hikes

Alamere Falls redux

Beth and I took off on Saturday morning for a hike to and from Alamere Falls via the Palomarin trail. This walk is one of our favorites, meandering through a range of terrains, passing a few small lakes, and then descending down to a beautiful, secluded beach where the falls crash into the ocean. A magical place.

The drive to the trailhead was remarkably quick. When we arrived, we were greeted by a surprising sight: a line of cars stretching back around a half mile from the trailhead. Beth and I have done the hike probably a dozen times in total between us, but had never encountered that volume of traffic in the parking lot or on the trail. Made some sense: it was a beautiful, warm, even hot Saturday morning. Everyone was out.

I’ve been a bit conflicted about what I saw on the trail. Getting people outdoors is a good way to get them to think about open space preservation and may spark some environmentalism. That said, I was dismayed by the amount of trash I saw on the trail, ranging from toilet paper to Clif Bar wrappers to empty bottles. Beyond litter, there was a remarkable lack of trail etiquette - a fair amount of wandering off trail, loud music and shouting, flower picking, and a seeming lack of awareness of one’s surroundings. This all sounds a bit curmudgeonly — perhaps it is — but I think it points toward a renewed need for some “trail manners” literature, discussion, and signage. A small thing, but an important one as social media and the internet continue to highlight the outstanding outdoor opportunities in the Bay Area.

Point Reyes: Estero Trail to Drake's Head

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Pretty early on Sunday morning, I hit the road to Point Reyes for a 10-ish mile trail run. I decided to explore parts of the Estero trail. Beth and I hiked Estero to Sunset Beach in April — and it was really spectacular. I decided to go a bit south of Sunset Beach to Drake’s Head.

The morning began densely fogged in. Some cows blocked the road for a few minutes. By the time I got to the parking lot, the sun was out; it was pretty warm.

I followed the trail marker through some dense grass that gave way to a sandy trail. It winds by and through one magical patch of forest — and then another. As you emerge from the forest, you can see Home Bay, where you can stand on a bridge and admire various birds in the estuary. Be sure to look down to the rocks, where you may see dozens of crabs scuttling about. The trail continues up to a pretty great view and then meanders, up and down, through some beautiful estuaries hidden amidst rocky terrain and pasture land.

Eventually (2.5ish miles in), you’ll hit a fork in the road that points to a number of destinations — including Sunset Beach and Drake’s Head. Either endpoint is well worth it. I turned towards Drake’s Head. The trail disappears a bit amongst more pasture land. Expect to see quite a few large, mainly docile cows. Arrows pop up every now and then to point you in the right direction.

Eventually you hit another trail marker pointing towards Drake’s Head. Turn down that ‘trail’, and follow the faint path to the beautiful bluff viewpoint. Despite the lack of a formal trail and the numerous bovine companions, the walk is straightforward and the endpoint is visible for much of it.

The views from Drake’s Head are incredible. You can see Limantour Spit and Estero, Drake’s Bay, and up and down the coast. I saw one person on the way to Drake’s Head and two or three on the way out; I had the bluff to myself for the half hour I spent there. A beautiful, solitary hike (or run). One of my new favorites.

Backpacking to Sword Lake

Ben, Katy, Oliver, Jessica, Beth and I set out to the Sierras on Thursday morning for a couple of nights of camping, swimming, hiking, and bumming around Sword Lake, located in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The trip came together at the last minute... and turned out spectacularly.

Beth and I made it out of the East Bay relatively easily, with no real incidents on the road and only minor traffic as we passed through Oakdale. The drive was pleasant enough. We stopped at the Summit Ranger Station near Pinecrest, CA, where we rendezvoused with the Lovehardgolds and got a camping permit. We were warned by the Ranger Station staff to expect some crowds at the lake, given its popularity and the long weekend.

After lunch a mile or so up from Pinecrest, we turned off of 108 and onto a dusty, slow county road and made our way to the trailhead. We arrived to a nearly empty parking lot -- only one other car was there. A good sign. We packed up and hit the trail. The walk to the lake was nice -- a few scenic vistas, fields full of wildflowers, and shady, interspersed groves of large trees. Ben and I scoped out campsites on both sides of the lake; Ben spotted a good one, slightly above the lake but with some shade. We set up our two-day home there. We saw a few other folks, but basically had the lake and surrounding environs to ourself. A pretty spectacular find.

From a small hill east of our campsite, the Dardanelles and Spicer Meadow Reservoir were visible. Mornings and evenings atop that hill were especially magical, with the entire landscape bathed in warm, pinkish orange hues. Our last morning at the site, I stumbled up there and had lovely views of the surroundings and an encounter with a deer unfazed by my presence.

In tow was amazing little Oliver, who (as usual) was a delight. The boy loves the outdoors and was (1) an avid swimmer in the hands of his parents and aunt; (2) a rampant mover of dirt, using any utensil available; (3) a burgeoning climber; and (4) a rockstar. He was a smiley, giggly, and sometimes weepy joy.

On the way out, the crowds streamed in. When we got back to the parking lot, it was brimming with vehicles. We were lucky to have missed the masses! A fun trip with lovely, lovely people.

Photos from the trip are at Flickr.

Golden Gate's 75th Birthday

This just happened. Drove over to Marin with the camera, the 50mm dreamboat lens, and a large, beast of a video tripod. More soon here.

Waterfalls, the Beach, and the Ocean

Alamere Falls via Palomarin trail

This hike was outstanding. It started with a traipse through a eucalyptus grove, leading to a brief coastal stint, with amazing views, and then turned inland to pass a couple beautiful lakes [and many smaller ponds] before the turn off for alamere falls.

Ben! Katy! We miss you.

For the last few months, we've been blessed with the presence of our dear friends the Lovehardsteins. Ben and Katy are awesome, love all things outdoors, food, and beer. As such, we enjoy their company a great deal -- and hope they enjoy ours. We went on quite a few adventures with them towards the end of their time in the Bay Area -- a hike near the Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop; a hike to Tomales Point, at Point Reyes National Seashore; and various eats and drinks throughout the Bay Area.

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