Tag Archives: Half Moon Bay

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.

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay

This is our first trip for a couple of weeks as we have been inundated with storms. Tomorrow the storms will return but today there is no rain and, in fact, the sun is shining. We had not made any plans to go anywhere because we were not sure exactly what the weather would be like. First thing this morning it was foggy and we were resigned to another day inside but at 9 the sun came out so we immediately got our gear together and set off.

We decided to head towards the coast. Our last visit to the ocean was in January when we visited Año Nuevo. Today we are heading further north to Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. We could see snow on the tops of the range of mountains to the east and a mere dusting on the peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It is nice to see the sun again after so much rain and we are going to make the most of it today. Of course the rain is much appreciated both for watering our gardens and to fill our reservoirs for the coming year. Skiers are ecstatic due to the heavy snow falls in the Sierra Nevadas. One amazing change we noticed since our last drive along 280; the brown hills are now a luscious green.

I never tire of the drive from 280 along 92 to Half Moon Bay. There is always a lot of interesting things to look at. Today we had little more time to study the sights as the traffic was slightly heavier than we are used to due to our late start. So what is so interesting I hear you ask? Well, there are nurseries selling a variety of plants and one place where they specialize in roses. Huge metal prehistoric sculptures are displayed for sale at several places and one where they have wooden carvings of animals. We also passed grape vines and the La Nebbia Winery. One thing that caught my eye today was a full sized, brightly painted, yellow, wooden pony covered in different colored hearts. A sign nearby advertised pony rides. There are also tree farms and fruit stands along the way, though some of the latter were not open as it is too early in the year.

We bypassed Half Moon Bay and turned right onto Highway 1. As we left home before we’d eaten breakfast,  we were both hungry. Our first attempt to find something to eat was thwarted. The Miramar Beach Restaurant was closed. It doesn’t open until 11 am on Sundays. The tide, we noticed, was very high and came right up to the sea wall.

One of the older boats in Pillar Point Harbor

One of the older boats in Pillar Point Harbor

Plan B for breakfast was the 3-Zero Cafe adjacent to Half Moon Bay Airport. There were a lot of cars in the car park and we knew we would be in
for a wait. Sure enough it took 25 minutes before we were led to a table but we spent the waiting period people watching so time seemed to pass pretty quickly. The servers were bustling around trying to negotiate through the mass of people inside the door to get to the cashier but they were very cheerful. Our table was right at the end, so it was isolated and we were sitting in the sun. It was a good place to be. There were people sitting and eating on the patio. If we had chosen to eat out there we would have been seated sooner but we decided it could possibly be a little chilly. Our order was taken quickly but it took nearly half an hour to serve it but it didn’t surprise us. Tom had Crab Cake Benedict (13.95) and I had Crab Benedict (11.95). Both dishes were OK but we were disappointed with the potatoes.

Just some rope in a half submerged dingy at Pillar Point Harbor

Just some rope in a half submerged dingy at Pillar Point Harbor

After breakfast we headed for Pillar Point Harbor and took a wander down the pier. This is a good place to buy fresh fish straight off the fishing boasts and we were on the lookout for whole fish – Tom has a recipe he wants to try – but we were out of luck. There were boats selling their fresh caught wares but Dungeness Crab was the seafood being sold. It has been a good year for Dungeness Crab but we were not in the market for it. We took a stroll down one of the floating wharves to take a closer look at the ships. Flashy modern boats for pleasure fishing were tied up alongside the rusting commercial fishing boats. The sleek and shiny ‘Tuna Tales’ next to the ‘Kiwi’ was a case in point. The three fishing boats selling crab on this particular wharf were the ‘Cricket’, the ‘Ani-K’ and the ‘Maggie’. I stood and watched the ‘Tern’ moor on an adjacent wharf and admired how skillfully it was done.

As we were unsuccessful in our quest for a fresh whole fish, we visited the Princeton Fish Market nearby. They did have whole fish but not what we were looking for. We ended up buying some sea scallops and a couple of calamari steaks. To round off our meal for tonight we stopped at a fruit stand on HW 92 and bought some asparagus from Mexico and a pound of brussels sprouts. Then it was home to San Jose, where the weather was cooler than at the coast. Another wonderful day.

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.

