Category Archives: Backpacking/Hiking

Kibbie and Many Island Lakes

This was our first backpack outing of the year.  We usually do an easy one for our first trip of the year to dust off all the gear.   This trip is perfect for that.  It’s only 4.3 miles into Kibbie Lake with a mere 650 feet of climbing, and most of that climbing is in the first 1.3 miles.   Of course the area is gorgeous so it’s not a waste of time.

Kibbie Lake is in the northwest quadrant of Yosemite Park.  Unfortunately, that area had been ravaged by the Rim Fire back in August of 2013.  This was an unbelievably huge fire.   It was big news back then.  But we had no idea just how huge it was until we drove through a chunk of it on our way to the Kibbie Lake trailhead near Cherry Lake.  Fortunately, the Kibbie Lake area was beyond the northern reach of the fire (barely) so the fire damage we saw was from older fires.

Our trip had three parts.  Day 1 was the drive to the trailhead and the hike into Kibbie Lake.  Day 2 was what turned out to be a fairly aggressive day hike (15 miles with say about 10 miles being cross country).  And then Day 3 was the hike out and a side trip to see the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (which neither of us had seen before).

The hike in wasn’t really notable so I won’t spend much time on it here.  The terrain for the hike in is a fairly steep climb until the trail junction.  As I said, you gain about 650 feet in 1.3 miles.  After that it’s flattish with some ups and downs.  There wasn’t really any water to speak of so bring what you need from the trail head.

Once you arrive at Kibbie Lake, you’ll immediately see some flat areas right next to the lake.  These are nice of course.  However they’re almost right on the trail coming into the lake and they’re closely packed together.  So unless you like the company of other nearby hikers, and are okay with incoming backpackers tromping through your camp, I’d suggest moving on.  That’s what we did.  There are LOTS of great sites on the west side of the lake.  The only difficult part (and it’s not that difficult) is to find your way across the outlet of Kibbie Lake to get over to the west side.  Once you do that, just pick yer spot.

Next day we set off on what turned out to be a pretty damn awesome day hike.  We had no goal really.  I had a buncha boxes I wanted to check off.  But since I’m such a lazy ass, I didn’t really expect to actually check off any of em.

  1. I wanted to hike along the Kibbie Ridge Trail to see what that was like.  (Turns out that it’s not that bad.  Certainly not as tough as the first 1.3 miles in.).
  2. I wanted to find the Sache Spring.
  3. I wanted to look out over the rim of the Cherry Creek Canyon.
  4. I wanted to go to Many Island Lake.

As it turns out… we were able to do all of these things… And they were ALL awesome.

The Kibbie Ridge Trail, while not overwhelming, got better and better as we climbed higher, and is a pretty descent trail.

And Sache Spring was simply amazing.  The water was cold but not too cold.  And it tasted SO good.  I’ve never had water that tasted like that.  I usually don’t care much for the taste of water, but I easily drank about 60 oz. while standing there.  It was like a little oasis around the spring too.  No sign though.  So except for all the nearby greenery, you could walk right by it.  It’s a little bit off the trail so be on the lookout.

Then later I got to look out over the rim of Cherry Creek Canyon.  The trail doesn’t go along the edge so you have to hike say a half mile to get there.  You can see the detour on the topo.  I took a buncha pictures.  Go to our additional pictures link to see more than you need to see.  It was just that awesome.

Then we hiked a bit further along the trail and at what we thought was the appropriate time departed the trail to cut over to Many Island Lake.  That lake is awesome.  If I were going to design a lake, that’s pretty much the lake I would design.  It’s kinda perfect.  Again, check out the pictures to see what I mean.  And the coolest thing is that it’s hard to get to and hardly anyone knows about it.  We saw no signs of humans.  We totally had the whole place to ourselves.  We’re probably gonna go there again someday but this time stay the night.

Now the only part left was to get back to our camp three or four miles away and something like 1300 foot descent back to Kibbie Lake level.  The first 3/4s of that distance was smooth sailing over granite.  But then there was the brush.  Oy!  While it’s not impenetrable (we demonstrated that cuz we got through it),  it’s the next closest thing to impenetrable.

At last we made it back to our campsite, made a quick dinner and collapsed into our sleeping bags.

Next day we hiked out.

 

Climbing El Sombroso and Bald Mountain

Road zig zagging up to the top which is the high point at the upper left of the photo

Road zig zagging up to the top which is the high point at the upper left of the photo

Type of hike: Out and Back

Difficulty: 6 – Route is entirely on old road, but steep in places

Trail grade: A bit of a climb at first followed by about a 700 foot decent down to where the Baldwin Trail joins the Woods Trail.  After crossing  Rincon Creek and Guadalupe Creek, the trail climbs from about 1700 feet to 3000 feet at the top of El Sombroso.

Trail use: A few people… more when we joined up with Woods Trail

Highest elevation: ~3,008 at top of El Sombroso.  We parked at 2,328′.

Total climbing: 2,603′ but that included climbing a hundred feet or so to get up Bald Mountain.

Round trip distance: 12.1 miles including 1.4 miles round trip to Bald Mountain

How long: About 4 hrs 30 minutes

Quality of views: Pretty awesome… gotta be at least a 9.  The top of El Sombroso was disappointing though.  Hard to see anything because of all the brush.  But there were places where there were views of the entire Bay Area … and then there are almost constant views of Mt. Umunhum.

