ocean views

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Now there are many reasons why you might want a secluded beach, and Hiking Diva isn’t here to judge your illegal or illicit activities. After all, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it” is kind of like, “if something happens on a secluded beach and no on is there to see it”. However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want a little privacy in a beautiful surrounding, such as a proposal, and in that case, Andrew Molera State Park delivers.

Located in Big Sur, near Carmel, the area has jaw-dropping, photo opportunities, especially with the fog rolling in. It’s beautiful to look at, but it’s not so fun to hike in, so go in the months of September or October. Avoid the summer as that is high fog season. Hike early and plan other activities away from the coast starting in the late afternoon.

When you arrive at Andrew Molera State Park, you’ll cross the parking lot and start your hike by trekking through a creek. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek in our flip-flops. The chill of the water sure wakes you up. We walked along the Big Sur River and through a meadow before reaching the ocean.

After a quick stop at the beach which will had tons of people (and horses), we took the Bluff Trail to the more secluded beach. Along the way, we enjoyed the views from up high.

In October, when we went, the vegetation was drier. I’m sure the area is equally beautiful, if not more so, in the spring with all the wildflowers.

The “secluded” beach isn’t actually secluded or private. It’s just hard to get there so people who were lazier than us didn’t make the trek. It’s farther away from the parking lot, and then we had to climb over all these fallen trees in order to get there.

We did see one other couple on this beach having a picnic, but that was it. We found a little cave ourselves and set up our fancy picnic. We had brought red wine (I know, I know, you shouldn’t drink on a hike…but it was a special occasion), roast beef and gorgonzola sandwiches, and caprese salad. We even brought a little travel guitar, and after lunch, Closet Granola sang a song he wrote and in his song, he proposed! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you want a little more privacy on a hike.

After many tears, we headed back to celebrate. The moon was already visible in the sky.

Where’s the diva-ish part, you ask? Throw in a night at Ventana Inn (my favorite hotel in the world) and not just any room…get the suite with a private ocean view deck. Don’t forget dinner at the Post Ranch Inn. The next day, grab a late lunch at Nepenthe where the food is decent and the view is spectacular before heading back home.

View from Ventana

View from Ventana

Nepenthe

Nepenthe

Oh, and Closet Granola and Hiking Diva lived happily ever after…

Overall rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

One of the great things about living in California is that you can go hiking and biking almost year-round. I know I’ve neglected this hiking blog a bit over the last few months, but ever since my “injury” in Yosemite, hiking has taken a back burner to the easier outdoor activity known as biking. Note: my “injury” was not so much an “injury” but as my sports medicine doctor at UCSF said “the pain is likely caused by the lack of muscle in your legs…oh, and you also walk bow-legged.” Ouch, if anything knocks Hiking Diva down a peg, that might be it. But back to my apology, which somehow got sidetracked, for not blogging as much about hiking…I may have to make up for it with reviews of biking trails. If anyone has an objection, speak now or forever hold your peace. Of course, I control what comments show up, so it’s pretty much a done deal.

Now, back to today’s feature: the Matt Davis trail to Coastal Trail. If you’ll recall, Closet Granola had already dragged Hiking Diva on a rather steep uphill climb on Matt Davis in Take My Breath Away, Mount Tamalpais, but this hike was to be much easier on the knees. This out-and-back hike is more of a stroll along the ridge of Mt. Tam, overlooking the ocean. We parked at the Pantoll Ranger Station, which, by the way, has gotten quite pricey at $8 for a parking permit. But, California is in a bit of a financial crisis, so it was the least we could do to support the parks. Instead of heading down the Steep Ravine/Dipsea Trails like we did last time, we headed over to the Matt Davis Trail past the warning signs for mountain lions and rattlesnakes (nice way to set the mood).

Rather than continuing down the Matt Davis Trail, we veered right to take the Coastal Trail. This gave us great views with virtually no elevation change. The first part of the hike was shaded, but once on the Coastal Trail, it was very exposed. Since this hike was out-and-back, this also meant that the last part of the hike was very shaded, and given that we have a tendency to start our hikes late (not recommended) it was very dark in the shaded areas on the way back. It was a full moon, but very little light was filtering through the trees. That now makes THREE hikes where we haven’t made it back before dark, but who’s counting.