3-Zero Cafe, Half Moon Bay Airport

3-Zero Cafe at the Half Moon Bay Airport

3-Zero Cafe at the Half Moon Bay Airport

Tom found a new place for breakfast today. We have passed it many times and never noticed it. It is at Half Moon Bay Airport, right off Highway 1 and used to be the terminal building for San Mateo Airport. Lots of parking outside and lots of room inside.

The first thing that strikes you as you walk towards the door are the airplanes suspended from the ceiling. They come in all sizes from large down to the size my brother used to build from kits many moons ago.

We could sit anywhere we wanted and chose a table in the window looking over the airfield. The place has so many windows that by turning our heads we could also see traffic passing on Highway 1.

The menu is very impressive and yes, there was oatmeal. It was in the Lite section and comes with sugar, raisins, fruit and a dry English muffin for $5.75. Tom’s choice was an asparagus omelet for $9.45. The coffee was $1.95.

It is certainly a bright and cheerful place with colorful plastic tablecloths and the sun slanting through the windows. Apart from the aforementioned airplanes hanging from the ceiling, the walls are covered with pictures, photos, maps and assorted aviation memorabilia. The entrance to the airport office is inside the cafe as well.

We did not have long to wait for our food, which pleased Tom as he was hungry. His omelet looked scrumptious. The plate was not very big and the omelet and home fried potatoes filled it completely. So much so he did not know quite where to put his English muffin so he laid it on a napkin. There was a creamy hollandaise sauce on top of the omelet which was garnished with chives. My oatmeal came in a deep round bowl on a blue oval plate. Also on the plate, a small ceramic jug of milk and three small ceramic bowls containing brown sugar, raisins and chopped up strawberries. The muffin, which did not look all that dry, was sitting on the plate along with a sprig of parsley.

I enjoyed my oatmeal. It was hot and there was a lot of it. Tom said the omelet was good. The asparagus were just right – not soggy at all – and the home fried potatoes were both tasty and crispy. The coffee though was only so-so.

Real nice restroom. Big, clean, bright and with hot water. Lots of pictures on the wall but surprisingly the main themes here are paddle steamers and old cable cars. The biggest and brightest attractions are two large and colorful completed and framed jig saw puzzles, one of hot air balloons and the other of an airport scene in a bygone era.

This has been a real good find. Everything about it was great – location, food, service and surroundings. We thoroughly recommend it.
3-Zero Cafe
Half Moon Bay Airport
9850 Cabrillo Hwy N
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

San Mateo Beaches

The beach looked nice but not the way down.

The beach looked nice but not the way down.

The challenge we set for ourselves today was to investigate some of the coastal accesses south of Half Moon Bay on the San Mateo coast.  We normally head for our favorite spots like Franklin Point or Pigeon Point but there are many other places, some of which are private and some are unofficial.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

We checked the weather before we set off and it looked like it was going to be a great day.  When we set off all seemed to be clear and no sign of fog.  Imagine our surprise when we heard on the radio that there was a fog advisory for the San Mateo coast.  We discussed whether going to the coast would be a good idea.  Maybe we should revise our plan and head east.  Eventually we decided to continue with our plans and if we ran into thick fog, we could turn around and go elsewhere.

There was a bit of low lying fog at the junction of Highways 280 and 92 but not bad enough to turn back.  Driving into Half Moon Bay was clear.  The weekend before the Half Moon Bay’s annual Pumpkin Festival was held and we passed many huge pumpkin patches still with lots of pumpkins exhibited for sale.  I expect there will be loads of families turned up later in the day looking  for the perfect pumpkin.

In Half Moon Bay, we stopped at a drive through coffee kiosk at the junction of Highway 92 and Main Street.  Although it was lit up and the ‘Open’ sign was flashing, we were dubious that it was actually open for business but we were pleased to discover it was.  A very courteous youth opened the window and sold us two strong cups of very hot coffee.

Through Half Moon Bay we headed south on Highway 1 looking out for signs which said ‘Coastal Access’.  We passed a road which was called

San Gregorio Beach along the San Mateo Coast

San Gregorio Beach along the San Mateo Coast

Redondo Beach Road.  Did that mean there was a beach at the end?  We didn’t want to take the risk.  The first brown ‘coastal access’ was at Miramontes Road so we turned right.  We passed a very small car park but doubted whether that led to the beach so we carried on.  What we didn’t realize was that at the end of the road was the very exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel with it’s expensive golf course attached and there was no stopping unless we were headed to one or the other.  It was just after 7 and we were surprised how many people were not only out on the course but were still turning up.  We beat a hasty retreat and headed back to the one small car park we had passed earlier.

