasions and it brought back many memories including the BBQs which were held at the rear of the building. The building has remained unoccupied since then and it is sad to see.
We turned back when we reached Montague Expressway. Our intention is to return soon to finish the journey from here to the mouth of the Guadalupe River in Alviso.
April 28 2013 | Neighborhoods and Special Places | No Comments »
Tamales Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore
There was no doubt our bed at the National Seashore Lodge was comfortable but the room became really hot during the night. We woke at 7, at which time Tom got up, had a shower, got dressed and went out to take some photographs. I set about seeing if I could turn down the heat, which I did. I also managed to open the windows on either side of the door. At least we would be a bit cooler on our second night.
When Tom returned I was up and dressed and then we went to have breakfast. The Lodge does provide a continental breakfast and we sat and chatted with a young couple who were in Point Reyes to attend a wedding.
We left just after 8.30 and turned left onto Bear Valley Road, drove past the Visitors Center and then left again onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The temperature was a chilly 46 when we left but the sun was up and shining and there was no fog. We were heading towards the northern end of Point Reyes to hike the Tomales Point Trail, so were pleased it looked like it would be a good day.
Our journey took us through Inverness. We saw the old boat stuck in the mud just offshore which was slowly becoming more decrepit but we didn’t stop. Tomales Bay looked fantastic. The tide was in and the water glistened in the sun. There were lots of ducks and other wading birds out on the water plus a couple of egrets patiently waiting to catch their breakfast. Tom did stop just past Inverness to take some photos.
Pierce Point Ranch
The view of Point Reyes Beach on the way to Pierce Point Ranch
Not too far from Inverness, we turned right on Pierce Point Road. Almost immediately, off to our left, we had a marvelous view of the blue ocean. The grass and hills were a brilliant green but in a couple of months they will be brown. It is just over 11 miles from Inverness to Pierce Point Ranch and the ride is very scenic with glimpses of Tomales Bay off to the right, the rolling green hills on either side of the road and the occasional historic ranches. No wonder it is called the Pastoral Zone. Early American settlers started dairy farming in Point Reyes in the 1850s and towards the end of that century the production of butter and cheese was a huge business. Now there are still a few dairy ranches operating from several of the historic ranches and even more ranches where beef cattle is raised. The only people living in this vast area are the folks working on the farms and there are certainly more cattle than people. Twice on our journey we saw two cows, in two different locations, which had escaped and were happily grazing alongside the road.
Old rusty farm equipment at Pierce Point Ranch.
We crossed a cattle grid and entered the Tule Elk Reserve. When dairy farms were first established in the 1800s tule elk were abundant and roamed freely in California but extensive hunting and the introduction of cattle nearly wiped them out. Tule Elk were thought to be extinct but a small herd of 30 were discovered in Southern California in the 1870s. This small heard were preserved and, from that small number, tulle elk have been reintroduced to many areas in California, including Point Reyes. Not long after entering the reserve we spotted our first group of elk off to the left. We considered ourselves fortunate as sometimes we don’t see any at all.
Pierce Point Ranch appeared as we cornered a bend. With the huge Monterey Cypresses in the background, the white painted buildings stood out. It looked as if they had been given a lick of paint since our last visit but it was an illusion.
There is a small car park at the ranch which appeared full but we found a space. It also serves as the car park for the Tomales Point Trail and we knew most of the occupants of the cars would be hiking. We rarely see many people visiting the ranch itself and today was no exception. The buildings are surrounded by a wooden, grey weathered fence with a grassed area in the middle. The farmhouse is off right at the back.
Margaret catching up on her writing at Pierce Point Ranch.
The first building to catch your attention is the barn. It is possible to investigate the dark interior because plenty of light comes in through the door and between the cracks. It isn’t possible to go inside any of the other buildings but you can peep through the windows. There is a bunkhouse, milking parlor, calf shed, school room and a machine shop. Farm equipment is quietly rusting away and adorned with creeping weeds.
Tom was busy taking photos so I sat on the (very uncomfortable) steps of the bunkhouse, took out my iPad and started writing.
Tomales Point Trail
Calla lily leaves along the Tamales Point Trail. This is a black and white version.
The trail is 4.7 miles long and ends at the very end of the peninsula. Then, of course, it is a 4.7 mile walk back to the beginning. As I was busy tapping away, Tom started off on the trail before me. When I caught up with him he was just off the trail photographing calla lilies. We chatted a bit but I then decided to carry on walking because I knew he would want to stop every so often to take photos. My plan was to walk until I came to a bench. I would then sit down, do some writing and wait for Tom to catch up with me.
I know this trail is ablaze with wildflowers in the late spring but spring is just around the corner and although there were a few wildflowers here and there they could not be described as a ‘blaze of color’. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the views were outstanding. At this early stage of the walk the views were all of the ocean, where sparkling white caps where sprinkled on the bright blue water. McClure Beach, with it’s sandy beach, shimmered to the south and beyond that Point Reyes Bay curved all the way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. From the trail though I could not see the lighthouse but I it knew it was there.
The time was just 10 o’clock and there was just one couple ahead of me. It was nice to know that there were other people around just in case a mountain lion appeared (an information board at the start of the trail said that mountain lions have been spotted in the area). It would be thrilling to see one but not when I’m walking on my own. I was on the lookout for more elk.
I really enjoyed striding out there on my own and got a bit carried away. When I looked at my watch I realized that it had been an hour since I had last seen Tom. At that point I was climbing up probably the steepest part of the trail. I kept looking back to see if I could see him in the distance. As I was quite high, I could see a fair way back on the trail. At the top of the hill I found a convenient rock to sit on – amazingly there had not been one bench on the trail at all. From my vantage point, and with the aid of my binoculars, I scrutinized the trail. There were quite a few people on their way but I couldn’t Tom. I expected him to be easy to spot because he would be on his own and carrying his tripod, but he did not appear. Every so often I would check out to sea just in case I could spot any water spouts from whales. I also passed the time by greeting folks as they passed. After half an hour there was still no sign of Tom. Every now and again I would ask someone whether they had passed a lone photographer with a tripod. Most people had but then the answers started to be ‘no’.
Herd of tule elk I came across just over a hill. I was some ways off but they immediately knew I was there.
Maybe he had gone back to the car. It was no use trying to phone him because I had no signal on my phone which, of course meant he could not ring me either. It was time to walk back to find out where he was. After less than half a mile I spotted him climbing uphill and was mighty glad to see him. The reason folks had been saying they hadn’t seen him was because he had gone off the trail for a while. He had spotted what he thought might be an elk and went to investigate. Sure enough, he discovered a whole herd of them. They were some distance away and when they became aware off him he backed off. The big stag guarding his harem kept his beady eyes on him.
We carried on walking together, stopping every now and than to admire the view when we found a handy rock to sit on. From our lofty position we could see not only the ocean off to our left but the whole panorama of Tomales Bay to our right. Several little boats were out on the water and we could even see the traffic on the far side of the bay.
We didn’t make it to the end of the trail but estimated we had walked at least half of the 4.7 miles when we decided to turn back. At the point we decided it was time to turn back, we could see the end of the point, the entrance to Tomales Bay and Dillion Beach over to the right.