This particular hike is rather scenic with views of San Francisco, the beach, and the water. The sunset was gorgeous and if I had had a real camera with me (rather than my G1), I would make a panoramic picture that shows a gorgeous sunset scene where you can see both the moon and the sun. But alas, no camera…just a G1 with a low battery.

I’d recommend this hike for beginners. It’s a great introductory hike since you can wow them with the views, and you won’t have to listen to complaints of body aches the next day. On the day we went there was virtually no wind. Since the hike is rather exposed, I would check the weather report before heading out there. I’m sure I would not be recommending this hike if I had been blown off the ridge.

Overall rating: Heels (definitely)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Coastline

Coastline

The weather this weekend was just glorious…one of those days where you’re so happy to be living in California and not somewhere in the Northeast. Notice how quickly we attribute 80 degree weather in San Francisco in the middle of November to living in California rather than global warming. Even the hippies can’t complain when the weather is this spectacular.

To take advantage of this unprecedented state of affairs on our one and only hike in the month of November, Closet Granola surprised me by suggesting a hike in Point Reyes. Normally, I am arguing for a Point Reyes hike and he is adamantly opposed, but even he believes that the weather will be nice up there. And it is!

Bear Valley Trail

Bear Valley Trail

I’ve been bugging him to go on this trail since April, but he’s always found an excuse to go somewhere else. The Bear Valley to Arch Rock Trail is also a bike-and-hike, but we weren’t certain if my cheap commuter bike with its thin road tires could handle the trail. After hiking the entire trail, we’ve decided it would have been fine. A mountain bike would be better, but my little bike could have made it.

With bikers and hikers and strollers, the trail can get very crowded. And since this is a really easy hike with only 300 feet in elevation gain, it doesn’t scare off the weaklings (like myself). This may have been the most crowded hike I’ve been on. Luckily, the trail is very wide for passing people as well as engaging your significant other in forced conversations regarding where the relationship is going. You may be in the great outdoors, Closet Granola, but there’s nowhere to run! <<insert evil laugh>>

Meadow

Meadow

But I digress…on the trail, we passed a meadow along the way, where we stopped to eat a little snack. We wanted to save the true picnic for when we reached our destination, Arch Rock. Incidentally, there are those dreaded toilets available if you need to make a little stop, but beware the horrendous odor. You’ve been warned.

The first leg of the hike is about 3.5 miles of a mostly shaded, sometimes muddy, but very well-kept trail. At the end of the bike trail, there’s a bike rack for parking your bike (so bring your lock if you plan to make this a bike-and-hike). After that, it’s less than a mile to the destination.

Coastal views

Coastal views

Arch Rock juts out into the ocean providing beautiful views of the coastline up and down from where we were. There are a few other rocks out at sea that make the views even more picturesque. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people also picnicking, but I’m pretty sure we had the best spread - bread, smoked salmon, four types of cheese, and turkey pepperoni. The scenery makes up for the lack of privacy.

At around 3:30, we decided to call it a day. Closet Granola was not going to be tricked into a night hike like Eagle Lake, so we packed up and headed back the way we came. A little over 9 miles total and four hours including picnic time, we were ready to head back to our city life.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

On our way back to the city, we stopped for dinner at Guaymas in Tiburon.  We drank margaritas, snacked on tortillas and salsa, ate chile poblano and arroz con mariscos on the outdoor deck with a to-die-for view of the San Francisco skyline. It was the absolutely perfect ending to the perfect day.

Overall Rating: Heels for difficulty, flip-flops for length

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: A city girl’s necessity equals a hiking diva’s luxury. I’ve learned to dread hikes where the guidebooks mention pit toilets at the trailhead. Luckily, the restrooms at Bear Valley are not only clean with functional toilets and running water, but the hand dryers are Xcelerator. Nice touch! (or actually no touch!)

Tip #2: For more serious hikers, bike out to the end of the Bear Valley Trail and hike some of the more strenuous trails rather than sitting on your butt at Arch Rock like we did. When I’m back in shape, we might have to try that.

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