At one time all the headland would have been accessible but when the land was bought and the hotel built I guess they had to provide some public access to the beach.  The very small car park and one right of way to the beach, which cuts through the golf course, was their token of compliance.  We did not bother to investigate any further and carried on with our quest.

We passed two marked roads to the beach but they were closed off.  Our next stop was at an unmarked access.  To the right was a wide gravel shoulder with a couple of overnight camper vans parked.  The only point of reference was a blue San Mateo call box sign – telephone number SM001-205.  The access was downhill and very steep but we went for it.

The path was twisty and deeply rutted.  The recent heavy rains have gouged a deep crevice all the way down and the ground is still damp and slightly muddy.  The view were spectacular though.  Off to the right the sheer cliff extends into the ocean, probably the Ritz Carlton is on that peninsula.  Tom stopped to take photos so I clambered on down but could not make it all the way to the beach.  It is possible but the final stretch was via an unstable almost vertical drop with just a collection of tatty ropes tied to stunted bushes to prevent a headlong fall.  At my age, I don’t think so.  I intercepted Tom before he reached that point and we climbed back up the steep incline.  At least we know not to come here again.

We drove on to San Gregorio Beach.  This is a state managed beach with a proper car park right on the beach.  There is a fee to be  paid.  At 8.30 in the morning the kiosk was unmanned but there are envelopes available to post your fee.  The charges are $8 for day use ($7 for seniors) but if does allow you to use all the state beaches on the same day.

Egret at Pomponio Beach

Egret at Pomponio Beach

Tom and I have been to this beach several times and each time it is different.  For some reason a lot of driftwood is washed up here – mostly huge logs.  I wonder where they all come from?  There are always temporary structures built with this driftwood and today was no exception.  One looked like a log cabin.  Maybe somebody was sleeping inside.  The beach itself is sandy with a large lagoon.  Of course, the lagoon is always a different shape each time we come.  There are notices up telling anglers not to breach the lagoon because it will kill the fish.  I took a short walk along the beach and then found a convenient log to sit on and write.  The sun was beginning to warm everything up.

The next state beach is Pomponio.  This is very much like San Gregorio but here both the lagoon and the amount and size of the driftwood is on a smaller scale.  No driftwood structures here but what was man made were a couple of huge forts made out of sand.  They had obviously been made yesterday and beyond reach of high tide.  I also noticed washed up on the bach lots of tiny dead white crabs.  The cliffs here are interesting as well because they are high and studded with rows of small stones.

We by-passed Pescadero State Beach, which has three access pooints, due not only to lack of time but it deserves an entry all to itself at a later date.   It was here we took a breakfast break – see next entry.

Our next and last beach stop was at Bean Hollow State Beach.  There is a car park at each end and we used the sourthern end.  This is one of our

Strange rocks at Bean Hollow State Beach

Strange rocks at Bean Hollow State Beach

favorite beaches as it has everything that we look for in a beach – scenic views, lots of wave action, sandy and little used.  Once again the rocks were interesting but completely different from Pomponio.  Here they are sandstone (I think) but with lots of holes in them which made them look like honeycomb.  One of the taller rocks, looking at it from a distance, reminds me of a man made town on a mountainside.  Tom and I both have different interpretations as to how the holes are formed.  Tom thinks they are caused by wave action whilst I believe the holes were made by burrowing shellfish of some kind.  If anybody out there knows the answer, we would be interested to hear from you.

I walked to the end of the beach to see if there was any way through to the northern end.  The tide was fairly high so could not make much progress along the beach although it may be possible to clamber over the rocks.  At the top of the beach I noticed a footpath which heads over the bluffs so ventured along it a little way.  Indeed there is a trail alongside the road which goes to the other end.  I discovered a secluded little cove where a couple were enjoying a picnic.  It was a perfect location protected from the wind, unless the breeze was coming off the ocean.

The weather turned out to be glorious in the end.  The slight early morning haze had completely disappeared with tempretures up in the 70’s.  Thank goodness we did not change our plans.