A bull tule elk checking us out.
We had amazing luck just after we started our return journey as we spotted a group of tule elk not far away off to our right. Just after we passed them we had stopped to admire the view once again. When we glanced back the elk were crossing the trail. It was a large group of elk and most of them moved fairly quickly. Some of them lagged behind a little, or maybe they were just stopping to admire the view as well. Eventually they had all crossed and had regrouped. That was the highlight of our day.
The one thing we both commented on as we made our way back to the start that were now far more people on the trail. It was almost a constant stream. Who can blame them though. On such a beautiful day, what better place to be than walking on Point Reyes.
The car park was really full when we finally got back to it. Cars were parked along the road for as far as we could see. As soon as we pulled out of our parking space, another car was waiting to grab it.
Before returning to the Lodge, we stopped off in Inverness for a drink and a late lunch. We had the choice of getting something at the deli; the Blackbird Coffee Shop or Vladimir’s Czech restaurant. We chose the latter. Inside it was cool and dark and we sat at the bar. Tonight we are going out for a meal so we didn’t want a big meal. We were satisfied with a drink of beer and a sample plate of kielbasa sausage, toast, sauerkraut, cucumber, celery and cheese.
After returning to the Lodge for a rest, we finished off the day by driving to Point Reyes Station for a meal at Stellina. As we arrived a little early, we wandered around Tomales Bay Foods and bought a wedge of Wagon Wheel cheese. This was one of the cheeses we had last night and we both liked it.
Stellina Restaurant is the best restaurant in town and it was crowded. Thank goodness we had made a reservation yesterday. While we were waiting for our table, Tom recognized a couple who had already started a meal. It was his cousin Judy and her husband John from Nevada City. What a coincidence, as Nevada City is a long way away in the Gold Country. We had a quick chat with them before we were called to our table. The tables there are pretty close together and we got chatting to the couple at the next table and, guess what, another coincidence, I recognized passing one of the ladies on our hike that morning.
Tom and I enjoy coming to Stellina as the food is really good. For starters we both had the chicory salad with goat cheese. Tom ordered the goat with polenta and braised greens for his main course and I had the grilled sea bass with heirloom cauliflower and golden raisins. Tom commented that he was disappointed with the goat as it was a bit dry whilst my sea bass, on the other hand, was delicious. To finish Tom had two scoops of ice cream and I had their cheese plate. MmmMmm.
March 29 2013 | Special Places | No Comments »
Point Reyes Seashore Lodge in Olema, California
Tom and I love Point Reyes. It is about an hours drive from San Francisco but it seems like a million miles away. The whole area is geologically different from the rest of Marin County because the San Andreas fault separates them. Point Reyes is very slowly moving north while the ‘mainland’ moves south. The vegetation is different as well – you will find less trees on Point Reyes.
The whole area is under the protection of the Point Reyes National Seashore and you will discover how unspoiled the whole of it is. There is only one town on the Point Reyes peninsula and that is tiny Inverness. No big box stores or restaurants chains here. What you will see is miles and miles of beautiful scenery, like the sandy beaches, the rocky shores, the sheltered beaches on Tomales Bay, dozens of hiking trails, historic dairy farms, and wildlife galore.
Arriving in Olema, we passed where we would be staying for the next couple of nights. As it was only 12 noon and check in time was 3 pm, we had a couple of hours to kill. What better place to spend it then to drive on into Point Reyes Station.
Point Reyes Station
Olema Creek which flows past the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
We decided to drive into Point Reyes Station, which is under three miles from Olema. Although neither Point Reyes Station nor Olema are technically in Point Reyes, they are considered the gateways to it. We parked on one of the back streets and took a walk down the main shopping street. Our first stop was at Marty Knapp’s Photo Gallery. Marty specializes in black and white photography. The walls are lined with scenes of Point Reyes. Just recently he has been taking photographs of old barns and they were stunning. Marty and Tom had a long talk about the Sony Nex-7 camera which Marty had recently acquired. Tom has been talking about that camera just recently. Apparently it has many advantages as it is not only mirror less but much smaller and lighter than a digital SLR. Marty showed Tom his camera and even let him hold it. How long, I wonder before Tom buys one like it?
Afterwards we ambled across the road to Toby’s Feed Barn and bought a couple of birthday cards. Then we crossed back over the road to the Western Saloon for a pint of bitter at the bar (mine was a shandy). This is a good old fashioned bar and we recognized the barmaid from our last few visitors. Later we meandered northwards to the bookstore where we spent 45 minutes looking at the books for sale. Point Reyes Books always has interesting books and I bought a paperback called ‘Sheepish’ by Catherine Friend, which is a non fiction about the trials and tribulations of raising sheep on a small holding.
A friendly robin welcomed us at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
It is possible for us to drive there and back to Point Reyes in a day but then our time is limited in the area. By staying there a couple of nights it meant that Tom can get up early and catch the early morning light. We had booked two nights at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge in Olema, which is right on the junction of Highway One and Sir Frances Drake Highway.
It was just after two when we arrived at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge and parked the car. We hoped that we could check in early but our room was not ready. We were invited to wait in their very nice lobby or games room or we could sit in the garden. As the weather was just right for sitting outside, we decided on the garden. Someone would come and find us when our room was ready.
The garden was lovely. The lawn sloped down to the Olema Creek and a line Adirondack chairs sat invitingly at the top of the lawn. Shade trees lined the edge of the lawn. I took one of the Adirondack chairs in the sunshine and Tom chose a bench under the shade of a tree. He took out his tablet and read while I fished my iPad out of the pack and started to write. It was was calm and peaceful there. In between bouts of writing I was amused by a young boy down at the edge of the creek with his mother.
Just before 3 we were called to check in. There are 22 rooms at the Lodge and we had booked one of the Terrace Rooms. It was was really nice room with a Jacuzzi big enough for two. Outside we had our own secluded and sheltered patio, complete with two Adirondack chairs. We spent the afternoon just relaxing.
For dinner we decided to try out the Farm House Restaurant, which is part of the Lodge and only a short walk away. Just inside there is a bar and a fairly large restaurant at the back. I was surprised at how crowded it was but we got a table straightaway. Most of the items on the menu were produced locally. I had the Herbs de Provence roasted chicken with grilled asparagus and cheese au gratin potatoes with Bourbon pecan sauce ($21) and Tom had the Dungeness crab salad sandwich on sour dough with fries ($17). I really enjoyed my meal whereas Tom was not impressed at all with his. To finish we shared the local cheese plate which had four small portions of different cheeses – three soft (including one goat cheese) and one firm. I didn’t catch the names and makers of the soft cheese but the firm one was Wagon Wheel which is made by the nearby Cowgirl Creamery.
It was time for an early night at the end of another perfect day.
