Tag Archives: Franklin Point

San Mateo Coast

Crystal Springs on a beautiful morning

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

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

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.

Franklin Point

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.

Places to Visit in the Bay Area

Pietra Santa Winery outside of San Juan Bautista

Pietra Santa Winery outside of San Juan Bautista

Several people have asked us where our favorite places are in the Bay Area and our suggestions of places to visit either for themselves or for ideas as to where to take visitors. Recently my daughter Lizzie and her husband Ric visited from England for a couple of weeks. We thought it would be a good idea to write about where they went while they were here to give some ideas to those people.

(Click the photos for larger versions)

They arrived at the tail end of an extremely wet period on a Friday night. The next day rain was forecast and in fact it poured with rain for most of the day. We could have gone into San Jose and paid a visit to The Tech Museum or taken them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium but we decided on a trip to San Juan Bautista. Our first stop there was at Vertigo Coffee at 81 Fourth Street in San Juan, where we all enjoyed a cup of their speciality hot chocolates. If you like hot chocolate you have to try their Marilyn Monroe with coconut or their Charlie Brown with peanut butter. Neither Tom nor I like peanut butter but Lizzie chose the Charlie Brown and we had to taste it just to see what it was like. To me it tasted more like a Snickers Bar, and therefore I liked it, though I will stick to the Marilyn Monroe in future.  Also they have started carrying Bistro Blends Balsamic vinegar which is the best balsamic we have ever tasted and can thoroughly recommend it.

We would have liked to take a walk around the shops in San Juan and the Mission but it was raining too hard. Lizzie and Ric have been here before and know a whole day can be spent here enjoying the sights. Instead we drove into the foothills to visit our favorite winery Pietra Santa. After tasting their selection we bought a couple of bottles of their Signature Chardonnay (my particular favorite), one bottle of Pinot Grigio and one of their Sangiovese.

The next day we took a trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The weather was better than the day before bit still a little chilly and overcast. We had breakfast at Bab’s Delta Diner in Suisun City before taking tour favorite route to the old Chinese town of Locke via the ferry to Ryer Island, the ferry to Grand Island and drive across Grand Island to Walnut Grove. In Locke we visited the restored boarding house, the Dai Loy Museum and the old schoolroom followed by a walk around the residential area. Of course, every visit to the area finishes up with a vanilla malt in Mel’s Mocha and Ice Cream in Walnut Grove.

Liz at Crissy Field during their bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

Liz at Crissy Field during their bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

On the Monday Lizzie and Ric travelled on the train to San Francisco where they stayed for three nights at the Villa Florence on Powell. They spent one day shopping in Union Square; one day cycling and one day walking. For the cycle adventure they rented bikes from Blazing Saddles and rode around the bay, through Crissy Field, over the Golden Gate Bridge, into Sausalito and back to the city by ferry. The walking tour took in Chinatown, Coit Tower, North Beach, the Marina, the Wave Organ near the  the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Fort Mason, Giradelli Square and the Hyde Street cable car back to Powell.

I picked them up, plus all their shopping bags, from the San Jose Caltrain Station on the Thursday evening. The following day I wasn’t working so the three of us took a trip to the coast. As they have never visited Franklin Point, it was the obvious place to head for. It was an interesting day. First of all the 10 foot high tree stump which marks the beginning of the trail to Franklin Point was gone. We found it lying on the ground and noticed the bottom was rotted through. Then we had to wade through 2 feet of water because part of the trail was flooded. It didn’t end there. We had to take a detour to get to the bench because the tide was too high; Lizzie found a necklace partially buried in the sand; I met up again with the guy Tom and I met on our last visit; when we tried walking back along the beach we got soaked when a wave came in much higher than we expected and finally we had a difficult climb to get back to the trail. It was a wonderful day though and we finished our visit by having lunch in Duartes Tavern in Pescadero.

Liz and Ric admiring the view from the top of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. That's the new Caifornia Academy of Sciences across the way.

