Tag Archives: Pescadero

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.

Año Nuevo

Año Nuevo visitor center looking towards the ocean

Looking out towards Año Nuevo from the visitor center

Año Nuevo is our main destination today. This is the best time of the year to see the elephant seals because both the females and the males are in residence. The females came ashore in December to give birth to their pups and the males arrived a bit later to start organizing their harems. Between December 15 and March 1 the only way to view the seals is to go on a guided tour which can be pre-booked online. Tom has visited during this time but I haven’t. We haven’t pre-booked but when we were last at Año Nuevo in November we were told that on most days it is OK to turn up on spec, especially for the early tours, because there are often spaces available due to no-shows. I did check the day before to see if we could book but there were no spaces available. Fingers crossed we can get on a tour!

This is the dawn of a new age because I’m using my new iPad for the first time on our travels. Hopefully it will save a lot of time. Before I used to take a notebook and write with a pen and then enter it into WordPress when I got back home. With the iPad and an app called Blogpress I can just sync it up when I get home and editing will be much quicker.

We left home at 6:30 when it was still dark and immediately I became aware of a couple more advantages of using the iPad. For one thing I can write in the dark because the screen is backlit. The second advantage is that every word is readable. A lot of times I would have trouble deciphering my notes because handwriting in a car suffers with every bump, twist and turn.

A thicket on our first little hike.  The morning light and dew made it sparkle.

A thicket on our first little hike. The morning light and dew made it sparkle.

We could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. As we crested the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains we could see no fog at the coast. Ahead we could clearly see the lights of Monterey clear across Monterey Bay – a rare phenomenon for us.

In Santa Cruz we stopped on Mission for coffee. It was called On a Mission Coffee and is little more than a kiosk but they also have a small range of breakfast items. We already had breakfast before we left home so we just bought liquid refreshment this time. Tom had coffee and I chose hot chocolate. We have bought coffee here before but then there was a huge range of magazines for sale at the side. I asked what happened to the magazines and the young girl told us they stopped because it wasn’t profitable.

We made another stop at Davenport Landing. Here there is a small secluded sandy beach. A couple of early morning surfers were already braving the elements and from where we stood they sounded as though they were having fun. A short walk on the beach, a couple of photos and we were on our way again.

There is nothing to beat an early morning drive along this stretch of road at this time of the morning on a lovely day like today. So many photo ops but unfortunately no time to stop again today.

Año Nuevo Sate Park opens at 8 am and we arrived a couple of minutes before. At the kiosk we paid the $10 entrance fee to the park and were given a standby number. We were the first standbys today so have a good chance to actually get on a tour. All guided walks start at the Visitors Center so from the car park that is where we headed. Along the way we paused to watch a flock of quail scurrying around. The males look particularly plump and handsome at this time of the year.

At the Visitors Center we gave our names and were told we would be called if there were still spaces five minutes before the published time of the start. If there were a lot of standbys and spare docents, they would lay on an extra tour.

We had a look around the Marine Education Center. Lots of interesting displays explaining not only the life cycle of events on the beach but also about the dunes and surrounding environment including the other wildlife which abounds here. While we were waiting a docent told us that we would definitely be on the 9:30 tour, which gave us enough time to have a look around outside.

Just outside the Visitors Center is the start of the New Year Creek Trail which we have never been on. This would is a good opportunity so off we set. The trail turned to the left and towards Cove Beach and Highway 1. At the bottom of a steep flight of wooden steps there was a parting of the ways and I kept straight on heading for Highway 1. I was curious to see where it came out. Pretty soon I was walking over an old concrete bridge which was probably the old Highway 1. After about a quarter of a mile of uphill climbing, I reached the main road. From the highway it is hard to spot the entrance to the trail. I retraced my steps to the concrete bridge and could see Tom down on the beach. When I joined him he told me there were a couple of seals on the beach. One was off to the right on the other side of New Year Creek and the other was our side and just around the edge of the cliff. This was a lone bull. The scarring on his back was very pronounced. At first I thought it was dead but by checking with my binoculars I could see that he was breathing so merely sleeping.

