Monday, January 21, 2013

Whale and elk watching in Point Reyes and Bodega Bay

Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore
 Last weekend, Dan and I headed out to Point Reyes and Bodega Bay. Our goal: whale watching from the coast. The grey whale migration is underway, and whales were reportedly visible from certain spots on the coast.

Tomales Point, with Bodega Head visible across the bay
 We decided to hike out to Tomales Point in the Point Reyes National Seashore. This hike has fabulous views and Tule Elk herds. We wouldn't see whales from Tomales Point (per the park rangers, whale viewing is best from the Pt Reyes lighthouse, see this list for whale watching spots in the SF Bay area), but we wanted to get in some scenic hiking & decided to defer whale watching to the next day.

One of several elk herds. This one was mostly male. I don't know why this was. Impressive antlers!

Big views looking south from Tolames Point!  In the high res version of this photo, the Farallon Islands are visible just to the right of the southern part of the park (the bit that juts out into the ocean, above). We talked with a local guy who said this was the first time he'd ever seen the Farallons from the park.  What a special day!
 What a great hike! We ended up with about 10.4 miles and over 1400 vertical feet of climbing for the hike.

I really recommend going all the way to the point. Lots of hikers turned back after about 2.5 miles at an overlook, but the views are most exceptional at the tip of the point, plus there are crashing waves and tidepools and access to the edge of the cliff.
Frosty morning!
We stayed over night in Bodega Bay, and got to our hotel just in time for a colorful sunset, which we enjoyed from the outdoor hot tub. The next morning, it was in the 20s when we woke up, so we abandoned plans to ride our bikes and instead hung out at our hotel waiting for it to warm up a bit (more hot tubbing!).
Whale watching from Bodega Head
When it warmed up a bit, we headed over to Bodega Head State Park to do some whale watching. Vounteer docents were hanging out at the point (center left of the photo above) and were very informative and enthusiastic. They reported numerous whale sighting that morning, however we hung around for about 30 minutes looking and failed to see whales.  Re-grouping, we went on a fantastically scenic 3 mile walk around the park uring which I was thrilled to spot a whale all by myself (hint: you look for the blow created when the whale clears its blow hole just prior to surfacing). We also saw seals and lots of birds (and lots of people, as this is a popular spot apparently). Dan wanted to try and spot a whale so we returned to the viewpoint where we saw another whale pretty close to the shore. Well, mostly I saw this whale, since Dan was looking in the wrong direction.  All in all, it was a lot of fun, though if I did this again, I would bring more powerful binoculars. Most of the whales were pretty far from the shore.
What a great weekend!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Montara Mountain hike

Big views from the Montara Mountain Trail
After a rainy Saturday, Dan and I were itching to get out for hike. Though the day was a bit foggy, the fog layer was pretty high and we could see our local peaks were below the fog layer. It seemed like a good day to hike Montara Mountain, which is known for its big ocean views.

Brooks Fall trail in San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica

We started in San Pedro Valley Park, where we've hiked and run the trails before.  We took the Brooks Fall trail, attracted by the singletrack and the waterfall view.  The trail was nice and had pleasant canyon views, with occasional big views out to the ocean.
Montara Mountain Trail is bike-legal fireroad at this point
Brooks Fall terminates into the Montara Mountain Trail, which is kind of rocky single track for about 1/2 mile, then turns into a broad fireroad which runs up to the summit.

Misty views down to the ocean on this hike. Only the summit was fogged in.
We had terrific views until the summit area where some fog was rolling in. The summit has a bunch of radio towers and barbed wire fences, so I didn't trudge up to the technical tops (Dan did).
Hiking back down the mountain. The fog stopped at the ocean creating an interesting effect
We took the Montara Mountain Trail all the way back down, creating a kind of lollypop route. The Montara Mountain Trail bit at the bottom (in San Pedro Valley Park) is nice, but I actually like Brook Falls trail better- it is a bit narrower and had fewer hikers, at least when we were there. 

Local wildlife on the Montara Mountain Trail. watch out for these little guys!
Gorgeous manzanita grove on the Brooks Fall Trail
What a great hike!

Map of Montara Mountain hike: Brooks Valley Trail to Montara Mountain Trail to summit, returning by the Montara Mountain Trail to the start at San Pedro Valley Park
7.4 miles for me, 7.6 miles for Dan (who trudged up to the two "summits" to look at the electrical equipment and attennae)
~1900 vertical feet of climbing

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Headlands hike

SF city view from the SCA trail, Marin headlands
Dan and I headed out for a holiday hike up in the Marin Headlands. I was eager to try out my new hiking poles, even though they seemed like overkill for the relatively gentle trails of the headlands.

Dan on the SCA trail, Golden Gate bridge sneak view
 We meant to hike up the Miwok trail, but accidentally took Bobcat instead.  As an aside, we saw a real live bobcat on the Bobcat trail the day after this hike (when we returned to the headlands for a MTB ride)! It was super fuzzy and not very frightened of humans.

Near the summit of Bobcat, we turned off on unmarked single track in search of a (rumored) view point.  The trail continued on and on, though, and we followed it all the way onto the Rodeo Valley Trail. It was fun to be off of the fire road, but the trail is muddy and covered with poison oak (just writing this is making my leg have a phantom itch), so a better route would be to stay on Bobcat to the Alta trail.

We took Rodeo to the SCA trail, my favorite trail in this part of the headlands. A short detour off of SCA took us up to a summit where we shot the photos above. There was a fantastic 360 degree view, crisp and clear with visibility out to Montara Mountain, the Farallons, and Diablo to the East. My photos, however, were overexposed because I messed up the settings on the newish camera :(

We finished the hike by taking the Coastal Trail back to the road. What a great day!  ~7.4 miles, 1300 feet of climbing.