Although we checked out quite a few coastal access locations, there are several we did not have the time to do today.  Apart from Pescadero State Beach, there is also Gazos Creek, Pigeon Point and one other place between Bean Hollow and Pigeon Point.  We’ll have to save those for another day.

Nice scene in Pescadero

Nice scene in Pescadero

We decided to take another route home past Butano State Park and along Pescadero Creek Road to cross Skyline Blvd.  But first of all a short stop in Pescadero.  It is always a pleasure to revisit this special place.  Duartes Tavern was bustling.  I noticed that the signs for ‘The Rock Guy’ were not on the telegraph posts in the street.  When I got home I checked online and found one small reference to the fact that he died this past winter.   Another local ‘character’ that will be missed.

We had a look round Made in Pescadero.  We love their hand made furniture and the smell of wood but the prices are a little out of our budget.  In Arcangeli’s Country Bakery we bought some sourdough garlic bread, just out of the oven, and half a pound of mild cheddar cheese.  Just right for a little picnic.  There were signs in the store to say they now had a picnic area at the back of the store next to the Pescadero Creek.  So we went to have a look.  It is always interesting to check out buildings from the back.  The picnic area is nice and quiet and there was nobody else around.  On our stroll back to the street, Tom pointed out some flowering artichokes in the garden next door.  I had never seen those huge thistle like flowers before.

After finishing our stroll around Pescadero, we made our way back to the car and the very pleasant drive home.  The end of another perfect day.

San Mateo Coast – Highway 1

It has been over a month since we have done any day trips, due to a nasty cold that Tom has been suffering from and

San Gregorio Valley

San Gregorio Valley

several very wet weekends.  This weekend is not going to be any dryer but as only scattered showers are forecast today, we decided to at least go for a drive.

We set off just before 7am, heading towards the coast.  On the peaks of the Santa Cruz mountains there was a dusting of snow.  There was a beautiful but ominous cloud suspended above.  That must be the next storm moving in.  We desperately need the rain though.  After two dry winters, we welcome the rain but it has been a long time coming this year.  It probably will not be enough,though, to prevent water rationing this summer.  When it rains here it hopefully falls as snow over the Sierras and when that snow melts in the spring, it fills our reservoirs.

The sun was shining but the temperature only registered at 43 degrees F down in the valley.  It is the sun shining on the clouds which made them look so beautiful.

We took Highway 85 to 280 and headed north.  Near the Alpine Road exit, we caught sight of a partial rainbow but it disappeared before our eyes.  Above us a hawk hovered, the sun making it look almost white.  Just before we reached the Woodside exit the rain started to fall but only lasted a short while.

We took the scenic route to Highway 92 by turning off 280 at the Edgewood Road exit and turned left.  As we drove back under the freeway, the view in front of us was glorious.  Ahead was a heavily wooded slope, c0vered in pine trees and with small patches of flog clinging to the trees and filling the small dips.  At Canada Road we turned right and drove past Filoli House (open Tuesday – Sunday) and the Pulgas Water Temple (open week days only).  Neither were open but one day we will visit both.

Tom wanted to stop and take some photos but there were “No Parking At Any Time’ notices posted at regular intervals plus a high wire fence made it impossible to take a decent shot.  Further along we did find a place to park where there was no fence.  From there Tom had a good view down to Crystal Springs Reservoir, which is the source of San Francisco’s drinking water.

This section of Canada Road is closed to cars every Sunday for cyclists to have the road to themselves (apart from the odd roller skater).  We once brought our bikes to Bike Sunday.  It was great and we must come again.  We will be taking part in the Strawberry Fields Forever charity bike ride in May so we may well come here again on our path to getting back into condition.

We turned left onto Highway 92 on the final stretch into Half Moon Bay.  First we crossed the reservoir and then started the climb over the Coastal Range.  Crossing Skyline Blvd we caught our first glimpse of the ocean.

The downhill section of the road into Half Moon Bay is always fascinating.  There are so many interesting businesses  along the way – Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches (though at this time of the year there are no pumpkins to be seen), equestrian centers, plant nurseries, huge metal sculptures of animals and further along a lot animals carved out of wood, a winery (it used to be called Obester Winery but the name has changed to Nebbia Winery) and Spanish Town with it’s seven shops selling a variety of crafts.