Liz and Ric admiring the view from the top of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

The next day was Saturday so the four of us drove to San Francisco to cover some of the sights that Lizzie and Ric didn’t get to see during the week including Golden Gate Park – where we visited the De Young – and Haight/Ashbury.

On the Sunday we drove up to Healdsburg in the Sonoma Valley. It was a beautiful day and what could be better than a trip to Healdsburg and  to visit a couple of wineries. Lizzie and Ric have never been to Healdsburg so we knew they were in for a treat. The drive up was magnificent and, being early on a Sunday morning, traffic was light. At 8:30 we were driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco sparkled in the sunlight.

We stopped for breakfast at The Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito where we had a short wait but it was pleasant standing outside in the sunshine and playing with a puppy which was tied to a lamp post a table became available. Our table was in the window so we enjoyed the view. Afterwards, on our way back to 101, we stopped to look at the houseboats juste to the north of Sausalito.

The drive up to Healdsburg, though pleasant, was not exciting. In Healdsburg it was nice to get out of the car and stretch our legs. I love strolling around the cute little town, with its shady tree lined square, irresistible boutiquey shops and inviting restaurants. Lizzie bought a bag, Tom bought a birthday card for his grandson and I pounced on an old sign for my son.

The vineyard outside of Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines. Kind of a funky laid back winery with lucious Zinfandels.

The vineyard outside of Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines. Kind of a funky laid back winery with lucious Zinfandels.

It was time to head for the wineries. First we drove to Alexander Valley and our favorite winery – Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines at 8333 Highway 128. Johnson’s is a small, family run winery set some way back from the road. We were greeted by Comet, a yellow lab who led us to the tasting room. In his mouth he carried an extremely well chewed tennis ball which he dropped in front of us and looked up at Ric with imploring eyes. Ric responded by kicking the ball so Comet could chase after it. We were told Comet would happily play that game all day long. Leaving Ric to amuse the dog, we retired into the cool tasting room to sample the wines. There were only three to sample and they were all reds.  We ended buying two bottle of their late harvest Zinfandel before heading off to the next winery.  If you like your wineries high class and a bit over the top then Johnson’s isn’t the place for you. Some of the reviews in Yelp are pretty bad but we think those reviewers just don’t get it. This is a laid back winery down a dirt road through a vineyard with some great Zinfandels.  Our next stop was the Hop Kiln in Dry Creek Valley, another favorite or ours. Since our last visit they have redesigned the tasting room with more space for displaying their mustards, sauces, and dips which were produced locally. As there was no space at the counters to taste any wines, we sampled the other goods for sale and bought a jar of their Sweet Garlic Mustard. Later we drifted over to taste the wine when a gap appeared and came away with two bottles pf their Pinot Noir. To round off our visit, we walked to the lake and sat at one of the picnic benches where we contemplated the beautiful view and enjoyed the warmth of the sun before heading back home.

There were only a couple of days left of Lizzie and Ric’s vacation and they spent it getting around our neighborhood by walking and shopping. All to soon it was time to take them back to the airport for their flight home and it was sad waving them off. Next time they visit there will be a host of new places for them to discover.

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Franklin Point

One of the views from Franklin Point

One of the views from Franklin Point

Every once in a while we have to visit Franklin Point to enjoy the utter tranquility of the place.  See previous posts here, here and here. It was a last minute decision because we had other plans for this weekend, which were thwarted. We were going to Nevada City to look over a couple of possibilities for our biennial family get together for Christmas this year. The trip had to be postponed due to weather conditions. Highway 20 is closed five miles south of Nevada City due to snow and an avalanche warning.

In San Jose the sun was shining brightly but even here there is a chance of snow. It was forecast that snow could fall at sea level which does not happen very often here. Tom did tell me this morning that snow actually fell in San Francisco last night on some of the highest points but didn’t settle.