Weather conditions when we did it: Sunny, 70 degrees-ish, mostly clear ‘cept for some haze

Red tape: None

Maps we used: Internet, Google Earth, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Water: None – bring what you need.  There are a couple creek crossings so I guess you could pump and filter if you wanted

Restrooms: At parking lot.  Restroom was wonderfully clean

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Parking: In a lovely parking lot off Mt. Umunhum Road

How to get there:  Starting at the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 85, go south on 85 for about 2.5 miles and exit onto Camden Avenue and turn south (towards the mountains).  Go down Camden for about 2 miles and then turn right on Hicks Rd.  Follow Hicks Rd for about 7 miles, passing Guadalupe Reservoir, and up a large hill until you reach the Hicks and Mt Umunhum intersection.  Continue driving about 1.3 miles until a gate bars any more vehicular access up the road. Park here.

Now for a few of the details…

Select this link to go to lotsa pictures

This was an outing with Donna’s hiking group.  This included Joan, Anita, Judy, Tai, and Chris.  We all piled into the van for the trip to the trail head.

From the parking lot at the trailhead we decided to knock out Bald Mountain first so with lively legs we went the 0.7 miles over to the view point.  From there we had a lovely view of Guadalupe and Almaden Reservoirs.

After this short warm up, it was time to get started.

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This hike was a bit different from most of the hikes we’ve done in that it was entirely on road.  So for the most part we just walked and talked our way to the top of El Sombrosa.  There was quite a bit of walking though… so lotsa time for talking.  However, besides being long, the road was steep in places.  And of course all the heavy breathing had an impact on a the talking.

Anyway, we eventually arrived at the top.  Kinda weird top though.  Power lines ran right over the peak.  That and the fact that we had never left the road took some of the adventure out of the outing.  But the views were stunning.  And we were in good company.

We stopped for lunch at a road intersection near the top….  Checked out the views for a while… And then headed back the way we came.  On our way down, since we were now facing that way, it was very noticeable that we could see the van off in the distance, parked at the Bald Mountain parking lot.

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And all the while the cube at the top of Mt. Umunhum sat brooding above us.  The trail basically wraps around the eastern side of Mt. Umunhum so the cube was almost always visible.

It was a very pleasant outing.

Hike – Boronda Ridge Loop

 

First – Nuthin’ but the facts…

Boronda - Deangulo

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Zoomed out to show that this hike is about 30 miles south of the Monterey Penninsula

Type of hike: Loop
Difficulty: 9 – I suppose it could be harder somehow
Trail grade: Boronda is say a 7 until Timber Top – dirt road for 2 miles  – then de Angulo Trail is say a 3 – 4.  Overgrown with treefall – described below.  We felt extremely lucky that there actually WAS a trail though.  Thank you Jimmy and Kim Chi for resurrecting it.
Trail use: Hardly anyone on the trail – We saw people but it was Easter weekend.
Highest elevation: ~3,263 at top of de Angulo.  Timber Top is 3,060.  Highway 1, where we parked, is about 580′
Total climbing: 3152′
Round trip distance: 10.6 miles (1.4 along Hwy 1 to Boronda TH, 3.0 to Timber Top, 2.2 along Coast Ridge Road and 3.3 down de Angulo plus a little bit)
How long: About 4 hrs 40 minutes not including time eating lunch at Timber Top
Quality of views: Pretty astounding… gotta be a 10.  If it’s not a 10, what could a ten possibly be?

Weather conditions when we did it: Sunny, 70 degrees-ish, mostly clear ‘cept for some sea haze and fog in the distance
Red tape: Absolutely none
Maps we used: Green Trails Big Sur Ventana Wilderness but mostly Robert Stone’s book Big Sur
Water: None – bring what you need
Restrooms: None
Parking: Only parking is on the side of Hwy 1 in turnouts

How to get there:
From Santa Cruz, take Highway 1 through Carmel.   Proceed down the coast another 27 miles to the Big Sur Ranger Station.  From there, go another 5.3 miles where you’ll find turnouts.  This is the Boronda Trail trail head.  The trailhead is behind a green gate on the inland side of the road.  There is also a cattle chute and some signage plainly visible.

Another 1.45 miles down further south are another set of turnouts, and another green gate to a road.  This road goes into a ramshackle neighborhood.  If you park here (this is where we parked), park along the highway outside the gate.  This is where we came out from the de Angulo Trail.

Now for the details…   Additional pictures

Donna and I have been trying to do more in the Big Sur area.  And as I’ve said elsewhere, we like to hike loops.  Well actually, I prefer loops and Donna humors me.  She does lots of ‘out and backs’ when she’s out with other folks and doesn’t have to deal with my nonsense.  Anyway… this is a loop.  Kind of a tough loop but still a loop.

Our overall plan was to park at the base of the de Angulo Trail, then walk along Hwy 1 until we reached the Boronda Trail trailhead.  From there we’d climb Boronda, have lunch at Timber Top camp.  Then make our way south along the Coast Ridge Road until reaching the top of the de Angulo Trail.  From there we descend back to the car via de Angulo for a total of about 10 miles (10.6 by GPS).