March 15 2013 | Special Places | No Comments »
We were off to enjoy a weekend in Point Reyes. Our plan was to take our time getting there because we wanted to explore a few places which we not visited before, like Muir and Stinson beaches in Marin. There was no rush to get to Point Reyes as we couldn’t check into our lodging until 3 in the afternoon.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
As usual, we were on the road before daybreak, which meant we were enjoying our early morning coffee on Geary in the city before 7 o’clock. We usually stop at Peet’s but today, for a change, we tried out a coffee shop one block down on the corner of Geary and 17th called Royal Ground Coffee. It was certainly different from Peet’s – larger, less modern, quieter and funky. We were served straight away. Tom had a medium black coffee for $1.65 and I had a medium cafe latte for $2.65. A large choice of cookies, pastries and bagels tempted us but we resisted because we plan to stop in Stinson Beach for breakfast. We sat right in the window and had a good view of Geary waking up as it became lighter. Must comment on the murals in the coffee house as they were large and added to the general funkiness of the place. One mural depicted San Francisco streets and the other a Mediterranean village.
Half an hour later we were driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. At this time of year the bridge is more often than not shrouded in fog but that was not the case on this occasion. A few hardy tourists were walking over the bridge but there were more joggers and cyclists around.
We decided to take the scenic route north by turning off 101 onto Highway One towards Stinson Beach and along the coast. The drive towards the ocean twists and turns with alternating views inland of the Marin headlands and glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. We turned left when we reached the Pelican Inn and took the road to Muir Beach.
95 Mailboxes on the way to Muir Beach. Margaret counted them.
I had never been to Muir Beach before so this was a new experience for me. The road to the beach is short but full of potholes. The area is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area so there was no charge to park the car. At that time of the morning there were only a couple of cars in the car park. When we got out of the car the temperature was 57 degrees but there was a chilly wind. My first stop had to be the notice board and was interested to read that river otters had been spotted very recently. The route towards the beach crossed a footbridge over the Redwood Creek and I stopped to see if I could spot any otters. It was an idyllic scene and appeared to be a perfect location for river otters but, alas, I was to be disappointed.
Once over the bridge we turned right on a trail which took us to the beach and/or an overlook. We could have turned left onto another trail which led uphill. Muir Beach is a pretty little beach and at that time of the morning the only people on it were a couple walking their dog. It seems an ideal beach for families because not only is it sheltered but there was nice sand to play on and rocks to the south where I am sure there are rock pools at low tide. We stayed on the trail which led uphill to the overlook. On the ridge to the north the homes of Muir Beach clung to the hillside. The higher up the hill the larger the homes became. All of them had spectacular views over the beach and to the south.
Up on the bluff the wind blew straight through us so we didn’t stay long, even though there was a convenient bench to sit on. We made our way back to the bridge to head to Stinson Beach where we planned to stop for breakfast. When we reached the junction with Highway One we noticed a line of mail boxes opposite and Tom couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo. I had never seen so many mail boxes in one place and had to count them – there were 95 of them. And what a collection – old; new; large; small; shiny; rusty; plain; decorated and painted.
Looking south on the way to Stinson Beach along Highway 1
The stretch of Highway One between the Pelican Inn and Stinson Beach is really scenic. There were many ‘Wow’ moments. The view over Stinson Beach as we rounded the last headland was like looking at a picture postcard. We saw a very long, sandy beach, cabins almost on the beach, a life guard stand and, in the distance, another ridge with houses dotted along it.
For breakfast we stopped at The Breakers Cafe on the main street. We have eaten here before and enjoyed it so we were keen to see if there had been any changes. On my last visit I had the oatmeal and remembered it had been really good so went for it again. It comes with walnuts, dates and cranberries. On the last occasion in January 2011 it cost $7.95 (but without dates) and this time it was $8.95. Tom ordered something different – Rockys Omelet ($11.95) with chicken, corn and cheese. The coffee was $2.50 and I had orange juice ($3). The food remained as enjoyable as before.
Last time I remarked that there was a nautical theme about the decoration but I wasn’t so conscious of it this time. The paintings of the old woodies and the black and white photos of local scenes (plus the scantily dressed man and the policemen) are still there. There was a large colorful Mexican hat on the wall and I’m not sure if that was there last time. One thing was missing, however, and that was the collage made up of white plastic rubbish and the mermaid, which is a shame. The restroom hadn’t changed a bit.
After breakfast we made our way to the beach. Here we found a large car park. There were already quite a few cars there but room for many more. One van caught my attention as it had a had a mermaid and an octopus painted on it. On the way to the beach we passed two surfers, still dripping wet, on the way back to their car.
The long sandy beach stretched north in front of us. Although there were lots of people and activity going on, it was by no means crowded. There were lots of people just walking along the beach, quite a few with dogs; families sitting on the beach; fishermen standing up to their knees in the water and surfers further out in Bolinas Bay. Happy children were building sandcastles and there was one young chap and his Dad having a whale of a time using toy dumper trucks and wheelbarrows to help them move the sand.
Tom took his time stopping to take photographs so I happily wandered along the hard packed sand drinking in the moment. The weather was absolutely perfect and one would think it was summertime. My sweatshirt came off and even then I was hot and thinking I should have put sun block on. There were cabins and houses, some of them on stilts, built right on the beach and a lot of them had occupants. I could see people sitting on patio chairs enjoying coffee and the view. At one point I spotted a tsunami siren set back between the buildings. The scene was idyllic but I guess they get bad weather in the winter if the number of sandbags around is anything to go by. Further along the beach sand dunes fringed the beach and the roofs of cabins could be seen behind the dunes.
Stinson Beach. Everybody was having fun.
It was a blissful morning listening to the muted sounds of conversation now and then from fellow walkers and the mesmerizing music of the surf lapping the shore. A group of sandpipers were busy probing the sand for their lunch. I noticed there were lots of different colored pebbles on the beach but the ones that really caught my attention were a striking black and white with swirly lines. Tom joined me and we wandered a bit further northwards. My aim had been to walk right to the end of the beach, where the small town of Bolinas is situated less than a quarter of a mile away across the narrow entrance to the Bolinas Lagoon, but we decided to turn back because it was getting too hot and we didn’t have any water with us.
There were more people now on the beach and I was sure by lunchtime it would be crowded. At the northern end of the beach, dogs are allowed to run free and there were lots of dogs having the time of their lives. Groups of dog owners were chatting together as their dogs frolicked in and out of the water and chased each other around. When a ball was thrown they all raced madly after it. There was one dog who ran faster and jumped higher than all the others and caught the ball before it landed either on the sand or in the water. It was amusing to see them all play so happily together.
Back in the car, we continued our journey to Point Reyes. We drove along the scenic shore of the Bolinas Lagoon. The tide was out and there were huge stretches of mud flats where there were an array of wading birds taking advantage of the easy pickings. We drove though Dogtown -blink and you’ll miss it -and saw the first sign for Point Reyes National Seashore and then one for Olema Valley. This is a favorite route for cyclists, and the going was very slow for a couple of miles as a horse box in front of us was unwilling to overtake the cyclists. We still were not in any hurry so we just enjoyed the drive and the scenery. Before long we arrived in Olema, where we will be staying for a couple of nights.