On the east side of the Santa Cruz mountains we could see a little bit of snow on the peaks but as soon as we passed over the summit we saw lots of snow, especially in the shaded areas. Tom called it a light dusting. It certainly looked pretty, giving the view a Christmassy appearance. It was a bright day with no hint of fog. Once again we could see Monterey in the distance.

American Abalone Farms

American Abalone Farms. The abalone are raised in those covered tanks.

There was more traffic than we were used to on Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz. A lot of folks on their bikes were already up and about. A smattering of rain drops hit our windscreen. We agreed beforehand that if we ran into rain, we would turn back. Ahead there were no clouds in the sky so we carried on.

Just north of Davenport we spotted a sign advertising farm raised abalone for sale. At Davenport Landing Road we turned left and American Abalone Farm is a short drive down. There were lots of buildings which were obviously where the abalone are raised but we couldn’t see inside as plastic sheeting covered the outside. Stacks of pipes were stacked up and we could hear water being pumped. The abalone are raised in tanks where fresh sea water from the nearby ocean is pumped and they feed on fast growing kelp.

We followed a sign which took us to the farm shop and a very personable young man greeted us. We asked how old abalone had to be before they could be eaten and were told 3 – 3.5 years.  I looked at a chart on the wall showing sizes abalone from hatching up to 3.5 years. Tom remembers a time when you could wade into the water and pry abalone off the rocks. Nowadays they are protected as commercial farming very nearly wiped them all out and now a license is needed to harvest them. I have never eaten abalone before though Tom has consumed a lot in his lifetime. At American Abalone Farms they sell fresh and frozen abalone. We bought four small frozen tenderized steaks ready to be cooked for $20. It sounds expensive but it was worth the money so I could taste them.

Further along the coast we passed a lot of cars parked along the road. This is where Scott Creek flows into the ocean and a favorite place for surfers. Today they were out in force.

Margaret waiting for me on the beach at Franklin Point.

Margaret waiting for me on the beach at Franklin Point.

Our main destination, Franklin Point, is  a few miles beyond Ano Nuevo. There were no other cars parked on the gravel pull in next to the landmark tree stump.  Maybe we would have the place to ourselves. The trail was a little muddy. Thank goodness for the raised boardwalk in a couple of places otherwise we would not have got through. In fact, one of the boardwalks is new or at least it was the first time we had seen it. The roped trail between the last two dunes now has a lake on both sides. In the middle, the sandy path had been breached but someone had put down a few bits of wood and it was easy to cross.

Where the trail ended, the recent storms and high tides had eroded the descent to the beach and it was impossible to walk down. I shuffled down on my bottom. Tom was some way behind as he had stopped along the trail to take photos and I had carried on without him. I knew he would have trouble getting onto the beach with his tripod so I sat on a nearby log so I could help him when he arrived. He also shuffled down on his bottom. I wondered though how we would get back up again.

Elephant seal at Franklin Point. When this guy had his head down resting he looked like a rock.

Elephant seal at Franklin Point. When this guy had his head down resting he looked like a rock.

Once again I strode ahead, with the bench on Franklin Point in my sights. I heard Tom call me back and wondered what he had seen. It was a young male elephant seal lying on the beach. If he hadn’t called me back I would have tripped over him. Wow! This put us in a bit of a dilemma. How were we going to get past him as he was between the bluff and the ocean and you must stay at least 25 feet away? We decided to climb up and walk over the bluffs. It took us a little time and we both took different routes. I know you are not supposed to go off the trail but we did follow trodden paths. I kept my eyes open for any more stray elephant seals but I saw none. I did see paw tracks though. Bobcat or mountain lion I wondered? It made me realize just how vulnerable we frail humans are. I didnt want to run into either animal so I sang as I walked to warn any animals that I was coming.

I saw an interesting plant with runners and small clumps of leaves every so often. To me it looked like a strawberry plant. Then I saw lots more of them and tried really hard not to trample any of them. A bit further on I saw a white flower on one of the clumps of leaves and can confirm that they are wild strawberries. I wonder if they grow here naturally or whether they have been planted to improve the stability of the dunes.