We chose to park at the base of the de Angulo Trail cuz we wanted to use the easy beginning of walking along the highway as a warm up before doing the climb.  We also rightfully predicted that we’d be pretty hammered from the hike that all we’d want to do at the end of the de Angulo Trail was climb into the nice comfy car without having to endure an additional 1.5 mile walk in traffic on Hwy 1 to get back to the car.  Turns out this was some good thinking.

So off we went.  After walking the on and a half miles along the highway to get to the base of Boronda, we started the climb.

The climb is pretty steady, relentless really.  For the most part the trail is an old ranch road that was clearly used for transporting farm animals back in the day.  The grade ranges from flat to more than 30% (by GPS).  The views are constant and get more and more stunning as you go up.  Sooner than you’d expect,  you notice the sound of the highway has completely disappeared.  There’s just the wind, which seemed to build as we got higher.  Of course this could also have been because the wind just got stronger as the day wore on.

The 2,500 foot climb up to Timber Top covers almost exactly 3.0 miles (for an average grade of about 16%).  We did this in late March and the grass was so green that it almost hurt to look at it.  The wildflowers were everywhere, and thick.  Everything was lush.  So we had plenty to distract us from our suffering as we trudged upward.  Donna was in heaven with all the blooming wildflowers.  Her borderline rapture  She took lotsa pictures so she could identify them later when we got home.  This was good for me cuz with all the picture taking, I was managing to keep up with her.  I just kept walking as she took pictures of the flowers that we passed.  The flowers were really pretty amazing though.  Even a cretin like me couldn’t help but be amazed.

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One thing about this climb that makes it special…  After about say 1000 feet of climbing up this bluff…

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…the trail then goes along this long, grassy ‘arm’ or bluff almost all the rest of the way to the top.  It’s very unusual and only adds to the wonder of it all.  And of course it was especially amazing because everything was so incredibly green.  I’m a little troubled cuz the photos here just didn’t capture the deep green that we could see with our eyes.  I guess it may be time for a little Photoshopping.

Eventually we arrived at Timber Top.  Not sure what the history of this camp is but if I find out, I’ll update this blog post accordingly.  Crazy as it seemed, there was zero flat ground anywhere for the entire two hours of our climb, but suddenly here was a very pleasant place to camp.  Only problem was that you gotta climb 2500 feet with a pack on to get to it.  Timber Top is at 3060 feet… and yes it really is true, I do keep carrying on about the elevation.  But if you had climbed all the way up there, I’m betting you would mention it once or twice too.  My body got a pretty good reminder that 2500 feet of climbing is non-trivial.  Anyway, the camp has a picnic table, a barbecue stand (stove in the parlance of the Ventana Wilderness), a fire pit, and even some nasty water… but most importantly, lots of luxurious flat ground.  And of course the views continued to be absolutely astounding.

We ate lunch and rested a bit.   Then we were off onto the Coast Ridge Road to get over to the de Angulo Trail.  You’d think that finding the road would be easy… but it wasn’t.  We were a bit tired from the climb so we were trying to minimize our walking to find the road.  Our search grid wasn’t very big.   I could go into why it was a puzzle but that would likely be tiresome to read.  I’ll just say that at last we figured out where it was so we could start walking (hobbling… I was getting tired and my foot hurt) to the next trail head.  Previously, I had fantasized that the road would offer astounding views of the coastline.  After all it is on a ridge top overlooking the Big Sur coastline.   However on the section we walked, it does not.  It’s tucked into the ridge on the inland side of the ridge, not on the ocean side.  We did however have an amazing view of the northern most mountains of Ventana Wilderness area.

Now that we were on the road…

…the goin’ was pretty easy.   Since it was our first time on this route, our biggest concern was finding the top of the DeAngulo Trail so we could get back to the car.  We didn’t want to just walk by it on the road, so no matter how miserable I was feeling, I had to stay ‘heads up’.   From the Robert Stone book, we were expecting to walk say 1.8 miles.  We got to 1.8 miles from Timber Top, and no de Angulo Trail… Robert Stone had been spot on with his mileage notes so far so I was starting to worry a little.  We didn’t see anything though so we kept walking… Of course we eventually came upon it in logically the right location.  Just a bit further than 1.8 miles.

The descent down the de Angulo was horrific.  A combination of factors made it pretty unpleasant.  First my foot was bothering me, and we were tired.  The descent was pretty steep and steep descents aren’t any fun.  I knew Donna wasn’t feeling much better.  Neither of these factors helped…  The descent was steep and went on for 2,500 feet with an average 15% grade.  But sometimes there was a  little uphill only to be countered by a stretch of 20 – 35% grade.  Tough on the ole quads… I was losing my sense of humor.

But the views continued to be phenomenal, even though I was getting to be too uncomfortable to properly enjoy them.

On the way down we ran into this guy doing trail work… His name was/is Jimmy.  He told us that he and his wife had pretty much single handedly brought the trail back from the dead after it was nearly destroyed in one of the Big Sur fires.  They had scratched it back out of the side of the hills all to honor the legacy of Jaime de Angulo, a local legend (Jaime de Angulo wiki).   After coming off Boronda, and then the Coast Ridge Road, this trail seemed pretty rough though, and of course I was sniveling.  However it soon became clear that there were some genuine heroics behind the maintenance of this trail.  It was obvious that it literally had been clawed back from the dead after the fires.  So now I want to say a big THANK YOU to Jimmy and his wife, Kim Chi for doing all this for us.  I wish I had gotten a picture of Jimmy but when we talking I just didn’t think of it.