March 07 2013 | Special Places | No Comments »
Looking west from the Coyote Hills Regional Park
When Tom and I discussed where we would go the day before, we realized that we hadn’t been to Coyote Hills Regional Park for over five years so it was about time we revisited. It was extremely difficult though to drag myself out of bed the next day, especially when I saw it was a cold and frosty morning.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
Coyote Hills Regional Park is not too far away from home for us; just a short drive up 101, across the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay, then turn left on Passo Padre Parkway. Look for the brown Coyote Hills sign and turn left again, There is an entrance fee for cars entering the park ($5) but lots of people park outside and walk or cycle in to avoid the fee.
When we got out of the car, the temperature was 39 degrees but the sun made it feel warmer. We have been here several times in the past and have always parked near the Visitors Centre. This time though we turned into the first one we saw, namely the Quarry Staging Area. No other cars were parked there at all. Even before I got out of the car I spotted a bird I didn’t recognize. I thought it might be a wren but then changed my mind. It was a plump, mostly brown bird with a lighter patch on the top of its head.
Lots of birds at Coyote Hills Regional Park
There was a trail leading upwards but we took a short cut to a trail off to our right. Patches of water and tall reeds were on on either side of the trail. The frosty grass and the drops of dew on the reeds glistened in the sun. We heard muted bird calls around and at first we could not see any birds. Slowly we spotted them; a few more like the one in the car park flitting from trees to reeds; a couple of Canada Geese motionless out on a small open patch of water and a few ducks bustling around them. Then, out in the distance, I could see hundreds of ducks which appeared to be swimming on grass. When I checked them out through my binoculars I could see that the ‘grass’ turned out to be marsh and there were lots of open patches of water amongst it.
A Northern Harrier at Coyote Hills Regional Park
Tom spotted two hawk like birds high in the branches of a tree. They were easy to spot because there were no leaves on the tree and the birds were mainly white. At first I thought they were Osprey but when I looked closer I changed my mind. A ranger happened to be passing by and he stopped to chat. We asked him what sort of birds they were but he wasn’t sure either. As soon as I got home and checked all my bird books and the internet I concluded they were Northern Harriers. The ranger told us that there were lots of birds here over-wintering and, in fact, there were about 300 white Pelicans on the other side. I remember last time we came we did see a lot of white Pelicans from the Chochenyo trail.
Continuing on our walk, we came to a cross road. The Meadowlark trail was off to the left but we went straight across and joined the Bayview trail. We started to climb and slowly the Bay came into view with the Dumbarton Bridge off to the south. Closer to land were lots of ponds walled off from the Bay by thin mud levees. Once upon a time these were salt beds but are now being reclaimed and returned to their natural habitat as a wildlife refuge mostly for migrating birds. Shielding our eyes from the sun, we drank in the tranquil view. We continued to follow the trail round several headlands. As soon as we started to round the headlands, the sun disappeared and we were in shadow. Immediately the temperature dropped and it became decidedly chilly.
We didn’t quite have the place to ourselves. Several solo cyclists passed us and now and then joggers ran by. Nearly every single one of them greeted us with a smile and a ‘good morning’. The folks are real friendly here. In the distance, several headlands away, we spotted a bench perched on top of a hill. Ah, I thought, that is what I’m aiming for.
Each time we changed direction, we got a different view – Palo Alto off to the west where we clearly saw the Hoover Tower at Stanford, San Mateo Bridge and Oakland to the north and Moffett Field to the south. Tom even spotted the Sutro Tower in San Francisco, which was barely visible in the far distance. It was a glorious day to be out walking in the sunshine.
View from Coyote Hills Regional Park. A little chilly but quite peaceful.
We walked the Bayview trail until we came to the Soaproot trail and there we turned right. This trail leads over the hill but we came across the bench a little way along. It was conveniently placed to view the whole bay from the Dumbarton Bridge up to the SanMateo Bridge. I immediately started to write but it was difficult. This time the trouble was caused by the bench itself and not the sun making the screen impossible to see. Although I have long leg,s I had to sit almost on the edge for my feet to reach the ground. By doing this, it made my thighs slope and the iPad kept slipping down. On top of that, as it was so cold, I had gloves on and it was difficult to type on the keyboard. It would have been impossible to type with gloves on the inbuilt iPad keyboard but I am lucky enough now have a Logitech keyboard. Tom gave me his pack to put my feet on and that did improve the situation for a bit. We would have stayed there longer but the bench was in an exposed position and eventually the cold made us move on.
Onwards and upward we climbed. At the top of the hill we looked down on the marshes and I tried to work out how we could find our way back to where we parked the car. Tom took his time walking down the hill by stopping every now and then to take photos. I strode on. At one point I came to a junction where two trails met and decided to keep on the Soaproot trail as it continued downward. I just hoped that Tom would realize which way I went. At the bottom of the hill I looked and and was glad to see that Tom had indeed taken the same route as I had and he soon joined me. I had began to follow the Bayview trail but Tom pointed out that I was going the wrong way. At first I didn’t believe him but he proved to be right (but then his sense of direction has always been better than mine). Before long I recognized places we had seen on the way out – the ducks swimming in the grass and the tree where the Northern Harrier had been. Back in the car park there were a few more cars parked but it was no where near being full.
It was time to find somewhere to have breakfast. Palo Alto was the nearest place we knew we would be lucky, so that is the direction we took. The car was warm and it felt so nice to be able to feel my fingers again. Coyote Hills has so many trails and we can’t wait to get back again to try a few more of them out.
February 22 2013 | Special Places | No Comments »
One of many murals in the Mission district of San Francisco
This was my first real visit to the Mission district and it was quite an eye opener.
We headed to Folsom and 24th Street, which is pretty much the center of the Mission. Parking was really difficult. All of the off street parking was taken by residents but there were a few spaces at parking meters. In the end we parked in one of them but got a happy surprise when we found out that on Sunday you get four hours for free.
We had read that there were a lot of murals in the Mission and indeed there was one right next to our car. The hand painted sign made me smile: ‘Vanilising of murals is not cool’. This is a paraphrase of the actual message but the spelling is correct. (I should have asked Tom to take a photo of it but forgot to ask when we got back to the car.) As we were studying, it a local resident walking by told us that there were some newish murals on Lilac behind MacDonald’s. We thanked him and starting walking west to check them out.
The Mission neighborhood is a mix of many cultures. Spanish is predominant with a mix of Hispanic and other Central and South American countries. it doesn’t look like the best area in town, with its down at heel appearance and metal grills over most of the businesses. Only the coffee shops seemed to be open and few people were around. As we walked along we paused at many murals; all of which were colorful. Here is another quote from one of them – “Only when the last tree is cut down and the last river has dried up will man realize that you can’t eat money.”
Lilac Street is really an alley between Capp Street and Mission Street
Lilac Street is between Capp Street and Mission Street but is more like an alley because it is really narrow and runs between the backs of businesses and apartment blocks with garages onto the street. Nearly every building, door and wall had a mural of some sort on it. We walked the length of the block to 24th Street looking at them all. These murals did not depict rural scenes or recognizable parts of the Mission but I would describe them as modern artistic graffiti.They were eye-catching and vibrant but not quite to our taste.