Eventually I found a way through to the trail which led to my favorite bench. From a distance I could see Tom had already reached it and wondered how on earth he had beaten me. As I approached the bench along the boardwalk I realized it was not Tom at all but a stranger who was happily sitting there eating his breakfast. I looked back and saw Tom making his way along the trail to the boardwalk.

Wetlands on the way back from Franklin Point.

Wetlands on the way back from Franklin Point.

Sitting on the bench and soaking in the view was bliss. There was a chilly breeze but the sun was out. I chatted with the man when he finished his breakfast. He had walked along the trail from the south and had passed a couple of elephant seals on the way.

The views were as amazing as ever. Looking back I could see another group had arrived at the beach with children. I hoped they wouldn’t get too close to the elephant seal. Fortunately they gave it a wide berth. There were no pelicans today, which is unusual but we spotted a group of cormorants standing guard on a rock offshore.

Looking back to the beach I noticed that the elephant seal was gone but wasn’t sure whether he had made his way back to the ocean or had hauled himself further up the beach. At least we could walk back along the beach without disturbing him.

Later, as we made our way back, we discovered a trail the to the ocean the elephant seal had made. We also spotted another elephant seal at the top of the beach. This is the first time I have ever seen elephant seals here and it is an amazing sight. To avoid the difficult climb up to the trail we took a shortcut over the bluffs and along the edge of the small lake.

We debated whether to go back the way we had come to Santa Cruz or whether to drive back although Pescadero. The tempting thought of a fresh baked artichoke garlic bread from Arcangeli’s and goat cheese from Harley Farms was too strong to resist. We also bought a ollieberry pie in Arcangeli’s. Tonight we are going to enjoy a real Coastside meal with abalone followed by ollalieberry pie and ice cream. We might even have room finish up with bread (if there is any left by the time we get home) and goats cheese. Mmm, mmm.

Once again we have enjoyed another wonderful day. There is nothing like California with its never ending choices of places to visit and even if we have been to a place before, it is always different each time we go back. I feel so lucky to be living here.

San Mateo Coast

One of the fishing boats at Pillar Point Harbor

One of the fishing boats at Pillar Point Harbor

Another beautiful spring day in sunny California. Our main destination today is Franklin Point on the San Mateo Coast. As we drove towards the coast on Highway 92, the sun was rising. The slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were bathed in a reddish tint and everything looked glorious.

(Click the photos for larger versions)

After breakfast at the 3-Zero Cafe next to Half Moon Bay Airport, we stopped off at Pillar Point Harbor. We were looking to buy some fresh fish straight from the boats. At first I was surprised at the number of people around but then realized it was a group gathering for a whale watching boat trip. Now is a great time of the year for such a trip as the female gray whales are close to shore escorting their young calves north.

We wandered down the wharf looking to see if any boats were selling fresh fish. There was only one boat open for business but they only had Dungeness Crabs on offer.

It was very pleasant walking down the ramps and floating wharves, strolling around looking at all the fishing boats. These are definitely working boats with their decks littered with ropes, pontoons, crab cages and rusty equipment. Boats gently nudged the edge of the wharves as they rose and fell with the swell and we swayed slightly with the motion.

These fishermen have been experiencing hard times recently with the closure of the salmon fishing season for the last two years. There will be limited commercial fishing this year (just eight days in May) so soon they will be able to catch at least a little of the local king salmon, which is the best salmon ever.

Pigeon Point Light House

Pigeon Point Light House

Onto our main destination today – Franklin Point. I know it is only a few weeks since our last visit but we were anxious to see whether the path to the beach had been restored. I want to sit on our favorite seat and gaze out across the ocean. With any luck we should spot a few whales today. Passing Pescadero State Beach we noticed, a group of people standing on the bluffs. Whale watching maybe? Then we noticed a tour bus in the parking lot. There is going to be a lot of people around today.