Now then… not gonna lie, the trail WAS overgrown… in places with poison oak… and it was the juiciest poison oak that you’ve ever seen.  The leaves just glistened.  Oy!  AND… there were LOTS of ticks… I’d never had so many ticks on me.  Donna and I were flickin’ em off each other right and left.  It was like there was a tick hatchery nearby just spewing em out.   I’m sure this isn’t a permanent situation… but it was a real concern.

We met another guy along the trail… Richard.

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He was on his way up the road to fetch some sheep he had left to graze up higher…

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Room with a view

Richard was very friendly and pleasant to chat with.  He told us more than we could absorb about the local history.  Finally, Richard had to tend to the sheep and we had to get a move on back to our car so we parted company.  We still had about a half mile to go down the hill… ouch!

And then we were back at the road.  Getting back to the car felt unbelievably good,  and that was only to be exceeded by how good the shower felt when we got home.

Additional pictures

 

Buzzard’s Roost on a Rainy Day

Buzzard's Roost

First – Nuthin’ but the facts…

Type of hike: Out and back
Difficulty: 6 – (climbing but well graded on nice trail and relatively short)
Trail grade: 9 ‘cept for near the top… becomes say a 5 with a little bouldering
Trail use: Hardly anyone on the trail but it was raining
Highest elevation: ~2150  (starts at 1000′)
Total climbing: 1238′
Round trip distance: 4.4 miles
How long: About 2 1/2 hours including time at the top
Quality of views: Cloudy… no view but I’m sure it’s awesome

Weather conditions when we did it: Rainy, windy,
Red tape: $10 State Park Day Use pass unless you have one of these cool passes
Maps we used: Green Trails and State Park Map
Water: Bring what you need
Restrooms: Bathrooms at park headquarters
Parking: Yes – however on a normal day, Big Basin is very crowded so go early.  After lots are full, you will have to wait until someone leaves.

How to get there:
From Santa Cruz, take Highway 9 to Boulder Creek.  Then left onto 236.  Stay on 236 until you arrive at the park.

Now for what happened on our junket… Additional pictures

So… what were WE thinking?!  It was raining… and had BEEN raining for quite some time… We were still wanting to get out and do something though.  A few ideas were batted around… Fall Creek?  Henry Cowell?  Our usual local hikes?  No, let’s do something different.  We had just gotten a Limited Use Golden Bear Pass and were dyin’ to use it… so I came up with the genius idea of going to Big Basin and hike to Buzzard’s Roost… Did I mention that it was raining?.. As the name sort of implies, it’s kind of a view point.  But it hardly even occurred to me that the view might not be all that great on a rainy day… But like I said, we were pretty desperate to get out, so off we went.

The Limited Use Golden Bear Pass is a fun pass to have cuz with it, it’s free to use the California state parks nine months out of the year…  We’d never used it before so I wasn’t sure what to do.   But once we got to the park, I just showed em the pass and they cheerfully gave me a little ticket to put on my windshield… Wow!  It actually worked!  And it was easy.   No muss, no fuss… no additional fees.  Sah-weeet!  And since it was raining, we were among the few who ventured into the park so there was lots of parking to choose from.  Usually parking at Big Basin is a bitch.

Now for the hike… Well like I said, it was raining… pretty hard actually… Donna usually wears a poncho when it’s raining so that’s what she put on.  DSC00889I like ponchos too, but recently I’ve been playing around with using an umbrella for hiking in the rain.  So I went with that but carried my poncho just in case.

There are a labyrinth of trails in Big Basin so we carefully wove our way through the various intersections to get to our trail up to Buzzard’s Roost… hmmm… probably would be nice to tell you here which trails to use to get to the one that takes you to the top, huh?  But I wasn’t really paying attention.  We just used the map they gave us and figured it out.  Next time we do this (and there will be a next time), I’ll take notes and update this post with the information.  Sorry… All I can say for now is to be careful with your navigation.  There are lots of choices.   It’s probably easier than I’m making it sound but it was harder than I expected.

Anyway… once we crossed the Blossom Creek Bridge, we were mostly on our way.  DSC00851

 

 

 

 

Not long after the creek crossing the trail starts relentlessly up… and up … and up.  But as ‘ups’ go, it’s an okay kinda up.  The trail is well graded.  I was guessing at a pretty steady 10%.  But that’s an average.

The trail is very nice until you get near the top… within a few hundred feet of elevation from the high point, the trail goes from a pleasant, duffy, flat surface to being pretty rocky and uneven.  And there are also a couple points where you literally have to rock climb… pretty minor rock climbing but still, it’s not actually hiking anymore.  I think it would have been pretty easy if the rock were dry.  There would have been plenty of traction.  But we were climbing this rock in the rain.  Both our sphincters were a little puckered at times as we made our way up.

Finally we made it to the actual Roost.

It’s pretty cool up there.  We were trying to imagine the views.  I’m sure we could have seen the ocean, and had a view of Big Basin park headquarters, Eagle Rock, maybe Chalk Mountain… and who knows what else.  But not today…

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We didn’t  stay on the top all that long cuz even though it wasn’t raining much at that moment, the wind was blowin’ us around and we were both getting cold.