We walked back down 24th. Slowly the neighborhood was waking up. Behind some of the grills, especially the restaurants, we could see activity. In one a load of pale chicken was beginning to heat up on the grill and in another someone was putting liners in the trash cans.
More murals on Balmy St. This was Margaret’s favorite.
We found another alley of murals between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street on Balmy Street. These were far more interesting to us as they were not only older but depicted real scenes and understandable pictures. I could actually look at most of them and understand not only what they represented but what they were saying. I could appreciate the humor that was obvious in a few but had to studied closely to find it in others. Though there was some humor, the main messages that came across were: oppression and revolution. Once again they were all colorful and vibrant but, most of all, original. There were two I particularly liked, both showing scenes in the Mission. One was of a huge robot which looked like apartment buildings and the other with a policeman and wealthy lady in the bottom right corner and a homeless man in the bottom left corner.
One of older murals. A little worn around the edges but still colorful.
We continued walking east on 24th and came to a grocery store with an array of fruit and vegetables displayed outside. Seeing all the fruit reminded me that we needed grapes so we ventured inside. I was amazed at the amount and variety of goods inside, including a whole range of meats. At first I couldn’t see any grapes but after walking around the whole fresh produce section we discovered three types to choose from. Back outside we walked up to Alabama Street before crossing over and walking back down the other side. In one window of a taqueria I spotted a mound of large plastic bags but had no idea what they contained. Tom told me it was pig skin, which doesn’t sound very appetizing at all, but on reflection it must be a variation of crackling, which is really good. Thank goodness the restaurant was not open otherwise I might have been tempted to try it out.
One of the great markets along 24th St. in the Mission District of San Francisco
On the corner of 24th and Harrison we stepped into Bello Coffee and Tea. Although Tom had coffee with his breakfast it didn’t hit the spot and this place simply appealed to us. Inside it was warm and inviting. Immediately on the left is an electronic roaster – great, fresh coffee. The pastries looked good but the huge breakfast we had consumed three hours before prevented us from feeling hungry enough to try any of them out. Tom ordered a straight black coffee and I asked for a green tea latte. They didn’t have the powder mix that Starbucks use (thank goodness) but offered to make it using a special blend of green tea. We could have sat outside in the sunshine but I needed a table to put my iPad on so I could type so we stayed inside. There were several tables to chose from and the chairs were very comfortable. Tom took a sip of his coffee and immediately his eyes lit up. He had finally found a coffee that equaled Peet’s and Bello’s coffee might even have the edge on Peet’s. He was one happy man. My green tea latte was unusual but very tasty. We spent a happy half hour there. Before we left, Tom bought a pound of their French Roast beans to take home. I told him it was a long way to come to buy his coffee in the future.
As we walked the short distance back to our car, we noticed that most of the grills were down and there were lots of people now on the streets. The Mission was awake and humming. We discussed whether or not to go home. In the end, we decided to at least go and see the actual mission which the neighborhood was named after. The Mission Dolores is on D0lores and 16th Street so we drove west on 24th, right on Guerrero Street and west again on 16th St. The mission was founded in 1776 and is the oldest building in San Francisco. Next to it is the larger, more impressive basilica which was completed in 1918. We would have liked to stop and take a look around, especially at the garden of the old mission, but once again parking proved to be a problem. Maybe another day.
The San Francisco skyline from Corona Heights
Back on 16th the object was to make our way home but at the junction with Market Street I looked up and saw a strange rock formation on top of a hill. We were stopped at traffic lights so had time to notice that there were people up there. I got the map out and discovered the hill is called Corona Heights. We felt the urge to investigate so we went straight across Market and made our way to Flint Street. As we were on the slopes of the hill, the roads were very steep and a lot of them were dead ends. Once again parking posed a problem but our luck was in when we reached Flint Street where we found the perfect parking spot not far from one of the paths to the top.
It was a lovely day to climb to the top of Corona Heights. We walked passed tennis courts and a large building, which I later discovered is called Randall Museum. The path up hill was very steep but the views were worth it. Just before a flight of steps we stopped at a bench which we took advantage of. The view in front us was amazing. We were looking east over the bay towards Oakland. Mount Diablo was clearly visible away in the distance. Down below we could see the city to the right and straight in front we looked down on the Mission District with a good view of the old mission and basilica. The flight of steps was long – roughly 180 of them – and very steep. In parts the path ran out and we were walking over rocks. Of course we stopped often to admire the view, heaven forbid that anyone would think we were pausing to take breath! Eventually we make our way right to the rock formations at the top and the view was almost 36o degrees. Only the trees on the ridge to the west prevented us from seeing the ocean. To the south we could see Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower.
When we had our fill of the view and sitting in the sunshine, we made our way downhill to the car and wended our way home. It was the end of another perfect day.
The Mission District in San Francisco
February 08 2013 | Neighborhoods and Special Places | 2 Comments »
Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning
Today is our first trip out this year. It is a cold and frosty January morning and we are heading for the coast. Normally we would get there by driving over the mountains towards Santa Cruz on Highway 17 but decided to drive north and take Highway 92 towards Half Moon Bay because not only is it a shorter journey through the mountains but the pass is lower and less likely to be icy.
(Click on the photos for larger versions.)
Even though it is 32 degrees outside, the sun is shining. We are expecting it to be cold and maybe even foggy at the coast but we have dressed appropriately in layers with extra jackets, etc in the trunk.
We have no set destination in mind; it depends on where the fancy takes us. It is such a long time since we saw the ocean that just seeing, hearing and smelling it will satisfy us. There is a warning out about sleeper waves – several people have been swept away by huge rogue waves – so we will not be getting too close to the water’s edge.
Driving on 280 just north of Palo Alto, the temperature dropped to 30 outside. Thank goodness it is not raining as it would be falling as snow. Exiting 280 to 92 we encountered a thick layer of low lying fog across Crystal Springs. Tom couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo. It did look beautiful with the sun shining above the fog and the white, frosty grass on the ground.
Entering Half Moon Bay it was bright and sunny with no trace of fog at all. Not only that, the temperature had risen to 36. We ate before we left home this morning so no breakfast blog this time. Tom didn’t have any coffee though so we stopped off at the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company for a coffee and hot chocolate.
Refreshed, we set off again driving south. The ocean was near and after a few miles we could see it. It looked magnificent, glittering in the early morning sunshine. The water was calm and there were no white caps to be seen.
Pigeon Point lighthouse
We passed San Gregorio beach. There was only one car in the car park and an awful lot of driftwood on the beach which had been washed up by the recent winter storms. Pomponio, Pescadero and Bean Hollow beaches were also by-passed They all tempted us and were worthy of a visit but we had decided to make our next stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
Before long we saw the lighthouse in front of us and turned right on Pigeon Point Road. There have been a few changes since we were last here. The car park was been enlarged and the porta potty is no longer there but it had been replaced with a much better outhouse. We made our way to the deck at the back of the lighthouse where my second favorite bench is. This is a really good secluded spot to sit and look at the view and a prime place to spot whales. At this time of the year the whales are swimming south and they some way offshore. With the ocean so calm I thought I might spot whale spouts on the horizon and I was armed with my binoculars just in case. I spent a happy half hour in the sunshine and enjoyed watching the surf breaking over the many rocky outcrops just off Pigeon Point and the one lone pelican skimming the surface of the water. No whale spouts to be seen though. I became quite warm sitting there I even took my jacket off. Both of us may even have got a touch of sunburn!