We drove through the historic main street of Half Moon Bay but didn’t stop.  There was nothing open.  We were thinking of stopping for breakfast here but the Main Street Grill was not open (and it was gone 8 am!).  Pescadero will be our breakfast destination.  At the end of the street we turned left onto Highway 1 and enjoyed a glorious ride.  The sun was shining, even though there were still those threatening clouds around, and the ocean was very calm with not one white cap to be seen.  Everything was wet and dripping and lots of surface water on the road.

Just before San Gregorio State Beach we turned left on La Honda Road towards San Gregorio.  We are taking another scenic route, this time into Pescadero.  On the way we pass a couple of small trees covered in pink blossom.  In San Gregorio, which is just a couple of houses and a rather quaint little store, we took a left on Stagecoach Road.  Tom wanted to take a photo of the valley.

Along Stage Road heading into Pescadero

Along Stage Road heading into Pescadero

We drove back to San Gregorio, crossed La Honda Road and carried on along Stagecoach Road, passing the old stage post on our right and further along, up on a small rise, the old school house on our left.  The road starts to go uphill and there are many twists and turns.   We think it is along here that our friend Tim had his encounter with the mountain lion (see the post on Point Reyes) so we had our eyes peeled but we were out of luck.  The road continued to wind around giving us distant views of the ocean one minute a secluded valley the next.  Approaching Pescadero we passed a farm on the right which had an enormous rusty metal skeleton “Terminator” sculpture holding a machine gun on the roadside.  Passing the cemetery, we entered the main street of Pescadero.

We had breakfast at Duartes Tavern.  This is one of our truly favorite places to eat at any time of the day (see the post on Duartes Tavern).  Today was no exception.  As it was Valentine’s Day, I expected it to be more crowded.  I did hear though that they were fully booked later in the day.  There was a fresh red rose on all the tables.  Tom had an omelet and I had oatmeal with a side of wheat toast.  With the oatmeal you get milk, brown sugar, raisins and pecans  There were two sorts of home made scrummy jam served with the toast.  While there, I bought one of their legendary ollallieberry pies to take home.  A bit expensive at $23 but a splendid treat for a special occasion.  I was presented with a single, white rose, when we left – as all women were.  What a lovely gesture.

We left Pescadero by turning left onto Pescadero Creek Road. which is another scenic route.  So far we

Misty fog threading through the trees

Misty fog threading through the trees

have not had any more showers but when we drove through the redwoods big drops of water fell from the branches.  Before we reached La Honda, we turned right on Alpine Road.  Tom and I have never been on this stretch of road before and it was spectacular.  Very narrow with just room for one car in parts and with lots of hair pin bends along the way.  At one point, we passed a couple of parked cars on a small lay by and I noticed a trail leading to a little wooden bridge over the creek. I looked on the map and saw that it was the Towne Fire trail which heads back towards Pescadero Creek Road.  We’ll have to walk it one day. There were a few residences we passed but we couldn’t see them.  The only indication were mail boxes and huge imposing gates.

We stopped to take some photos where the woods ended and the open spaces began.  On our left was the Russian Ridge Open Space and on our right the Skyline Ridge Open Space.  The views were amazing and the rising fog looked like smoke.

Approaching Skyline Blvd, we drove though several patches of fog and encountered four cyclists freewheeling down an incline before they hit the next rise to Skyline.  Fortunately they turned left and we crossed Skyline and descended Page Mill Road to 280.  In several spots we had good views down to Palo Alto, the Dumbarton Bridge and the whole South Bay.  Halfway down we saw a flare in the road.  Rounding the corner we had to stop because a Land Rover had gone into a tree.  Fortunately the driver was not hurt as we saw him sitting at the side of the road looking rather dejected and embarrassed.  Soon we hit 280 and were soon home.

We had a very enjoyable day, saw some wonderful sights, had a great breakfast plus we avoided the rain.  What more could anybody ask for?

Pillar Point Harbor

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon BayAfter our rather disappointing breakfast at Ketch Joanne, we took a walk along the pier. It is always interesting to look at the fishing boats.

The first thing we noticed as we reached the pier were small, dead fish floating on the surface. At first we assumed somebody had lost all their fishing bait but then we noticed more and more.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

It is a working pier with lots of small fishing boats moored. It is possible to buy fresh fish straight from some of the boats. To us, there is nothing more tasty than fresh fish so we checked to see what was available today – Dungeness Crab, Ling Cod, Rockfish and Halibut. We sauntered down the gangplank and started to walk between the boats. We came to the Alan, selling live crabs. The fisherman was more than willing to chat, so we asked him about the dead fish and he happily explained what happened.