This is an ‘out and back’ so goin’ back was the same as the way up ‘cept easier.  It started raining again though so out came the umbrella… Was totally dumping when we got back to the car.  A nice warm shower felt heavenly when we got home.

Alamere Falls – Hike

Type of hike: Out and back
Difficulty: 5
Trail grade: 9
Trail use: Extremely crowded!
Highest elevation: ~570′
Total climbing: 2000′
Round trip distance: 11.5 miles but this includes side trips
How long: About 8 hours but that also included side trips, and lunch
Quality of views: 8+

Weather conditions when we did it: Clear and warmish
Red tape: None
Maps we used: Mostly Tom Harrison and the Hiking Marin book
Water: None – bring all that you need
Restrooms: Outhouses in parking lot but no water
Parking: Yes – however VERY crowded – go early to get parking in the lot otherwise parking is alongside road with the additional hiking required to get to and from your car.

How to get there:
From Santa Cruz, take 17 to 85 then 85 to 280…  and finally 280 to San Francisco.  Proceed through the city however you like to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Cross the bridge and a mile or so after the Rainbow Tunnel, exit 101 onto Highway 1 where it exits at the bottom of the hill.  Take Highway 1 for what seems like forever on a hyper curvy road to Stinson Beach.  And then go another 4.5 miles beyond Stinson and take a left onto the possibly unmarked turnoff into Bolinas.  Continue 1.7 miles and then turn right onto Mesa Road.  Follow Mesa Road all the way to where it ends at the Palomarin Trailhead.  The road turns to gravel at some point.  Beware of super huge potholes.  Oh and special note… when we were leaving for the day, we saw that cars were parked all the way out from the parking lot, along the road to just about where the road turned to gravel!  Maybe a mile… If you ended up parking there, this would add significantly to your hike… so GO EARLY.  We arrived at the parking lot at 9:30 AM and the main lot near the bathrooms was already full.  I guess from there, cars just kept parking along the road as they arrived.

Pt Reyes Map
Where the trails fit in the grand scheme of things…
Alamere Falls
Our hike

Hike description: Additional pictures

It’s almost exactly 4 miles from the Palomarin parking lot to the trail branching off that goes to Alamere Falls… Then this trail goes toward the beach for about a half mile or so before you arrive at the falls… that means that if you’re just going to the falls then this is about a nine mile day round trip… plus whatever you end up hiking to get to and from your car.

However… the mileage on our junket was longer… first we kinda overshot our exit off the main trail (“Coast Trail”) to the beach and the falls and didn’t figure it out until we had gone an additional half mile or so extra.  And then besides going to the falls, we also included an excursion up to Double Point.  This turned out to be my favorite part of the trip but it did add to our total mileage.  So by our GPSs, our final mileage was about 11.5 miles round trip.  A good 2.5 miles further than you would go if you did everything right.

Now then… I just can’t go any further without carrying on a bit about how crowded it was.  When Donna and I hike, we mostly go to places where there aren’t many people.  Not by design necessarily, it just kinda happens that way.  And, not gonna lie, I guess I kinda prefer it that way too.  But it’s never been much of an issue.  But from that you can imagine my shock when upon arriving at the parking lot, at what I thought was pretty damn early (we left our house in Scotts Valley around seven and arrived at the Palomarin trailhead parking lot at 9:30 or so), the lot was already completely full?!  We ended up among the last people to get to park in the lot.  After that folks were being directed to park along the road.  An already harried National Park Service employee indicated a spot for us to leave the mini-van.  She was very friendly but didn’t have a lot of time to chit chat.  Turns out that we were among the lucky ones.  When we drove out that night, cars were parked on the side of the road all the way to where the gravel road ended… that must have been at least a mile.  That’s adding another two miles (round trip) to the hike for the folks who had to park out there.  Anyway… I’m getting carried away about the parking… So to cut to the chase… GO EARLY!

All day we were buffeted by this mass of humanity.  It was UNBELIEVABLE!  I was stricken.  I guess it kinda makes sense though… I mean we’re less than an hour of drive time from San Francisco, on a lovely day… and the falls are kind of a phenomenal natural feature.  But the teeming hordes was a bit of a shock to my fragile little system… took me awhile to adjust, get my legs under me and figure out how to enjoy the day.  So the moral of the story is… like I said… GO EARLY!

Okay… I’ll quit carrying on about the crowds… on to the reason all those people were there…

It’s just an absolutely AWESOME place to be… simple as that.  From the parking lot, after passing through a grove of some seriously fragrant eucalyptus trees, the trail starts off roughly paralleling the ocean.  So fairly quickly you get views of The Farallons off on the horizon.  I’m always pleased when I get to see these islands, because conditions don’t often permit it.  But there they were…

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The Farallon Islands about thirty miles away. This photo tested the limits of the telephoto lens on my humble ‘point and shoot’ camera.
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Takin’ in the view

After say a mile or so, the trail turns abruptly inland and begins to gain some elevation reaching around 570 feet.  This is the highest we got including our climb up to Double Point.