Path down to Franklin Point. Our favorite spot along the San Mateo Coast.
On to our favorite spot – Franklin Point. Even though we did not really plan where we were going, somehow I knew we would end up here. The place draws us because it is unique. Normally we drive north from Santa Cruz and it is easy to find but driving south from Half Moon Bay we were not too sure. Everything looked different plus the old tree stump which marked the beginning of the trail fell down a few years ago and there are no signs at all for Franklin Point. Once on the trail though I recognized it. It felt good to retrace my steps down the familiar path, wondering what the changes would be since our last visit a year ago.
First thing I noticed was that the old tree stump is now covered by shrubbery with just the bottom exposed. The second thing were the number of stinging nettles growing along the edge of the path. There have been times when we couldn’t get down the trail at this time of the year due to one section being flooded after heavy rain. A few years ago a couple of short board walks were been put down and it is easy to get through. One thing is always different each time we come and that is where the path actually meets the beach. On this visit the sand was a bit wet and much lower than last time, in as much we didn’t have to scramble down onto the beach.
The beach was deserted, although I did pass one couple on the trail making their way back to the road. I stood for a while just drinking in the view, as I do every time. It felt so good to be back. Slowly I ambled along the beach but staying on the dry sand. Up on Franklin Point I could see my favorite bench and made my way towards it. At one point the waves came too close to the shore to get past safely but fortunately there is a trail over the bluff which led straight to the boardwalk, which in turn led to the bench.
A young couple about as far out as you can get at Franklin Point.
I had the bench all to myself for about ten minutes before Tom arrived. I watched a young couple down on the beach scramble over the rocks to get past the point which I decided not to walk round. They were obviously heading for the bench as well and sure enough they turned up about five minutes later. Tom had spoken to them earlier down on the beach. We chatted with them for bit and then they climbed off the deck and made their way as far as they could over the rocks. At one point they called out to us as they indicated a couple of seals bobbing along just offshore.
It was so relaxing sitting on that bench. I spent the time trying to write but, inexplicably, my eyes were drawn to the view. Off to the north I could see the lighthouse; nearer the waves rolling onto the beach were mesmerizing and straight in front the surf broke over the rocks and the spray exploded into the air. Tom and I chatted now and again and we agreed that we were in a perfect spot.
Eventually we made our way back to the car. Nobody else was on the beach at all. We decided to drive into Pescardero, where we bought artichoke and garlic bread fresh from the oven at Arcangeli Grocery Company and goat cheese from Harley Farms. We sat outside in the car enjoying our picnic lunch of bread and cheese while enjoying the view of a swathe of mustard growing in a field and gazing at the goats in the paddock. Then we took the scenic route home through La Honda up to Skyline and then through Woodside back to 280. Once again we enjoyed another perfect day.
January 25 2013 | Special Places | 4 Comments »
Tom and I spent Christmas in the UK. I fully intended to write every day while we were away but most of the time I was driving and the rest of the time we spent with family.
We took a week long road trip while we were there and Tom saw some parts of England he had never seen before. On the first day of our road trip, we drove from Reading to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Unfortunately the palace itself was closed but we took a walk around the large lake. That evening we stayed at the Falklands Arms, which was built in the 16th century, and is situated in the quaint village of Great Tew. The next day we drove up to Nottingham. We tried very hard to make our way on the back roads but somehow each road seemed to lead to the M1. In the end we just took the M1 north because we were wasting so much time. There is not too much to say about Nottingham because once we found a hotel we didn’t stir outside the front door until the next morning.
On Wednesday we drove to Pickering in Yorkshire for a brief stop before driving over the North Yorkshire Moors – a remote and wild area – to Kirkby Mills where we stayed one night at Brickfields Farm Bed & Breakfast. This was the best B&B we have ever stayed in – the room was wonderful and the breakfast was to die for. Our journey on Thursday took us through Thirsk to Ripon and then on to Skipton. Here we stayed in a B&B within walking distance of the town center. It was pouring rain but that didn’t stop us taking the walk and enjoying a pint at the Woolly Sheep Inn.
We loved Liverpool
The next day we made our way from Yorkshire to Lancashire. We headed to Southport where my daughter and son-in-law now live. Before going to see them in the evening, we set out to find our B&B in Scarisbrick where we would be staying for the next two nights. The landlady at the B&B had given me instructions but we found ourselves lost in a remote area where the only roads were muddy tracks with huge potholes filled with water. It took us half an hour to find the right road before eventually finding our way to the B&B.
Saturday Lizzie and Ric took us to Liverpool for the day. We had particularly requested to visit there because we’d heard there was so much to see and, of course, it is the home of The Beatles. We spent a marvellous day looking at old docks, the refurbished Albert Dock, St. George’s Hall, the Cavern Club, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s house and – the cherry on the top – Eleanor Rigby’s grave.
On the Sunday we began to make our way further south but first we had to visit the historic city of Chester. I spent some time in Chester when I was a child because an aunt of mine lived there. The city is very old and has hardly changed since I was last there in the 1970′s. It is possible to walk all round the city up on the city walls, which were built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. It has a nice shopping center which was heaving with Christmas shoppers when we visited.
Chester. We could have spent a couple days here. An amazing city.
That evening we spent in Hereford. Once again, we didn’t have any time to explore the area and next morning we were up bright and early to make our way back to Reading. The UK had an awful lot of rain while we were there and the south west was particularly affected. As we traveled from Hereford to the M4 around the Gloucester area we could see all the fields were under water and only the hedges round the edges could be seen. When we arrived that night at our hotel in Winnersh, the car park was completely flooded and we had to park in a temporary car park.
All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed two Christmas dinners – one in Southport and one in Winnersh. Even though we experienced a lot of rain, it in no way dampened our spirits or hampered our travels. Although Tom has now seen some new areas, there is still so much for him to see. So far we have not touched Scotland or Ireland and both are high on our list.
January 15 2013 | Further Afield and Special Places | 1 Comment »
Pescadero State Beach
This morning we overslept and didn’t get away as early we wanted to. The drive over the Santa Cruz mountains was as beautiful as ever. Our destination today is Pescadero State Beach. In November, 2009 we did a post on some of San Mateo beaches between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay and said in it that Pescadero State Beach deserved a post all to itself. In January 2010 we wrote a post on the northern part of Pescadero State Beach so today was the day we decided to do the rest. The sun was shining brightly when we left San Jose but we hit fog as we descended from the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We stopped at a great little place in Santa Cruz for breakfast.
Click on the photos for a larger version.
Driving north up Highway 1 towards Half Moon Bay, we were in fog most of the way. We couldn’t even see Pigeon Point Lighthouse when we drove past. Of course we wondered whether we would see anything at all when we got to Pescadero beach but we were optimistic. The further north we drove the lighter the fog became. As we passed Bean Hollow Beach we actually saw not only the ocean but patches of blue sky.