We did consider stopping at Pigeon Point Lighthouse but the parking lot is not very large and it was packed, plus cars were parked along the side of the road. We did stop a few hundred yards south of the lighthouse so Tom could take a picture of the lighthouse with the wild flowers in the foreground. I stayed near the car and kept my eyes peeled for water spouts. There were several boats some way offshore. They could have been fishing boats or whale watching tours. It was a beautiful spot. The view was spectacular and the sound of birds singing was background music.

Pigeon Point Light House from a different angle

Pigeon Point Light House from a different angle

Between the lighthouse and Ano Nuevo is the parking place for Franklin Point. There were no other cars there. I set off down the path, watching a hawk hunting to my right. On the path I spotted a fat orange and black furry caterpillar. Since our last visit there must have been some rain because the path was quite muddy in places.

Over the last dune and where the path abruptly ended on our last visit in February, there is now limited access to the beach. It is a steep slide down. I was grateful to arrive in one piece but how was I going to get back?

It was good to be there on the beach with the seat within walking distance. The tide was high and it didn’t look possible to get to the point along the beach where there is a path to the seat. When I reached the rocks at the end of the beach there was no way over the rocks so I went back up the beach looking for a way round. There was a tent pitched just above the high tide mark and by the amount of personal possessions scattered around it almost looks like somebody has taken up residence rather than an overnight stay.

Once on top of the bluff, I followed a beaten path. Several times I had to turn back and look for an easier path but eventually I made it. At last I was on the final boardwalk to our favorite seat. Glancing back towards the entrance to the beach, I saw Tom and we waved to each other. I settled down on the bench for a serious whale watching session. This is the perfect time and the weather is just right as well.

I didn’t have to wait long. Soon I was spotting small spouts and the occasional bigger spout. You can

Franklin Point poppies

Franklin Point poppies

guess how thrilled I was. Every so often I would say ‘yes’ out loud or even ‘wow’. A couple of times I saw a tail rise out of the water. I imagined there was a pod of killer whales out there hunting for the vulnerable calves. The water spouts could not be seen with the naked eye from where I sat but the binoculars brought everything into view. Pigeon Point lighthouse is further out, that may be the perfect spot for whale watching.

Tom joined me and for the next hour we stayed there – Tom taking photos, just relaxing and occasionally using the binoculars. Me – I was whale watching, writing and relaxing. It was the best of times.

Eventually we stirred ourselves and made our way back to the car. Tom had found an easier route to the seat so we followed that. There were quite a few people on the main path leading back to the highway, some people were sitting on the bluffs and looking out to sea. Everybody was enjoying this wonderful location.

On the way back to Highway 92, we stopped in Half Moon Bay to buy some fresh salmon. It was from Alaska so not quite as fresh as it would have been if we had been able to buy straight from the fishermen but until the real stuff arrives it will have to do. Along with some asparagus we bought from the shop next door, we have all the ingredients for a great BBQ.

Waddell Beach, Franklin Point and Pigeon Point

Today the weather forecast said it was going to be a nice day so we set off for the coast. Tom had rented an expensive Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Waddell Beach and lots of birds

Waddell Beach and lots of birds

Zoom Lens for three days and after spending time yesterday getting used to it in the backyard, he was itching to get out and use it.

We were disappointed to see fog as we backed out of the garage but by the time we joined Highway 17 and headed towards the Santa Cruz mountains, it miraculously cleared and with the sun beginning to rise, it looked like it is going to more than a nice day.

Along Highway 17, evidence of spring could be seen with lots of yellow and white blossoms brightening the roadside. After the recent rains we have had, it was nice to see the Lexington Reservoir with more water in it than we have seen for some time. The water had been so low recently that a bridge, along with a few house foundations from the towns of Lexington and Alma which were submerged when the reservoir was created, had been exposed. Let’s hope we will have lots of water for this summer.