DSC00711  The trail is mostly under tree cover.  Which was welcome because you’re climbing.  It’s so lush in places… the greens almost hurt to look at.

After awhile we started passing some small coastal lakes, followed by the larger Bass Lake…

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Bass Lake

And then Pelican Lake…

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Pelican Lake

This is where the wheels started wobbling… Somewhere amongst the mass of people was this seriously graffitied sign that identified the trail to Alamere Falls…

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So we missed it… and instead of stopping and turning down this trail to Alamere Falls, we kept rolling down the Coast Trail until we came to a fork in the trail… Ocean Lake Loop goes left and the trail to Wildcat right… Hmmmm… we didn’t expect this fork.  It was then that we remembered a clump of people about a half mile back that was probably the Alamere Falls exit that we were looking for… We (well actually ‘I’) thought, what the Hell, we’ll just go down this Ocean Lake Loop trail, maybe find a way to the beach and walk back along the beach to the falls.   Well, I guess that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.  Our access to the beach was blocked by this cliff down to the beach that just seemed to sketchy to negotiate… Eventually we turned around and made our way back to the actual trail.  Sigh… I don’t think I was doing very well in the popularity polls at that point.

Finally we arrived back at the trail down to Alamere Falls.  Of course the trail was crowded and weaved it’s way down to the beach through masses of bushes, vines and way too much poison oak.  We’re so screwed… I hate getting poison oak and now we’ve all got it for sure.  Eventually we came out to the overlook above the falls… we made it!… we were here!   Hmmm…  we still had to get down to the falls though.  Seems like that part would be trivial… but here was the same kind of cliff we had already encountered further down the trail.  There WAS a trail though.  But it was still gonna be an ordeal to get down there.

Just to orient you… There are three levels: the level that we had just come out onto, then there’s the next level down to where the pools were, and then down to the beach level where the big falls came down.  These levels were connected by steep gullies that the mass of hikers would descend through.  Each one was narrow, allowing only one hiker through at a time.  So sometimes a bit of negotiation was required.

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Gettin’ down to the beach is kinda crazy….

However, once you’re down on the beach, it’s pretty cool.  And here we were at the famous falls…

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Jack and Donna in front of the falls

We hung out on the beach for a while… it was a gorgeous day, there was lots to look at, but it was a complete circus… there were folks rappelling and then rock climbing back up the falls, there were women doing their mysterious duck faces (does anyone know what that’s all about?) while standing under the falls with their over indulgent boyfriends taking pictures of them, there was a drone flying around, kids playing in the creek, guys doing yoga on the beach (really?!)… but mostly there were folks … lots and lotsa folks just standing around doing what we were doing, i.e. taking photos and looking at the falls… it was difficult to tear ourselves away from all this.

However, we still had a lot of hiking to do before headin’ home so better not dilly dally too long… time to get a move on….

However, when we turned to move toward the crevice in the cliff, that’s when we saw what we had to do to get back up off the beach… besides climbing back up the cliff, there was actually a line… a long line… to climb up to the next level.  Seriously!?  This was getting to be a bit like Disneyland.  I wondered where the ‘2 hours to go’ sign was.

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Here we are taking our place at the end of the line

Unbelievable!

As we moved forward in the line, we had a lot of time to watch the process.  It was pretty cool how it was working out.  Imagine a one lane road.  Only cars going one direction can proceed at a given time. Then the flow mysteriously reverses and cars start going the other way.  But in this case there was no sign guy.  There was only our senses of fair play that governed.  So here folks would make their way down, then some negotiation would take place and the flow would switch to allow people going up.  This would go on for a while then more negotiations… the flow would then switch to go the opposite way.  It was amazing to see this ad hoc ‘system’ actually work.  Donald Trump notwithstanding, who says that we in the United States are a bunch of selfish, boneheads?  My faith in humanity got a big shot in the arm as I watched this.  Finally, I had to break away from being fascinated though… It was our turn.  Must focus or risk embarrassing myself…

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Turns out that I’m pretty reasonable I guess… When Jack and I got to the point where the line turned right in the picture above, we stopped and left a gap so the folks going down could get down… they had been waiting pretty long… and the flow reversed.  Aren’t we just the nicest guys?

Eventually we made it through the labyrinth to the overlook above the falls (top level), and back through the tunnel of poison oak to the main trail.  Next stop… Double Point.

Double Point is an overlook about 500 feet above the ocean.  We never did decide what the name ‘Double Point’ referred to.  Was it the point we were climbing?  Or was it the one further south?Was it both?  Or was it the cove in between?  No idea… But getting up there was a bit of an adventure… The start of the trail was about 100 (or maybe 150) feet back (south… toward the parking lot) along the Coast Trail.  The opening to the trail is pretty easy to find… but the trail itself is something else.  Right away we (‘I’) lost sight of it (such as it was).  The trail was there.  It just wasn’t easy to distinguish from the other animal trails and channels through the bushes.  So we just made our way as best we could.  We found the trail again later but only after some serious scrambling through the bushes and poison oak.  Somehow everyone in our little group was able to remain polite to me even though I’m sure they weren’t too happy about the bush whacking.  I was expecting a mutiny at every step.  But everyone seemed as stoked as I was so I kept on.  The scramble up to the top of Double Point was wonderful in one aspect though because we were finally away from mass of humanity that had surrounded us all day.  A welcome respite… And because of that (and the views) it really was my favorite part of this whole junket.