On Tuesday a shoal of anchovies entered the harbor but a lot of them were unable to get out when the tide changed. They were trapped until the tide changed again. But it was a minus low tide and there was not enough oxygen in the water so many of them died. When they expired they dropped to the bottom but then after a few days they rise to float on the surface. He went on to say that the birds had a field day on Tuesday and were gorging themselves so much on the struggling fish that most of them weren’t able to fly for a while.

We were tempted to buy one of his crabs but I honestly didn’t want to share the car with a live crab. After all, I might become attached to it and then how could I plunge it into a pan of boiling water?

Our walk and visit to the pier was a short expedition. The wind was cold and the thought of a warm car was really inviting. So we retraced our steps and headed for home.

Ketch Joanne, Pillar Point Harbor

Tom and I both needed food and a hot drink. I needed to thaw out my hands after an earlyKetch Joanne, Pillar Point morning trip to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Moss Beach. We were making our way to half Moon Bay when I remembered that there was a restaurant which served breakfast at Pillar Point Harbor just the other side of Princton.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

As we turned into Capistrano Road towards the harbor, we noticed that there have been a few changes since our last visit and we hardly recognized the place. There was a new condo complex which really altered the look of the place.

Ketch Joanne is in a small parade of shops near the Harbor Master’s office with a fair sized car park in front. We parked in a 2 hour slot just in front of the restaurant. Inside it was not very crowded though pleasantly busy. We sat in a window seat with a view of the fishing boats in the harbor and the radar station on the hill.

The place is a bit kitschy with lots of wood – wooden tables, wooden seats, wooden booths, wooden bar, wooden bar stools, wooden floor, wooden walls and even the fish sculptures on the walls were made out of wood. Also displayed on the walls were a variety of mirrors advertising beers.

We sat near the bar and saw several Bloody Marys being prepared. How can anybody drink this early in the morning is beyond me.

Our server was a sweet girl but she had her drawbacks. Maybe she didn’t understand my accent. For instance, I ordered oatmeal (what else?) It comes with warm milk and brown sugar. With fruit – blueberries, bananas or strawberries – it is $1 extra. I first asked whether it was instant oatmeal and the answer was no. I then asked if the blueberries were frozen. She didn’t know the answer to that one so I said if they were frozen I would have the strawberries. When my order arrived, complete with blueberries, they had obviously been frozen. Maybe she thought I was asking if they were served frozen! Anyway, I asked her to change them for strawberries. She forgot to bring the warm milk or, indeed any milk at all and Tom asked for hot sauce and jam for his muffin and my toast. Tom ordered the Foursome Omelette with home fries. The omelette looked a bit skimpy and there was no decoration whatsover. When the milk arrived it was warm but there was such a small amount it was hardly worth the effort of heating it up.

Our main criticism of the food though is that none of it was anywhere near hot. It could be described, at best, as lukewarm. For a change I ordered a hot chocolate (remember, my hands were cold and I just fancied a nice, hot chocolate to warm them up on) but it was far from hot when it arrived. Most disappointing.

Another disappointment – though it was just as I expected – was my trip to the restroom. It was ugly and far from clean. Plus, the fan was extremely noisy. The only item which brightened the place up was the condom machine. It was an old fashioned one with two padlocks on it but the items described made me smile.

To be sure, we won’t be coming back here in a hurry.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach

This is the day we have been waiting for – a minus low tide at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, or to be correct James VCypress trees at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Of course, there are low tides twice a day but minus low tides are more infrequent. Because Tom and I work and we take photos in the early morning, we have to wait until a minus low tide occurs around sunrise on a Saturday or Sunday. To check tides visit here.

The weather forecaster on the radio said today was going to be ‘simply beautiful’ -though what it is like on the coast we shall soon find out. Driving along Interstate 280 at 6.30 it certainly looks promising. Last week you may remember I wrote my thoughts on 101 so let me tell you now about 280. There are as different as chalk and cheese. Today we have wonderful scenery – rolling golden hills, the coastal mountains covered with trees off to our left, glimpses of the bay to our right and Crystal Springs Reservoir sparkling down below. Give me this route any day.