There are three car parks at Pescadero State Beach along the mile long, sandy beach and we parked in the southernmost one, which is right opposite the turnoff to Pescadero. It was still a bit foggy but looked to be clearing up. We walked down some steps onto a small peninsula. The tide was high and the water was choppy. Looking south I spotted a couple of surfers out on the ocean and I stopped to watch them for a while. They managed to catch a few big waves and they made the most of them, weaving and turning until the energy of the wave died down. Then they were off again, paddling to get back to catch the next big one. I thought about something Tom told me only this morning about great white sharks and the fact that at this time of the year they congregate between Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay, so I hoped there were none nearby for the surfers sake.
Pescadero State Beach
I looked to the north and down onto a sandy beach. I noticed more steps leading down to the beach and off I went exploring. Beaches always fascinate me because there is so much to see – shells, different colored stones, driftwood and washed up vegetation. On this beach were balancing stones and dried seaweed with looked as though they had been laid out in spiral designs but they may well have been washed up the beach like that. There were no washed up logs or a convenient rock to sit on so I stood contentedly on the beach and watched the waves break and the surf wash in. I walked back up the beach to the bluffs. Here there were huge rocks embedded in soil and further along the sandstone rocks looked as if they had been sculptured. One such sculpture looked just like a human head, with the brow and nose clearly defined (see below).
Flock of sanderlings at Pescadero State Beach
I rounded a small headland to another beach and spotted a gull pecking at something on the beach. Originally I thought it was a crab which he was trying to get into but when the gull gave up and walked away, I noticed that it was a rather plump starfish. It wasn’t moving at all but I gently moved it with my foot to the edge of the surf just in case it was playing dead. Further along the beach I came across a flock of sanderlings. These birds are a pleasure to watch as they race down the beach chasing the outgoing surf and then racing back back when the surf comes. They looked like a group of little children playing a game on the beach and having fun. I even imagined them whooping for joy as they managed to avoid getting their feet wet. But of course they are not playing because every so often they paused to dig for food in the sand. Suddenly they took off all at once and weaved and turned in the air before landing again on the beach further up and resuming their manic dashing around. We reached another small headland but the tide was too high to carry on so we turned back. I checked to see if the starfish was still on the beach but it had disappeared. I like to think the tide had come in and it had managed to get back to safety.
Rock face at Pescadero State Beach
We discovered another stairway which led back to a different section of the car park. I had visions of having to walk along Highway 1 to get round the headland but then I noticed a pathway leading across the top of the bluffs. It was an unusual path and, for some it reason, reminded me of the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. The path twisted and turned and at one point ran alongside the road. A group of cyclists passed and most of them smiled and several of them even called out a greeting. They looked as though they weren’t out just for a ride because they had packed saddle bags so obviously they were travelling some way down the coast. The path took us to the northern end of the car park.
Here we found some more steps down to beach. A group of California Gulls were gathered on the beach a short distance away but amongst them were a few different gulls. They were darker in color and had red bills. I had no idea what they were but later discovered they were Heermann’s Gulls. In the distance, on another headland, I spotted a bench. Most of you know by now how I am drawn to benches, especially benches with a view, so I naturally made a beeline for it. This was a rather peculiar bench as it was quite high. When I sat on it my feet hardly touched the ground and I have long legs. It was a nice bench to sit on though and it gave me an opportunity to try and catch up with my note taking but there was a problem. The fog had almost gone and the sun was shining brightly which made it difficult to see the the screen on my iPad. I was distracted from my efforts to write by voices. Tom was chatting away to a man, who then came to join me at the bench. It turned out he was another expat from the UK. He was born and raised in Lyme Regis, which is on the south coast. He now lives in Vancouver and the last couple of years he has spent his vacations exploring Highway 1. On this trip he is concentrating on the section from Monterey to San Francisco, which to my mind is the best section. On his next trip he will do the section north of San Francisco.
Lone fisherman at Pescadero State Beach
Once again I found some steps down the the beach. It was here I discovered how fragile the California coast is. All you need to do is to pick up a piece which has broken off and see how easy it is to crumble between your fingers. The constant pounding of the ocean against the sandstone bluffs must be like a battering ram. No wonder there are frequent landslides along Highway 1.
Decorating this section of the beach were a lot of logs and other pieces of driftwood. A couple of wigwams had been built out of the driftwood. It must be a lot of fun, especially with a large family, to build some sort of structure on the beach and then play imaginary games.
Once again we were thwarted from walking further along the beach by a headland which jutted out into the ocean so we retreated to the steps. We walked to the end of the carpar and found a trail leading to the north but it didn’t take us very far. Our way was blocked by a fairly wide river. This is where the Butano Creek and the Pescadero Creek flow into the ocean and where we were prevented from exploring the southern part of the beach in 2010. The only way across is to go back to the road and walk over the bridge. As it was lunchtime, we decided to walk back to our car and drive into Pescadero.
Always have to vist the goats and buy some cheese at Harley Farms just outside of Pescadero
Between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Beach there are not too many restaurants but in Pescadero there is a gem. Duartes Tavern is certainly the best place to eat on this stretch of the coast but, be warned, it is very popular and waiting times, especially on a sunny Saturday lunchtime, can be long. We struck lucky this day as we only had to wait twenty minutes due to the fact that we didn’t mind eating at the counter. I had a bowl of their Cream of Artichoke Soup and Tom had Chilled Artichoke Hearts with an Aioli Sauce. Both dishes were wonderful. We both finished up with a slice of their signature dessert - Olallieberry Pie and Ice Cream – which is to die for. We didn’t like to hang around too long because we knew there were lots of hungry people waiting, so we paid the bill and left.
But there was one more place to stop at and that was to vist the goats at Harley Farms. We call in here every time we come to Pescadero because it is such a neat place. You can walk down and watch the goats out in the field. It is always fun in the springtime when there are lots of frisky little kids to keep you amused. Of course we also have to pay a visit to the shop where all their cheeses are not only on display but can be sampled as well. This time we bought some feta cheese and some chocolate made with goats milk. Then it was time to make our way home going by the scenic route to 280 via La Honda. It was the end of another perfect day.
October 27 2012 | Special Places | 2 Comments »
The Sutro Baths ruins with the Cliff House in the background
Our trip today is to Lands End, which is the western edge of San Francisco at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. On our way north we could see a huge band of fog covering San Francisco so we wandered just how much visibility there would be. We stopped at Peet’s on Geary for a hot drink and a morsel to eat.
Click on the photos for larger versions.
Just after 8 we were parked by the new lookout and visitors center at Lands End. We knew it wouldn’t be open at that time so decided to call in after our hike. From the car park there are a number of trails but before setting off to walk the Lands End Trail we investigated the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Built by Adolph Sutro and opened in 1896, the baths were a huge success. There were seven swimming pools – one large freshwater pool and six smaller salt water pools of varying temperatures. The salt water was pumped straight from the ocean. It was a huge construction which could accommodate 10,000 bathers and it also had a viewing area which could seat 3,700. But it was more than just a place for folks to swim. There were a number of other attractions to amuse visitors which included a host of antiques, collections and oddities to look at. Sadly the Sutro Baths were destroyed by a fire in 1966. Several attempts were made to rebuild the baths, but without success.