After some determined scrambling…

…we ended up at the top.  And the views were astounding… Better than I imagined them to be.  The Farallon Islands, the end of Point Reyes, the beach below, the cove below us next to Double Point… Photos are better than words… so I included a few of them here.  I have lots more.

None of us wanted to leave… but after a while, it was time… we still had a long way to go to get home… four miles of hiking then at least three hours of driving through Sunday night traffic… oy!  Better get a move on.

An hour and half of pretty fast hiking brought us back to the parking lot… which now was relatively empty.

I had been kicking myself all day for not taking a photo of the parking lot when we first got there in the morning…. I thought the full parking lot early in the day was crazy for this outing… but that was before I saw that there were cars parked along the side of the road for something like a mile from the trailhead.  Absolutely nuts… but I guess, considering how near this wonder was to the San Francisco metropolitan area, to be expected.  Clearly, this destination is not for those who are troubled with crowds.

Another thing that I found to be pretty amazing was that here I am, a Bay Area dweller of more than 30 years (hmmmm…. make that 34 years), and I had never heard of Alamere Falls?!  Meanwhile it’s this huge attraction with easily more than a thousand people visiting it on some random Saturday in February?!  It’s been here all along and I just never knew it.  And I call myself a local?!  All I can say is WOW!  What else am I overlooking?

My New Senior Pass!

This is one of those “Hurray For Me!”… or “Don’t You Just Wish You Were Me?” kinda posts that you see on Facebook all the time.  Yeah… they’re super annoying, right?

BUT!… Besides the ‘Hurray For Me’ aspect of this post, I feel okay about putting it up because this is just that awesome… and… anyone in my age group can partake of this for themselves.  So besides bragging, I’m posting this as a public service.

Okay buckle up… like I keep saying, this is pretty damn cool!

How much does it cost you to drive into Yosemite or Yellowstone NP each time you go?  Or even just to drive through Yosemite NP on Highway 120 to get over the pass to Owen’s Valley… Right now it’s $30… just to drive over the pass?!… but it’s far shorter than taking 108 and 395, so you just bite the bullet and pay the money right?  Lassen, Death Valley and Joshua Tree NPs are all $20.  And even our humble little local Pinnacles NP is $15.  But Yosemite is the worst, cuz you gotta pay it just to drive to the other side of the hill!?

What if there was another way?  Sigh… just think about it.  Well if you’re over 62 years of age, there actually is another way.  For a measly $10, you can get yourself a lifetime pass to ALL the national parks in the United States.  That’s right, LIFETIME.  We visit the national parks quite a bit so this feels like we won the lottery.  But there’s got to be a trick right?  It’s just too good to be true.  Well there is no trick… it IS true.  Here are the rules taken directly from http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

Senior Pass

  • $10 Lifetime pass
  • For U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.
  • May be obtained in person at a federal recreation site or through the mail using this application form. The cost of obtaining a Senior Pass through the mail or online is twenty dollars ($20). Ten ($10) for the Senior Pass and ten ($10) for processing the application. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship.
  • May provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.
  • Generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

After waiting for what seemed like forever (that is until I turned 62), I got mine this last summer before a backpacking trip that started in Kings Canyon National Park.  And it was EASY.  I did it from my car through my open car window.  No muss, no fuss…

Here’s my pass…

Senior Pass

And now I can’t wait till my next visit to a national park to use it.

The State of California has something similar.  It’s called the Golden Bear Pass.  But it’s much more restrictive because it has to be renewed yearly and has an income restriction (you have to submit your state income tax returns).   But there’s another California Parks pass that’s almost as good which has no income restriction.  It’s the Limited Use Golden Bear Pass.  It costs $20, has to be renewed yearly and doesn’t work from the weekend before Memorial Day until after Labor Day (and just the opposite for the desert state parks).  But that’s still 9 months of access for $20.   I just applied for mine.  There’s a 4 to 6 week processing time therefore I’m waiting.  But in a few weeks, expect me to be bragging about that here too.

So… Hurray For Me!  Mostly becoming older pretty much sucks.  But there are one or two things that are more than just okay about it.

 

Chalk Mountain Climb

This is the first of the local peaks in our “Parade of Peaks” challenge that we climbed.  It’s 1609 feet high on the map.  But on the GPS we got 1643 or so.  Pretty much the same I guess.  I think we will definitely include this peak in our final list.

Type of climb: Out and back
Difficulty: 5
Trail grade: 7
Trail use: moderate on a weekend
Elevation gain: 1200′
Total climbing: 1440′
Round trip distance: 5.8 mi
How long: 2 hours 10 minutes RT
Quality of views: 8

Weather conditions when we did it: Clear
Red tape: None
Maps we used:
Water: None
Parking: Yes

How to get there:
From Santa Cruz, take Highway One for something like 22 miles, pass Waddell Beach and Ano Nuevo, then start looking to your left for an unmarked road called Whitehouse Road.  The road junction is across from a turnout off of the main highway.  Proceed up Whitehouse Road for 2.3 miles until you reach a small parking area and signs warning not to drive further along road as it is now private.  Park… Trail is obvious and heads directly up hill from road.