We had planned to stop for breakfast at the Summit Roadhouse on Highway 17. When I checked online the opening time was supposed to be 6 am but when we pulled up outside at gone 7, the big ‘Closed’ sign was in the window. Thwarted again. As Tom was keen to start shooting, he didn’t want to travel around Santa Cruz looking for a breakfast place which was open, so we stopped at Peet’s in Scots Valley for coffee, hot chocolate and a muffin.

Soon we were back on the road again and heading north on Highway 1. Fog could be seen just offshore and we continually ran in and out of it.

Pelican riding the wind just over the wave tops

Pelican riding the wind just over the wave tops

We pulled into the small car park at Waddell Creek and Tom was off. Although the sun was shining where we were, the visibility was not great and the temperature was 45 degrees. I decided to sit in the car and write. The tide was in and the surf high but there were no surfers around. From my viewpoint onto Waddell Beach I could see lots of gulls and when they suddenly all took flight they momentarily blocked out the sun. Looking back towards the redwoods marching to the sea in Big Basin State Park, the fog hid the tops of the trees but rays of the sun were shining through. It was a beautiful sight.

When Tom got back in the car, the first words he spoke were ‘ beautiful lens’. He then went on to talk about a conversation he had with a guy who was parked next to us. This man had been to Mavericks the day before – the 2010 Mavericks Surf Contest was being held – and he commented that the waves out at the competition site did not look as high as the waves that broke onto the beach. Tom and I had considered going along to watch the competition but several things made us decide otherwise – there were bound to be thousands of people there and viewing spots are very limited plus Tom wanted to play with the lens. Just as well really because some of those waves which broke onto the beach were really big and submerged a lot of people. Nobody was killed fortunately but there were some injuries and lots of people soaking wet and very frightened.

Next stop Franklin Point. Once again, bright sun but visibility limited. The trail, which is just sand, was damp and the tips of the marsh grass which hung over the trail were wet and soaked my pants. Catkins and buds were beginning to burst on the small trees along the way.

Along the way I met a man with his small daughter. They were staying at nearby Costanoa. He said there was not much beach to see but he and

Just some reeds along the path to Franklin Point

Just some reeds along the path to Franklin Point

his daughter had bushwhacked their way along the top of the dunes and spotted a lone elephant seal in a small inlet a little way to the north.

Every time we visit Franklin Point there are small differences but today those differences were huge. As we crested the dunes at the edge of the beach, the sandy trail, which normally leads us straight onto the beach, abruptly ended. The high tides had wiped the path out. The waves were big and when they broke they lapped at the edge of the path 20 feet below us. No access to the beach today.

We avoided going too close to the edge. Sand is very volatile and can easily fall away under your feet. We didn’t fancy landing up in the water. We could see our favorite seat out on the point. To get to it we normally walk across the beach and climb up to it. Instead we decided to head north to see if we could spot the elephant seal but there was no proper trail. A beaten path of sorts could be followed for a short way but it was extremely difficult and highly dangerous.For Tom it was impossible. Not only was he carrying his tripod but the extra lens on his camera was very heavy. When I saw the footsteps in the sand right on the edge, discretion overcame valor and we gave up. Besides all this tramping off the trail is not good for the fragile environment.

We made our way back to the car. On the way Tom spotted a hawk perched on a tree stump some way away. With my binocular I could see it easily but could not identify it. It looked the same as the one we saw at Sacramento NWR just before Christmas.

On to Pigeon Point lighthouse a few miles down the road. The small car park was full so we parked on the road. Walking towards the lighthouse, I heard some people talking about Mavericks. They were staying at the hostel next to the lighthouse and had been on the beach yesterday. One man described the waves that hit the beach as a tsunami.

One last pelican off Pigeon Point Lighthouse

One last pelican off Pigeon Point Lighthouse

On the deck at the back of the lighthouse, the waves were up close and personal. Just offshore, huge waves were breaking over the rocks and the spray was spectacular. In fact, I could feel the spray and could taste salt when I licked my lips.

Tom was having fun with the rented lens. He’s so enamored of it, I’m worried he will want to buy one and I know it costs a few thousand dollars.