The Sutro Baths ruins and the Pacific Ocean
To get to the ruins we walked down a long, very steep, recently built, stairway. As we descended, we could see the extent of the Sutro Baths and they must have been huge. Built mostly of concrete and wood, only a few concrete foundation walls remain and some of them look quite dangerous. Part of the large pool remains but now it is not very deep. Weeds and algae proliferate there. Gulls use it now to bath in. It is hard to imagine what it looked like in its heyday. The baths were right on the edge of the ocean and just beyond them is a small beach where several fishermen, or rather anglers because one of them was a women, were standing knee deep in the water with large fishing rods.
At the end of the pathway, a tunnel through the rock beckoned us. Of course we ventured through although we could see that the path didn’t go anywhere because a rope, strung across the entrance, prevented us going any further. We looked down on a mass of huge boulders which obviously used to be part of the path. Amongst the rubble we could see twisted railroad tracks.
We walked back through the tunnel and started to climb back up. Instead of returning to the steep stairway we turned left onto the Sutro Baths Upper Trail as it seemed the less steep option plus the fact that it hugs the coast and we would have more camera opportunities. On both sides of the trail ferns were growing, which is not unusual, but these not only had lots of bright green new growth but stalks with little buds on them. On some the ferns, the buds had opened up as small white flowers which is something I had never seen before.
The Point Bonita lighthouse across the Golden Gate from Lands End
We came to a lookout point where we could see the Point Bonita Lighthouse across the Golden Gate. The water was a bit choppy and we stood and watched the water crash every now and again against the rocks and cascade into what looked like one of the smaller pools of the Sutro Baths. The remains of concrete walls and old rusty water pipes could be seen.
The trail continued higher up a wooden stairway with glimpses down to water and rocks below. The rock here is mudstone and in places parts of it are soft and could be crumbled by hand. It looks very much like shale but, no matter how hard I looked, I could not see any sign of fossils though at one point I could see a couple of broken white lines which could have been part of a fish skeleton.
The trail we were on joined up with the Coastal Trail. We turned left and continued walking along the edge of the bay. There were a lot of information boards on the first part of the trail and I learnt lots of interesting facts, e.g the local Yekuma tribe, which were part of the Ohlone Nation, camped here in the summer months; details of the many shipwrecks just offshore from where we stood and that part of the engines from a couple of the wrecks could be seen at low tide; the railroad track which Adolph Sutro built and the trains he ran from San Francisco to his baths so working class San Franciscans could reach them; the streetcar which replaced the steam train and the fact that part of the Coastal Trail is along the very same route as both the steam train and the streetcar, etc.
The Golden Gate Bridge on a typical summer morning.
We took a rest at a lookout overlooking Mile End rock. Back in the late 19th century a lighthouse had been built on top of the rock. The lighthouse was replaced by an automated light in 1966 and a heliport pad built. Why a helicopter would want to land on such a tiny rock in such an exposed place is a mystery to me. Up to this point, the trail had been fairly level and easy to walk on but then it changed. Instead of a paved surface it became gravel and in places rocky. There were also several flights of steps up and down and some of them were not only steep but long.
Whenever I got ahead of Tom, because he had stopped to take photos, I looked for somewhere to sit, either on a convenient bench or rock, to wait for him. I took those opportunities to get out my iPad and write but the views were distracting. It is always captivating to sit and look at the scenery out over the bay to the Marin Headlands beyond but people watching is also time consuming. At one of these rest points, a flight of stairs opposite led down to a beach. When Tom caught up with me he decided to go down the steps and I set off to join him after about ten minutes. I climbed down about 50 steps and met Tom coming up. He said there were an awful lot of steps and he never got to the end, so neither of us got to see the beach. Next time we will be prepared and will make time to go and have a look.
This trail is very popular and in some places the trail becomes narrow and you can get stuck behind a group of slow moving people who are busy chatting away to each other. It is good though to see so many people out enjoying a pleasant walk, especially the families with young children.
From the trail we could see Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The upper towers of the bridge were still shrouded in fog but it was a wonderful sight. The Lincoln Park Golf Course was right behind us. The Lands End Trail ended nearby and we found ourselves on El Camino de Mar. We could have turned round and walked back the way we came but decided to go a different way. Instead, we climbed up El Camino de Mar walking alongside part of the golf course. We stopped at a memorial written in different languages. There were a couple of seats so we took another break. I spotted a raccoon some off which was busy snuffling the ground. It stopped and looked at me and then it started trotting towards us. At first I was not too bothered as it was about 30 feet away but it kept coming. I pointed it out to Tom and he thought it prudent to move on. Just as well we did because when I looked back he was at the bench where we had been sitting with his front paws up on the bench and he was still looking at us. I guess he is used to folks feeding him but we are not that stupid.
Another shot of The Golden Gate Bridge from along the Coastal Trail
At the top of the hill we turned onto 34th Avenue and walked passed the Palace of the Legion of Honor. This grand building was a gift to the city by the sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels and his wife Alma. It is a purpose-built museum and the design was copied from the Legion of Honor building in France. For nearly 100 years it has exhibited fine art and now hosts many exhibitions. I have not been been inside but it is on my list of places to visit. The building sits atop the headlands and is a well known landmark. We walked past the museum gazing into the courtyard and carried on down 34th Avenue with the golf course on both sides of the road.
At the junction with Clement Street, we debated whether to carry onto Geary or walk down Clement. We decided on the later because it would be quieter. The Lincoln Golf Couse clubhouse is on the corner and as we walked down Clement we were still aware of the golf course on our right because several times golf balls came flying into the street. It must be hazardous living so close to a golf course.
The housese on Clement were interesting to walk by. Even though it was a quiet Sunday lunchtime lots seemed to be going on. Some people were working on their cars or doing work around their yards. One house was being painted and we watched nervously as a man standing on a scaffold was precariously painting the side of the house. Several folks spoke to us as we walked by and lots more smiled. It seems a friendly neighborhood.
At the end of Clement,we arrived back at the car park and decided it was nearly time to get something to eat. Before we did so though, we went to have a look round the new Lands End Visitor Center. It is a very green building using natural sunshine to heat the building and harnessing the wind to cool it. Outside it has been beautifully landscaped not only with stone sculptures of lions but benches made out of recyled cedar wood and plants that are not only native but actually germinated at the nearby nursery at the Presidio from seeds found onsite. Inside it was filled with visitors either buying a snack, checking out the books etc for sale or perusing information about the area. They had some interesting paddle boards giving lots of information not only of the Sutro Baths but the general area, including the nearby Cliff House, as well. The highlight though, were the old Edison films being screened showing the glory days of the Sutro baths and Adolph Surto’s steam train.
We rounded off the day by having lunch at the Seal Rock Inn Cafe at the junction of Point Lobus Avenue and 48th Avenue. Afterwards we drove home at the end of another perfect day.
September 29 2012 | Special Places | No Comments »