Hike description: Additional pictures
Redwood shaded trail climb with two viewpoints, to junction with ridge road.  Then road takes you to two more lookout points; the final being the top of Chalk Mountain.

The trail is a steep (at times over 20% grade), redwood shaded climb of 1.3 miles climb that gains almost 1000′ before joining a road. There are two view points along the trail during the climb up to the road.  First is at 0.5 miles, 900 feet.  The second is at 1.0 miles, 1200 feet.   Viewpoints are westward facing with views of the coast from Pidgeon Point to Ano Nuevo.   The trail intersects with the road at 1.3 miles and 1360 feet of elevation.  At mile point 2.0 (1570′ of elevation) there is a large turnout along road connected to a parking lot.  These are the best views of the hike looking south overlooking Ano Nuevo.   From here you can see the top of the climb to Chalk Mountain proper by looking carefully about a mile eastward along the ridge road to see an antenna nestled in the trees.  This is the summit of Chalk Mountain and is at 2.9 miles into the hike.  From here you can see into Big Basin and Mt McCabe (see write up) to the east.

After enjoying the views and using the outhouse (yes, there’s an actual outhouse at the top of Chalk Mountain) simply turn around and proceed back along the road, being careful not to miss where the trail leaves the road again at 4.4 miles.

Notes:

  • The first time you do this hike, you’ll probably want to go all the way to the actual top of Chalk Mountain (especially if you need to use the outhouse).  However after seeing it once, I think you can safely stop at the first lookout and get the majority of the value out of this climb.
  • There are other ways to the top of Chalk Mountain.  For instance, you can get there from Waddell Beach.  But this is something like a 14 miler with lots of up and down.  However I’ve heard that it’s gorgeous.  If you’re looking for an ordeal, try that route.
  • For those of you who are training for say hiking in the Sierra, this climb could be used as one of those ‘workout’ type climbs. In that case you could turn around at say the trail junction with the road and have your steep 1000 feet or so of climbing… or maybe jam up to the first parking lot (1570′) along the road before turning around.   There is a negligible amount of climbing after that.

 

More detail… To get there, we drove up the coast through Davenport, by Greyhound Rock, etc. until we get to Ano Nuevo Park.  Just before you get to Costa Noa there’s a no name road across from a highway turn out that turns inland.  Actually it has a name… it’s just not labeled except in very tiny letters on a transformer or whatever that is, on the side of Highway 1 is the name Whitehouse Road.

We drove pretty far along the road.  Not sure how far cuz I wasn’t paying attention.  But eventually you get to the trailhead.

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The parking area for the Chalk Mountain hike

The climb starts rather abruptly… you get out of the car, put on our hiking stuff… and right out of the gun barrel, the trail starts going up.  You start out at about 400 feet of elevation and in the next mile or so, you climb about a thousand feet… then in the half mile or so remaining,  you climb an additional say 200 feet to get to the first lookout.  I think this lookout is the best because you have a view of Ano Nuevo, Pigeon Point and out into the ocean.  As you climb you’re in lush, deep redwoods so it’s cool, and there are two vista points to pause at and take pictures.

Once you break out into the sunshine.  The trail starts to look a bit like the Sierras.  The redwood trees turn into shrubs and pine trees.

Then you come to a road.  It’s probably obvious but don’t go right onto the road.  According to the map, the road ends… go left, that’s where the top of the mountain is.  Oh and be sure to take note of the sign next to where the trail meets the road.  That will be your marker on the way back.  It’s easy to be talking as you walk along the road and miss the trail.   No idea what the sign says.  The writing is all sun bleached away.

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Now we’re out on the roads. This is the intersection of Chalk Mountain Road (which runs along the ridge top) and Whitehouse Road

We followed the road for a little while until coming to a structure at a hairpin curve that was obviously carved out.  No idea what all these solar panels were about but the view was tremendous.

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Not sure what this place was. It had lots of solar panels, a little building and a pole for Jack to climb

And Jack did a little climbing to get an even better view…

We could see the antenna at the real top of Chalk Mountain about a mile away so after some more gazing off at the view, we struck out down the road again.  Seemed like it took forever to get to the next antenna but it was a pleasant walk which followed the ridge.  Once we got there, the views were still tremendous ‘cept now we were looking inland.  Of course my preference is looking out over the ocean.

It was a very pleasant day… sunny, warmish, clear… kinda perfect. We all had things to do when we got there.  We ate, I changed my clothes into something cooler, Jack climbed another tower (this one was sturdier and higher), Donna examined the wildflowers and Kalika took a nap… oh and the outhouse at the top unexpectedly became a big attraction.

Then it was time to head back down.  Of course we took more pictures along the way.  The views continued to be pretty dialed ‘cept now we didn’t have to turn around to take it all in.

Found the junction with the trail and descended back into the redwoods.

Before this outing, I always thought of Chalk Mountain as an epic local climb.  But now I think of it more as one of the local “workout” climbs… sorta like Fall Creek has become.  It’s got this sustained, steep 1000 foot climb right from the parking lot and you’re rewarded with some awesome views so that makes it worth getting up there.  Up and back it’s about 4 miles then if you add in the trail/road over to the top of Chalk Mountain proper, it’s about 6 miles round trip.  But in the future, unless I simply gotta use the outhouse, I think I can miss the extension.