In between bouts of writing, I admired the view. Tom was still out on the lower deck and chatting away to the other visitors. One couple had a tripod and an odd looking camera, which they had trained on the lighthouse. When Tom returned to change his lens, I asked about the camera and he said it was a very old pinhole camera which is used to take long exposures.

For over an hour I sat on that bench, mostly watching over our equipment but it was a contented time;  the crashing waves, enormous swells, fountains of spray, the frothing, seething, churning waters and the thundering surf kept me spellbound and the sun shone down. Hey ho, time to head home.

Franklin Point

Heading down the trail to Franklin Point.  This photo looks back towards Highway 1.

Heading down the trail to Franklin Point. This photo looks back towards Highway 1.

After stopping for breakfast in Santa Cruz, we set off for our favorite spot on the coast – Franklin Point. When we left San Jose just before 7, the temperature was already 77 degrees and it looked like it was going to be another hot one. What we needed was to cool off at the coast. We were expecting it to be a little foggy and in fact there was a sign on Highway 17 which said to watch out for fog ahead but as we reached the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains there was no fog and in fact there was still none in sight as we approached Santa Cruz.  It was a different story though when we left Santa Cruz to headed up the coast.  First of all it was just a little foggy but it cleared around Davenport, only to appear again as we approached Ano Nuevo.  That’s the trouble with fog, you never know where it is going to be exactly.

Franklin Point was not too bad actually.  As we got out of the car there was a stiff breeze so we donned our jackets.  There  were no other cars parked by the tree stump but ahead of us on the trail we could see another couple walking towards the beach.  The trail is only half a mile long to the beach.  I strode ahead so Tom could take his time to stop along the way and take photos.

It has been nearly a year since our last visit and I was looking forward to sitting on my favorite bench.  The trail has been modified since then.

Click on this photo for a larger version and youll be able to see our favorite bench at Franklin Point

Click on this photo for a larger version and you'll be able to see our favorite bench at Franklin Point

The first modification was man made.  About two thirds of the way along it used to get very wet and muddy in the winter and on occasions the trail has been impassable at this point.  A few years ago small logs were put down over the worst section to form a pathway but over time they have either been burried of have disappeared.  A raised boardwalk has now been constructed, which will make it possible to walk to the beach every day of the year.  The second modification to the trail was natural.  Due to shifting sand, the trail itself has been altered nearer the beach.

When I arrived at the beach, I took my time to absorb the scene, taking deep breaths to fill my lungs with the fresh air.  The only people in sight were the couple who I had seen earlier and they were making a beeline for the bench, which was clearly visible half a mile away up on the point.  But they only stopped a few seconds and did not even sit down before they turned away and carried on walking south.  Such a pity.  It might be blowing up there but five minutes rest on the bench would have set them up for the day.

I didn’t head for the bench straightaway but walked on past for about half a mile, just to see what I could see.  I stopped to look down into a little cove and spotted a huge pink starfish clinging to a rock.  The path at this point was perilously close to the edge of the cliff.

Turning back, I retraced my steps to the point where a boardwalk leads to the bench.  Last time I remarked how the boardwalk itself was beginning to deteriorate.  This time I noticed how some of the metal poles were very rusty and a few have corroded to the point where the metal is very flaky.  I won’t be surprised if on my next visit some of them will have rusted through completely.

Looking out at Franklin Point from our favorite bench at our favorite place along the San Mateo Coast.

Looking out at Franklin Point from our favorite bench at our favorite place along the San Mateo Coast.

Eventually I arrived at my bench.  OK, it was windy.  As I wrote I had to hold down the pages of my journal with the other hand, but I’m not complaining.  The sound of the waves coming in and going out and the surf breaking over the rocks was soothing.  The smell of the ocean was invigorating – all those negative ions working their magic.  On top of all that, I could taste the brine on my lips.  The fog was thicker out to sea and I could not see Pigeon Point Lighthouse off to my right.  I knew it was there but the light was not even visible.