Our first encounter with a young male elephant seal

Striking a pose. Our first encounter with a young male elephant seal.

By 9:15 we were back at the Visitors Center in order to be ready to set off at 9:30. The earlier groups which set out comprised mostly of teenage students. Our tour though was mostly couples and small groups. At the staging post a park ranger laid down a few rules – no food, not even gum (bottled water is allowed); always stay behind the docent and never get closer than 25 feet from any of the seals. We were introduced to our docent Cheryl Wong. Along the way she dispensed lots of information spiced with humor.

Before we reached the sand dunes, Cheryl stopped and gave us a potted history of Año Nuevo, who discovered it (Sebastián Vizcaíno), the rise, fall and subsequent rise again of the elephant seal population over the years and some background of the Ohlone Indians who called this place home before the Europeans arrived and began to ‘civilize’ them. At a later stop Cheryl went into the life cycle of the seals, what they feed on and how they are able to hold their breath for such a long time under water. She circulated a small piece of hide covered in coarse fur and a whisker. The hide felt a bit rough but the whisker was amazing. I was astounded at the thickness of it.

Elephant seal at Año Nuevo

Elephant seal at Año Nuevo. You actually get pretty close to these guys.

Our first close encounter with an elephant seal happened shortly afterward. A young bull had hauled himself out of the water and was stretched out on the path in front of us. Cheryl said he was about four years old and probably too young to breed yet. Even though we were the required 25 feet away he was aware of our presence and raised his head to look at us. Bulls this age can travel very fast and cover 25 feet in 3 seconds so we were very careful not to disturb him too much. When he opened his mouth to yawn we could see he only had a few back molars but this is quite common. Males start breeding when they are 5 years old and live until they are about 12 years old. Females on the other hand live for about 18 years.

At this point we deviated from the normal path and headed towards the beach over the dunes. We passed several other solitary seals who were basking some way from the shore. We were met by a park ranger – Officer Marty – who called herself a traffic cop. She told the docent which paths to take to avoid disturbing seals. There was another bull but much older than the first one we saw, probably nearly 12. All the while we watched him he didn’t appear to move at all and was certainly not aware of our presence.

We walked to the top of a bluff with a view down to the beach. Here we saw lots of seals – males females and pups. Most were stretched out with

Elephant seal at Año Nuevo

They called this guy, 'Mr. Bubbles'.

just the occasional movement of their fins to scoop sand over their backs. This is to protect them from the sun. The pups stayed close to their mothers and we saw several suckling. Only about 25% will survive their first few months. Some become separated from their mothers, some are attacked by coyotes and some are crushed by the huge males. Once they are weaned and take off into the ocean to fend for themselves they are at the mercy of Great White Sharks and Killer Whales which patrol just offshore waiting to snatch them. Only 25% of the pups born this year will survive to return to this beach.

We did not see any of the males  fighting. Cheryl said they were conserving their energy until the females came into season, which happens about a month after the pups have been born. From our vantage place we had a good view of Año Nuevo Island where we could see another colony of seals resting. Many years ago, when the light house was built on the island, it was possible to walk out to the island at low tide.  Now, due to erosion, that is not possible and the public has no access to the island at all.

We could not stay too long at this spot because another group was due to arrive very soon. Our next stop was to observe a lone bull in a small pond half submerged in the water.  Earlier Officer Marty referred to him as Mr Bubbles and we soon saw why. Elephant seals can hold their breath for a long time and when this male raised to head to take a breath and then breathed out he produced a lot of bubbles. He did this several times and it was amusing to watch. Cheryl said they like to practice holding their breath. When they are out at sea they dive very deep and have to hold their breath for about twenty minutes.

Male and female elephant seals at Año Nuevo.

Bull elephant seal courting a female.

Our guided tour was nearly done. Just one more climb to another overlook to see another section of the beach and more seals. This time we saw an abandoned pup that had died lying on the sand. It was distressing but that’s nature. The park rangers only intervene when the problem is man made, for instance if they get caught up in fishing lines. Apart from that they are left very much undisturbed. From start to finish the tours last for two and a half hours. One hour of that is taken up with walking from the Visitors Center to the staging area and back again. For $7 a head it is real good value and today we certainly got our money’s worth due to the fantastic weather. It was a wonderful experience to see the seals at this time of the year.

