Monday, June 27, 2011

Exploring Point Reyes

Its weekend and time for yet another camping trip. Past the Golden Gate Bridge, CA-1 became Shoreline Hwy with popular Muir and Stinson beaches and beautiful Bolinas Lagoon filled with water birds for the next few miles. 
Upon reaching the Bear Valley visitor center, we took the Earthquake trail along the San Andreas Fault, the sliding boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. We drove to southwest end of the park to Point Reyes lighthouse. As Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent, this lighthouse well served its purpose for more than a 100 yrs before being replaced by an automated light in 1975. As expected it was very windy and cloudy as opposed to the weather at the entrance. There were historic ranches all the way and lot of cattle grazing on the vast open grasslands. There was also oyster farming (purchasing/bbq facilities to shucking tutorials for these “best tasting” oysters) in and around, because of which it is called national seashore not national park.
Chimney Rock trail reminded us of hurricane hill trail in Olympic national park which was short(0.9mi) and sweet with scenic panoramic views to unexpected elephant seals and dears. 
Drakes beach was calm, surprisingly flat and the white sandstone cliffs shone in sunset. 
 We had to return in the evening as there was no car camping available within the park and the lodging options were full. There is so much to explore: kayaking in Drakes Estero, Tule Elk Reserve, Tomales point, beaches and trails…we are definitely going back!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Camping on the coast - A day on Ocean

The dream of camping close to the ocean came true last weekend at Manresa state beach. The campground was upland and the beach was accessible through a big staircase. We walked up to the ocean at night and it looked beautiful with the water shining in the moonlight. Unbelievably, there was an entire row of houses there that have this beauty as their backyard! That is California…we find private properties wherever and sad to say, the campgrounds are party places for big crowds. Anyways, we were able to hear the waves as the noise subsided and the night moved in. Next day, we did a short hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks state park and visited some beaches around. Every beach was different in the scenery it offered and Surfing was seen predominantly in all of them.
Natural bridges state beach: Great for picnicking and bbq, with many benches near the beach
 Lighthouse field state beach: Very windy, great for a walk along the west cliff drive, a 3 mile long ocean front street
 Santa Cruz Beach Broadwalk: California's oldest oceanfront amusement park
 Seacliff state beach: Known for its fishing pier and concrete freighter, The Palo Alto
 Elkhorn Slough kayaking: A 3 hr guided tour to see tons of playful otters, seals and birds closer than ever expected

Friday, June 3, 2011

Long weekend at Big Sur, CA

May 27:  After the day’s work, we started to Big Sur from Svale on Friday evening. Big Sur is located along the Scenic Highway One on the coast of central California, a 90 mile stretch between San Luis Obispo and Monterey. The “el paĆ­s grande del sur" (the big country of the south) is said to offer the greatest meeting of land and sea.
The traffic was slow initially but the lineups had eased off soon. The first sight of the pacific and Bixby bridge were spectacular and we reached Pfeiffer Big Sur State park by dusk. We had booked a cottage with a full kitchen at Big Sur Lodge, which was expensive as expected for the holiday season but decent except for no Wi-Fi.
May 28: Morning, it felt good after a short hike between redwoods to Pfeiffer falls and Valley view. It was a 2-mile roundtrip that leads to beautiful views of Point Sur and the Big Sur Valley. Then we drove south on Hwy 1 to Hearst castle stopping by vista points. With the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and the rocky pacific coast on either sides, the views beat the former and only got better each time. The Big Creek bridge, patches of wild flowers brightening the grassy hillsides, pinnipeds, California Condors were added attraction. Enjoyed lunch at a view point as we saw bikers pass by and headed back as  Hwy 1 was closed near Gorda. 
We spent the afternoon at Lime Kiln Creek state park. The small beach area was directly under the bridge and easily accessible. It was entertaining to see few ‘expert’ people filleting the fish and lot of seagulls and pelicans around as limekiln creek flows into the ocean. 
The McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was one of the best ways to experience the dramatic meeting of the land and sea. However the falls and beach are off limits. Weather was perfect all day and it started raining in the evening. We had dinner watching the rain and played Antakshari until we fell asleep.
May 29: Time for Point Sur light Station…the access to this historic lighthouse is provided only through Guided tour on weekends in limited numbers!! I had to work unfortunately, so the rest made it to the 10am tour. It was for 3 hrs which according to them was a little strict and a little too long :P It seems it was very windy and loud sounds of the pinnipeds added to the gusting wind. They were enjoying the great views while I was working my fingers to the bones at Fernwood Grill restaurant (for Wi-Fi) all morning J
After lunch at River Inn Restaurant in Big Sur, we drove to Andrew Molera State Park. A wide, scenic, mile-long flat path took us through a meadow to the sandy/pebble Molera’s beach and the best part was crossing the Big Sur river just before it enters the Sea.
May 30: Started the day with a 5 mile hike on Buzzards Roost trail peaking at Pfeiffer Ridge with beautiful coastal panoramic view. Then we drove to Big Sur’s most popular Pfeiffer beach. There were signs of private properties all along the 2-mile narrow road (How lucky are these people being able to live so close to nature, wish I do!) This was one of the most beautiful beaches without doubt and the fierce waves hitting the rocks just left an imprint in my mind.

At noon, we had lunch at a picnic area in Point Lobos State Reserve and took a beach trail. The bright lupines, wild iris, California poppies and other native wild flowers along the trail felt like a garden carefully grown for years. The scene of a mother seal and pup trying to climb onto the rock and slipping back into the water with tides was fascinating. We saw Sea lions and Seals in huge numbers hauling out on the rocks close to the beach and California Sea Otters sleeping leisurely wrapped in the kelps. The nesting birds, colorful crabs, foam and shades of sea.. mesmerized by the life in its bounty, we drove back home. This time not so lucky, caught up in the long weekend traffic on 101 for quite some time and it was huge relief to be back home!