Normally we see a lot of pelicans flying low around this point and Tom waits patiently for them to arrive.  You have no warning at all that they are coming.  Suddenly they appear, gliding in formation and skimming the waves.  But today we were out of luck.  We saw lots of gulls and cormorants sitting out on the rocks but not one pelican.

As we sat there, contemplating life and the future; glorying in the scenery and the cool breezes, the sun began to warm our backs.  Ironically the fog seemed to be getting thicker off the coast.  Eventually we both took a deep sigh, turned our backs on the ocean and headed back to the heat of the Santa Clara Valley.

Franklin Point, San Mateo Coast

Wetlands along Highway 1We are off to our favorite place on the San Mateo Coast – Franklin Point.  Let’s hope it is not fog bound this time.  According to the weather forecast, it looks as though Santa Cruz will be clear and bright but there is fog at Half Moon Bay.  Franklin Point is between the two, so we will just have to take a chance.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

The journey to Santa Cruz was more or less mundane until we were headed down the mountain on the other side of Scotts Valley on Highway 17.  Suddenly I saw a car on the other side of the road fly into the air and crash into the trees at the side of the road.  Tom saw the dust but not the car.  I was really shaken up but there was nothing we could do as there was a concrete barrier down the middle of the road.  I looked behind and there were cars stopping so knew someone would be calling 911.  I just couldn’t get the image out of my mind and was really concerned about the driver and any passengers there may have been in the car.  I knew I would be worrying all day.

We drove into Santa Cruz for breakfast – see previous entry – and were back on the road again by 7.40.  Our route took us back to Highway 1 where we turned north.

Just outside Santa Cruz we saw signs up warning of a bike race and soon we saw the cyclists.  We passed a lot of them between Santa Cruz and Davenport.  Most of them were serious competitors with their super bikes, Lycra gear, cool shades and space age helmets.  Some were making light work of the hills and some seemed to be struggling.  At the front of the cyclists were three motor cycle cops.  I wonder how far they are going.

It must be getting close to October and the pumpkin season.  We passed several pumpkin patches being made ready.  In one there was already a huge display of pumpkins all waiting to be picked out by excited children, although, of course, it was not open at 8 a.m.

Oh no! We can see fog ahead.  This looks like a repeat of our aborted visit last month when the weather was too bad to even walk to the beach.  Maybe it will clear – always the optimist.

We stop at Big Basin Redwoods State Park where the redwoods come all the way down to the coast.  Tom wanted to take photos of the fog over the creek and maybe the brown pelicans taking a rest in the lagoon on the beach.  I stay in the car and write.

Here the sun is shining which is really weird as we are surrounded by fog.  Out on the ocean I can vaguely see the die hard surfers waiting patiently to catch a wave.  The sea doesn’t look high today so maybe they are just beginners.

Tom has now left the creek and has made his way across Highway 1 to the lagoon.  There are several pelicans on the water but now dozens are on the sand and more fly in to join them.  I guess this must be their meeting place every morning where they catch up with all the gossip.

I’ve been siting here 15 minutes and here come the three motor cycle cops and not far behind the first two cyclists appear.  I guess we are going to have a bit of trouble getting away from here.  Tom is making his way back to the car.  Maybe we can get away before the bulk of them arrive.  I can’t see any more coming at the moment.  We were able to make our escape.  As we turned back onto the road I could see a few cyclists coming down the hill behind us.

We pass Costanoa and pull into the parking strip near the tree stump.,  There is one van already there and three surfers are getting ready to walk to the beach.  As I get out of the car I can smell the sea.  Mmmm.

I set off first.  Yes it is foggy but it is not as bad or as cold as the last time so we decided to go for it.  At the top first rise I paused as I could see on the path ahead a mother deer and her young fawn.  Both lifted their heads and looked at me.  I would have waited until they decided to move away but at that moment two of the surfers come by.  The two deer trotted off down the path and I never saw them again.

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