Friday, April 2, 2010

A Grand Day Out

Just in case you ever need to know, it costs $40 to take a taxi from the Fort Mason District in San Francisco to Tam Junction in Marin County. That includes the six dollar Golden Gate Bridge toll for the driver's return trip and ten bucks for a tip. I know this because on Sunday morning, March 28, as I sat comatose at the computer, sipping a cup of Peet's coffee and trying to rouse my tired ass, my friend Heidi called and asked if I was still up for the hike to Alamere Falls. The time was 10:08 a.m.

A week earlier I sure was. It was my idea, and I had contacted a few hiking buddies to see if they were free for the day and wanted to accompany me. You need a whole day, pretty much, because the drive to the trailhead is over the top or around the flanks of Mount Tamalpais, past the long, sandy crescent of Stinson Beach and north of Bolinas town to the end of Mesa Road; and the hike is 8 miles round trip, with multiple, breathy ups in both directions. But then work happened (including inventory), and then I didn't hear back from anyone, and so when I didn't hear back I tried to rent a car but my rental joint was sold out, and then I stayed up late on Saturday watching the movie Precious into the wee hours of Sunday. So let's just say that by the time I answered the phone I was doggoned pooped.

I'm not sure how it happened, but by 11:00 a.m. I was standing in the parking lot of the Bell Market at Tam Junction, waiting for a rendezvous with Don and Heidi and their boys Calvin and Lucas. I had my backpack beside me, I had $40 less in my wallet, and I had in my head the pleasant realization that I was doing exactly the right thing, the only thing that really mattered, on my day off.

That's not true; I know how it happened. In my sleepiest, groggiest, sexiest morning voice I told Heidi that I would call her back and let her know if I was gonna make it, hung up the phone and sat for a moment contemplating my options. One of them was to bag the entire idea and lay on the couch for the remainder of the day; one was to catch the #76 MUNI bus over to the Headlands and take a quiet two-hour hike by myself; and one was to get the lead out and go for it. The trek to Alamere Falls is not something one does every week, but it is one of the finest hikes in the Bay Area.

So I rallied, plain and simple. A hot shower, a lightning-fast pack-up, a prompt taxi arrival and surprisingly light traffic across the bridge (especially considering the favorable weather) found me in place less than an hour later. We were off!

The Palomarin Trailhead is just inside the southern boundary of Point Reyes National Seashore, that magnificent triangle of fun and adventure in western Marin County. From my apartment it's only an hour away by car, but it's out there. It feels remote, and the last part of the drive on unmaintained gravel road, past a lonely Coast Guard Station and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, doesn't help any. That said, the parking lot was almost full when we arrived. The sight of all those cars made me wish we had started earlier, but I was thankful for any extra sleep; and the area is immediately so vast, uncluttered and pristine that the trail and the falls didn't seem crowded at all.

We'll let the pictures do most of the talking, and there's a lot of them. Once again I remain pretty impressed with the abilities of the Little iPhone That Could. I got some more great close-up pics of the 2010 wildflower bloom (which is going strong) and some shots that I hope capture the rugged beauty of the area.

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Hiking buddies for the day (for all kinds of days) Don and Heidi Rosevear, with their boys Calvin and Lucas and the all-in-one Happy Mobile.

A not-so-great map of the southern part of Point Reyes National Seashore, posted at the start of the hike, with the town of Bolinas on the right (south). I'll look thru my box of maps and see if I can find one that shows the area and the network of trails more clearly.

The Coast Trail begins with a walk through a stand of lovely, but non-native, eucalyptus trees.

A view of the seashore from the Coast Trail, looking south, with Duxbury Point in the distance.

Sixteen miles of hiking will take you past Wildcat Camp, Coast Camp, Sculptured Beach and Santa Maria Beach, all the way north to Limantour Beach and Drake's Estuary in the heart of Point Reyes National Seashore.

The good old California poppy, this one a bi-color version found in the area. Further north in Point Reyes is an all yellow subspecies, unique to the area.

One tasty hawk lunch!

A view of the Coast Trail as it snakes above the mighty Pacific Ocean. There are so many beautiful places to hike in Northern California; but this trail is up there with the best of 'em, and the payoff at the falls is simply spectacular. Past eucalyptus, in and out of forest, high above the seashore, inland, in shade, in sunlight, past two freshwater lakes (Bass and Pelican), on rocky path and then sandy path, uphill and down, past hills covered in tangled chaparral, with deer, lizards, rodents, rabbits, a possible whale sighting, hawks and turkey vultures and pelicans and songbirds and herons: you just never know.

Silver Bush Lupine (Lupinus albifrons). This is a close-up view of the blooms that adorn big, well, bushy Bush Lupine.

Big green Cow Parsnip leaves intertwined with Man-root flowers and (beware!) some shiny, very healthy poison oak.

Beach morning glory.

Sticky or Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus).

Franciscan Paintbrush (Castilleja subinclusa ssp. franciscana).

No idea, but delicate and pretty.

Two shots of Douglas iris, one with California Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus).

The cut off trail to the falls.

Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus). A lovely, prolific display on the cliffs above the falls, and my first sighting this Spring.

A view down to the the falls area, with the Point Reyes Headlands way in the distance. The weather, although hazy at the falls, was on our side for the whole day: mostly sunny and kinda warmish, with zero to very little wind, which is a rare occurrence at the seashore.

Calvin and Lucas heading down.

One cascade, with lupine.

Seep Spring (Mimulus guttatus). A beautiful sight at the falls, and a somewhat rare find as this bloom seems very particular about where it calls home.

Three cascades. The top fall is barely visible in this shot, but it's the one with the lupine from a moment ago.

The fourth and last waterfall, a forty-foot drop over the cliff to the beach! The path down is a steep eroded rut in the crumbly cliffside; it's a bit hairy and demands caution but is worth the trouble to see the fall from below.

Alamere Falls from the beach. Lunchtime soon after: a turkey/bacon/avocado sandwich, Vella Dry Jack cheese and Wheat Thins, mixed olives, Trader Joe's potato chips, and a frosty IPA compliments of Don, who rarely hikes without a beer or two in tow.

Happy, well-fed feet (Thanks, Heidi!). After the four-mile return trek to the Palomarin Trailhead they're about to be very tired, happy and well-fed feet.

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All-righty then! Hope you enjoyed the ramble. This weekend, weather permitting, it's back to the Loop and Hill 88 in the Headlands to see wassup. The break in the El NiƱo storms has been greatly appreciated, but that's what it was: a break. We've had more blustery spring rain the past couple of days and got more wet in the forecast; the temperatures have dropped and I hear we've even had some snow on Bay Area mountaintops. Fingers crossed for Sunday (and perhaps Monday), because after this six-day work week I would love to get back out on the trail.

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Chill and ill and dill,
Peter J Palmer

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe that delightful day was over six years ago!!