Our day was not quite over though. We rounded off the day by driving into Pescadero for lunch at Duarte’s where I enjoyed a delicious bowl of artichoke soup and Tom had a cheeseburger with fries and onion rings. Then across the road to Arcangeli Grocery where we bought a loaf of their freshly baked (and still warm) artichoke garlic herb bread. Just one more stop at Harley Farms to buy some of their lavender honey goat cheese before heading home. We took the scenic route along Stage Road to San Gregorio where we turned right onto Highway 84 and headed towards Highway 280. The end of another perfect day.

Pescadero State Beach Part 2

Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach

We walked up the creek for about 100 yards and then came across a trail which headed north.  Maybe we could walk this way to get back to the car.  There was an information board about Steelhead Trout which I found very interesting and further along another sign which said  ‘Pescadero Marsh Preserve ‘.  A little further on we came on some water.  I wasn’t sure whether it was a small creek or the the south edge of the pond opposite  where we were parked.  We sat on a wooden fence and contemplated where to go from here.  From where we sat, we could see Highway 1 to our left and almost spot our car in the car park.  Should we go back the way we came; could the trail to the left get us back; or was there a way round the marsh?   We decided on the last option.  After all, it was a lovely day and at the worst we could always retrace our steps.

The marsh was very tranquil and there were a few birds on the water.  Walking along the sandy path was no effort and we came to a wooden bridge over a marshy bit of lands.  The path curved to the left, so maybe we had made the right choice.

Along the way there were lots of signs with information on the preserve and what to look out for – garter snakes, red legged frogs, poison oak and stinging nettles.  It was an interesting walk but we could not see a way across to the other side.  Up in front I saw a group of walkers and two of them were wearing yellow docent coats, so they were the ideal people to ask.  They were a charming couple of ladies who assured me there was no way through.  The path just led to an overview of the marsh.

So we turned round and went retraced our steps – back to the creek, under the bridge to the beach.  Here we found some steps up to the road and decided it would be quicker to walk along the road.  There was no sidewalk and most of the way we were walking on the hard shoulder but we did make it safely back to the car.

(When I got back home I checked online about the Pescadero Marsh Preserve .  From this page I went to the trail map and could see exactly where we went wrong – we should have walked up to Highway 1, where the path continued around the North Pond, which would have taken us back to the car park.)

There was no time to explore the southern part of Pescadero State Beach on this occasion.  We will have to pay another visit.  We went via Pescadero on the way home and stopped off at the Country Bakery to get some of their wonderful artichoke, garlic and herb bread.  The smell as we entered the shop was intoxicating and when we picked up a loaf in its white bag it was warm to the touch.  We also bought a bottle of water.  When we returned to the car, we immediately pulled chunks off the loaf and wolfed them down with generous amounts of water.

We decided that some cheese would go very nicely with the bread so we drove to Harley Farms on North Street.  It’s easy to find, just follow

Harley Farms

Harley Farms

the signs of the little girl and a goat.  The girl points the way.

At the farm, we went into the shop where their cheeses are displayed and sold along with olive oil.  The cheeses are very pretty.  The white Monet is decorated with flower petals from the garden.  Sampling them is great fun.  It is always difficult to know exactly what to buy.  In front of each basket of wrapped cheeses is a board on which is a large round of the cheese covered in cling film and with a handy knife to cut it with.  There is also a large container with small chunks of bread.  Mmm…  In the end we chose some feta cheese which tasted divine ($10) and a small button of Monet cheese with yellow petals and a pansy on top.

Afterwards we took a wander around outside.  In the distance we could see the goats grazing in the field and climbing on the chicken houses.  We also took a peek inside the milking parlor.  I noticed that they do goat tours at the weekends – $20 per person – so that may be worth doing one day.  But for now it was time to head home after another wonderful trip.


 

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?

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