Though the rain pours throughout the morning at our Quality Inn in Petaluma, CA, 23 miles to our southwest on the Pacific Ocean the forecast is for clear skies at Point Reyes National Seashore. By 11A, we take to the winding Point Reyes/Petaluma Road through farm country so green are the valleys that you would think we are Hanny and Danny O’Rothermel of the Old Sod.
The San Andreas Fault bisects Point Reyes National Park; the floating molten crusts of the North American Plate rumble west against the Pacific Plate which is moving and grooving north. That collision caused the Big One in San Francisco in 1906 when the ground lurched 20’ in less than one minute. The Big Two is acoming. 100 years? 1oo days?
With Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend in our rearview mirrors, we have the park to ourselves this Tuesday. The winter is the quiet off-season here as we drive, passing just a car or two down Limantour Road, to the Coastal Trail trailhead at the Point Reyes Hostel. On their website they explain their no Wi-Fi decision. “We are a small, intimate hostel in a quiet natural setting where we try to encourage interaction between our guests in the common spaces we have. It is the perfect place to truly “unplug” (there is also no cell phone service around the hostel).”
Selecting the five mile hiking loop beginning at the Coastal Trail, we have a wide soggy fire road to the ocean. By choosing shorter five mile hikes when we hike, we have the opportunity to freelance; we can explore the beach further or take an alternate trail up a nearby cliff or linger with folks we meet on the trail without a time or mileage deadline calling us.
Level and wide enough for mountain bikers and hikers, the Coastal Trail, thanks to El Nino, has puddles and more puddles due to last night’s soaking rain. At times we slop into the trail side grass and brush to avoid the swamped trail. My low cut hiking shoes get soaked immediately while Hannah’s high cut boots keep her dry. Fortunately, I am wearing wool blend socks that wick dry quickly.
Nearly two miles of hiking with very little elevation gain, we take an unmarked side trail to the beach. Here, the wide beach stretches for miles and we don’t see a soul. Usually, we are not fans of beach walking – you know, the slopiness of the beach to the water and the mushy sand of taking two steps to move one step forward. Ah, but this California beach is different, being relatively level with hard packed sand near the water.
Just this morning I see on the local news a man being rescued after he came to a beach to take a picture and all of sudden the water cut him off from behind. That could be me as I search for the right picture to complement my hiking blog.
As we walk south on the beach, the waves crash to our right as the tide pushes inland. Looking behind us, we see nearly impregnable walls of what looks like calcified sandstone. The beach is wide at this point and we are always aware where we could exit if the tide threatened.
Due to El Nino, streams of water from the mountains bisect the beach making it nearly impassable, without slogging through a foot of water or more, to continue our beach walk. Heading inland along the river bed, we eventually find the bridge across the storm-driven stream.
Hiking back to the beach, we have an afternoon of sandy nirvana. Eventually, we bushwhack along a narrow trail of grass up to the bluffs above the beach. Taking to the Fire Lane back to the trailhead, we have streams of water flowing down the trail as we easily step to the right or the left to avoid them.
After a mile of the Fire Lane (really a trail), we head for the trailhead on the more level Laguna Trail. More level means the rains of the past month pool in many spots on the trail; that includes 50 foot stretches where the thick gorse on either side of the trail means we have no choice but to slop through the water.
Another sweet hiking day in California. With one more day on the trail, we are off to the Matt Davis Trail 15 miles to our south at the Mount Tamalpais State Park tomorrow, all just 35 minutes from the City by the Bay. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but mine is here with Hannah on the trails of the Pacific coast.