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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.

Almost two years after my first hike on Mt. Tamalpais, Closet Granola and I headed out to relive the day when the Matt Davis trail kicked my butt. It was wildflower season then and it’s wildflower season again now, so if you’re looking for a gorgeous hike strewn with wildflowers and not too much sun, this is a great one to do NOW.

I won’t recap all the details about the hike since you can read about it here, except to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad this time around as it was last time. It just makes me realize how out of shape I was back then. Even with the little exercise from skiing and biking, this hike was fairly manageable.

Here’s what you can expect in terms of wildflowers if you go now…

And the icing on the cake…ocean views from Matt Davis and a little waterfall on Steep Ravine

Overall rating: Trailblazers

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.

Steep Ravine Trail

The ever-popular Steep Ravine-Dipsea-Matt Davis loop in Marin County’s Mt. Tam took my breath away…in more ways than one. This stunningly beautiful hike is perfect during the wildflower season, when the trails look like they have been dusted in glitter or fairy dust.

Wild About Wildflowers

There are two ways to do this hike. The more-sane people opt to start at Stinson Beach and hike up the Dipsea Trail and Steep Ravine Trail and walk back down the Matt Davis trail. My hard-core Closet Granola though prefers to start at Pantoll Ranger station and go the opposite direction. The route we took is ideal for a midway break at Stinson Beach for a picnic lunch, but the hike up Matt Davis afterward may make that lunch your last meal.

Make a Wish

The Steep Ravine Trail requires that you climb down a ladder, which is the least of your problems once you realize that what goes down must come up. The trails are well kept and the vegetation is lush. There are so many flowers of different colors that a photographer should leave ample time for photographic distractions.

Garden of Paradise

On the way back up from Stinson Beach, we passed a house with a garden that made us wish there was a hidden trust fund somewhere with our names on it. Once we passed this house, though, we couldn’t catch our breath for the next couple hours. The elevation gain was enough to knock a girl off her feet, but luckily the switchbacks helped a little.

Ocean Views

On the climb up, we stopped many times to admire the view of the ocean over the wildflowers, or at least I pretended to as I have huffed and puffed and tried not to see stars in the middle of the day.

Carpet of Flowers

Caveat: This was one of my earliest hikes and I may have been seriously out of shape. Perhaps this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal after the Big Basin hike. However, when I returned home, my roommate did say that I’ve never looked so bad in my life.

Overall rating: Hiking boots (in the moment), Trailblazers (in hindsight)

Fairy Dusted Path

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.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is fast becoming a city girl’s favorite out-of-the-city spot. The views on the Tomales Point hike are stunning and the difficulty won’t kill you, so it’s a good value for your feet. This 10.5 mile out-and-back hike exposes you to full sun (wear sunscreen lest you look 40 when you’re 25), fly-me-away-Mary-Poppins winds, and a trek through sand to reach your final destination.

A bit further north than the the Alamere Falls hikes, the Tomales Point hike may be

Coastal views

Coastal views

even easier if longer. Like it’s sister hike, it has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills rather than steep climbs, and a very climactic ending that makes the first couple hours worthwhile.

Elk Preserve

Elk Preserve

In order to get to Tomales Point, we hiked through an elk preserve and saw many herds of elk along the way. They were grazing, sleeping, resting, running, and playing. We saw two young males standing on their hind legs as they tried to show each other who was boss; we saw another two using their antlers to initiate play; and we saw an elk prancing around in front of another like dogs do when they want to play/attack. It was all very cute and Nature channel-y.

Tomales Point

Tomales Point

Towards the end of the first section, the dirt trail becomes sand, which was much more difficult to walk around in and slowed our progress. But we persevered and continued out to the very end of the point, where we had views of the ocean on one side, views of the bay on the other, seagulls and pelicans overhead, and wildflowers at our feet. We were the only two people out there (probably because we always get a late start) and we marveled at how wonderful it is to be able to leave the city after noon and be in such an idyllic location.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

It took us 5 hours to complete the hike with a half-hour stop for a late lunch picnic that we picked up at my favorite place, Cowgirl Creamery.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty, Pumas for duration (hiking boots if you don’t want sand in your shoes)

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: On the way back to San Francisco, stop at Sorella Cafe in Fairfax, where the locals dine delicious, home-style Italian dishes, snack on bread with chunks of Parmesan cheese, listen to the pianist, and chat with the hostess. As much as I love the anonymity of the city, sometimes it’s nice to be at a place where everyone knows your name…not that they know my name yet, but one day.

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