(Click on the images for larger versions)

We turn onto Highway 92, which will take us to the coast. The road dips down to cross the reservoir. Wisps of fog rise from the surface and disappear. The level of the water is disturbingly low. I understand that Governor Schwarzengger has officially declared a drought and we may even have water rationing.

Just before we hit the outskirts of Half Moon Bay we see flares on the road. This is the two lane section so no chance of passing. We round the bend and in front is a que of cars. Up to this point we have had the road more or less to ourselves so we are not used to a traffic jam. Later on today it will be bumper to bumper as folks head over to the coast but usually at this time the road is clear. A long way in front of us we see flashing lights but thank goodness it is only a fleet of slow moving construction trucks. They move over and let us all pass and we are on our way again.

At 6.25 we turn right onto Highway 1. The sun is up, although the temperature is only 45 degrees, but there is no fog. Yipee! Fitzgerald Marine is not easy to find. From Half Moon Bay drive north for 6 miles, past Pillar Point Harbor and the airport until you reach Half Moon Bay. There is a small sign which says Marine Refuge but it is hard to spot. Turn left on California Avenue and follow it to the end. Turn right on North Lake Street and the car park for the reserve is there on your right. It is not very big so you have to get there early. When we arrive though, there was only one other car there.

Tidal pools at Fitzgerald Marine ReserveLow tide today will be at 8.17 so we have a little bit of time beforehand. Tom wanted to head to the bluff above the beach first of all, so we turn left out of the car park and walk back along North Lake Street until we reach a footpath leading to a small, metal bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the trail branches off in several direction and we headed uphill. The climb is worth the view at the top as we are surrounded by cypress trees. This is the photo opportunity Tom was looking for as the sun is at the perfect height. I wander off and leave him happily clicking away.

Walking through the glade of trees is awesome. Some have fallen down but still manage to look majestic. I climb higher to another trail along the top of the bluff and look down on the beach. The tide is retreating and the tide pools are being uncovered and that is the main reason for today’s visit. A lot of people make there way here to explore the tide pools and the lower the tide the more tide pools are uncovered. There are already a couple of people down on the beach and soon we will be joining them.

I gaze to the north and spot what looks like a monument out in the low water. It intrigues me and I have to find out what it is. Of course I wasn’t able to do that until I arrived home and had access to the internet but I can tell you that it is a relic from World War II. It was built as a marker to boats and aircraft and, when gunnery practice was taking place, a red flag was hoisted on the pillar.

After taking several pictures myself, I walk back to meet up with Tom again and snap a few photos of him as well. We then walk back up to the bluff and Tom spotted a coyote or fox up on the bluff, who stopped and gazed at him, but he had disappeared by the time Tom had got the message to me. We walk along the top until we find a flight of rather treacherous steps leading down to the sandy beach. Once out of the sun, the cold hits us but it is bearable.

Where the sand ends the tide pools begin. Now there are a few more people around but notFitzgerald Marine Reserve the number I was expecting. They appeared to be close by by clambering around the tide pools takes a long time. Even the pools uncovered first are full of interest although at first glance they may appear empty. The art of exploring tide pools is to stop, stand very still and wait a couple of movements. Then you will see something move. Bend down slowly and keep looking and eventually you will be surprised at what you will discover. There is a little crab, moving very slowly and there a tiny fish darting between one clump of seaweed and another. I saw something move and kept my eye riveted to the spot until I saw movement again. It was a small fish but it was almost impossible to see when it was stationary as it was mottled and looked the exact color of the rocks and sand it was next to.

Walking over the rocks can be extremely hazardous to all concerned. Rocks are the home of many types of marine life, from the seaweed covering them to the sea anemones attached to them and treading on them is life threatening. They are also dangerous to humans as the seaweed can be very slippery. One false move and you could find yourself crashing onto the rocks or landing in the water. So it is important to be cautious and to watch every step you take. Children especially need to be supervised carefully. Another word of warning, do not remove anything from the beach at all. No shells, or stones, not even a feather. There are rangers walking around and they will stop and chastise you if they spot you carrying anything away.

After spending a couple of happy and absorbing hours on the beach, it is time to go and find some breakfast. We need something hot to warm us up. My hands were shaking with cold.

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