Archive for February, 2013

The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area (Falcon Guides)
The distance: 10.2 miles
The CityGirls rating: 7

Craving ocean and an escape from the city, we braved holiday-weekend crowds at Point Reyes National Seashore to hike Tomales Point. The weather was perfect as we drove up through Marin—a warm, sunny, spring-like day that reminds us just how lucky we are to live in the Bay Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a diffuse park with discrete sections of trails. We started at Pierce Point Ranch, an historic cattle ranch up near the tip of the park. While Piece Point Ranch is no longer operational, we passed a handful of other ranches, established in the late 1800s, that are still in operation.

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The hike up Tomales Point is pretty much a straight shot from the ranch. The trail begins by heading up to the top of the bluffs along the ocean’s edge, with an achingly beautiful view of the bright blue sky, the turquoise ocean, and the mottled green hills.

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As we got closer to the edge of the bluff, we could smell the salt and hear the surf against the rocks below. There’s something about sea air that invigorates and rejuvenates, and we soaked it in.

The middle part of the trail, once it left the edge of the bluff was much less exciting and clogged with other hikers, but we continued on, and the payoff was well worth it.

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We took the trail all the way out to the tip of Tomales Bluff, and it felt like the ends of the earth, with waves crashing, birds circling, wind whipping by, and the ocean stretching out endlessly to the west. There were a bunch of other people there, but the grandeur of the rocks and the waves eclipsed any feelings of crowding.

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It was beautiful and severe and wild and good for the soul.

birdsThe hiking book said this was a good trail for wildlife spotting, and spot wildlife we did. As soon as we got out on the bluff at the beginning of the hike, we saw a red tailed hawk darting and flitting above the scrub.

We often see vultures circling overhead when we go hiking, but hawk sightings are much more rare. This one flew along beside us and the beside the trail for a while, and we even saw it stoop and dive.

Out at the end of the Point we saw a whole bunch of shore birds sitting on the rocks, cleaning in the tidepools, and flying arcs along the bluffs.

The most exciting of these was the black oystercatcher, which has a bright orange beak. Really, what’s better than a bright orange beak?

Along with the oystercatcher, we saw cormorants and two species of gulls.

Tomales Point is also known for its population of tule elk, a subspecies endemic to northern California. The name tule elk comes from the marsh plant tule, on which the elk feed.

Tule elk were thought to be extinct in 1870s, when a small herd (less than 10!) were found near San Luis Obispo. The owner of the land where these elk were found protected them, and the population rebounded, leading to the need to resettle the elk elsewhere in California.

We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the elk, and as we hiked out to the point, we saw a couple herds of them on the hills in the distance.

On the way back we got an even better view, as the fog rolled in and the elk became less shy. We saw one herd that was just on the other side of a low rise from the trail—we could see their antlers and ears poking up behind the scrub. Farther along the trail, we came across another herd grazing not more than 50 feet off the side of the trail!

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HIKE NOTES
Ease of following designated hike: 10. There’s just the one trail from the ranch out to the end of the Point.
Best season to hike: Spring, fall, or spring-like days in mid-February. Definitely go when it’s clear.
Our hike time: 3.75 hours.
Solitude: 3. There were a couple spots early in the hike where we had the place to ourselves, but most of it was super crowded.

In the spirit of the awards season that is currently upon us, we thought we’d dish out a few of our own awards here at The CityGirls Go Hiking.

Without further ado (not that there’s been all that much ado up to this point, really), here are our favorites from our 2012 hikes and adventures.

Best Lunch Spot

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Table Rock on the Steep Ravine Loop trail on Mt. Tam. A flat, sun-warmed rock hidden from the trail with a majestic view of the ocean and the town of Stinson Beach.

Best Ocean View

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This one is a toss-up between two different sorts of views of the ocean. The shoreline at Russian Gulch State Park presents an open vista of water with interesting rock formations formed by the power of the waves on the soft sandstone. You smell the salt air and hear the waves crashing.

Table Rock, as you may have guessed, is the best of the other type of ocean view: the ocean from a distance. Framed in green by the trees surrounding this secluded niche, the cerulean and aquamarine blues of the ocean beckon as foamy white waves hit Stinson Beach.

Most Hardcore Hike

hardcore-hike

Nothing makes you feel hardcore like climbing nearly 2,000 feet in 2.5 miles on the trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite. Well, except maybe doing that hike in the snow.

Best Sunning Rock

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Found on Mount Saint Helena with an amazing view of the hills of wine country and lots of warm sun during a rather chilly stretch of trail.

Table Rock gets an honorable mention here as well. Cuz it was just that awesome.

Best Tree

fun-tree

This tree at Russian Gulch State Park looked more like an octopus than a tree and was generally awesome-looking. In actuality, it’s a second-growth pine tree growing from the stump of an old-growth Redwood that was logged in the 1900s.

Best Waterfall

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Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite, especially Vernal Falls in the snow, when the water is turning to ice as it hits the bottom and creates little ice blooms in the pool there.

Best Rocks

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Ring Mountain had a whole slew of little boulders dotting the hillside. They were generally very easy to scramble on top of, which makes us happy as climbing on rocks is, well, awesome. There were even some flatish rocks for eating lunch and “sunning” under the uniformly gray, overcast sky.

(We did have to talk ourselves down from making an exception to the 2012 rule and giving this award to Castle Rock, which we hiked earlier this month.)

Best Plant Name

fetid adders tongue

The fetid adder’s tongue we saw while hiking Alpine Lake. Because really, fetid adder’s tongue? Awesome name.

Yummiest

birite

Bi-Rite ice cream in the Mission just can’t be beat. Chocolate and salted caramel soft serve with hot fudge sauce and candied nuts. Yeah.

And for the big winner, the best CityGirls Go Hiking hike of 2012 is…

Best Hike

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Steep ravine loop is a hike that has it all. Waterfalls, Mt. Tam, Redwoods, ocean views, secluded spots, sunning rocks, the beach, ice cream bars, and enough climbing to make us feel hardcore. Plus, Puerto Rican food and limeade at Sol Food after the hike!