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Redwoods

Redwoods

The very big Big Basin Hike kicked my ass. Complaining for days afterward that I needed a hip replacement, this city girl was ready to hang up the hiking boots for good after this hike. But after the all-over soreness faded, the memories (and photographs) of this beautiful hike will last. Without any ocean or coastal views, I knew it was going to be difficult for this hike to make it into my top 10, but sure enough it did not disappoint.

How old is this tree?

How old is this tree?

Big Basin State Park is located in the Santa Cruz mountains and is a great place to see lots and lots of redwood trees. Some of the redwood trees have been around since the Byzantine Empire and the Mayan civilization…quite unfathomable to someone who thinks being thirty is just way too old. Around the trailhead, there were a lot of tourists…too many tourists. But luckily, a lot of them seemed to be there to get a quick glimpse of the redwoods on a half-mile loop. But alas, my boyfriend is way more hard-core than that. We were

Strenuous Hike

Strenuous Hike

off on a 12 mile hike through the redwoods to search for 3 waterfalls - Golden Falls, Silver Falls, and Berry Creek Falls. This was our mission and I even bought a brand new neutral density filter for the camera for this hike, so I was not going to waste my new filter on a 1/2 mile non-waterfall version.

Throughout the hike, there was quite a lot of elevation gain/loss which accounted for the hip replacement desire. Halfway through the hike, we came to the falls. We stopped for lunch at Golden Falls and dined on our Whole Foods sandwiches - prosciutto/brie and caprese…yum! And of course, we spent plenty of time taking pictures and figuring out

Silver Falls

Silver Falls

how to be creative with a long shutter speed and makeshift tripods from whatever materials we could find nearby. But save the best for last because Berry Creek Falls was the most spectacular of the three. With a platform and a bench extending out towards the waterfall, this was the easiest to shoot.

The rest of the hike back to the car was just painful, knowing the best of the hike was behind you and yet there was still 6 miles to go before you rest. Despite the pain and the length of this hike, the waterfalls here were seriously underrated (only Alamere Falls is better in my

Berry Creek Falls

Berry Creek Falls

opinion, and Castle Rock doesn’t even compare). There were very few people on this hike, so it was less crowded than Point Reyes. I would definitely do this again in the spring to try to capture an even fuller waterfall, or I might try the bike-and-hike version.

Overall rating: Hiking boots…This hike totally kicked my ass.

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: Carry your own water pack if you can. It gets pretty nasty if you sweat a lot, but it’s nice to have your own source of water you can sip from instead of asking your boyfriend when you want water. But make him carry your 10-pound camera!

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.

Castle Rock Views

Castle Rock Views

This figure-eight hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains was my very first hike with the new boyfriend (several months ago). Totaling 5.5 miles, I was quite doubtful beforehand that I could finish it and quite impressed when I did. In retrospect though, 5.5 miles isn’t that bad. And this hike is rather easy with the exception of the last uphill climb.

Castle Rock Falls

Castle Rock Falls

There was a promised waterfall, views, and sandstone formations, unfortunately most of which didn’t live up to the imagination. Although we went in early spring/late winter, there wasn’t enough water to make the waterfall memorable. It was also really, really cold! There were decent views of the mountains and surrounding areas, but I’m more impressed by coastal views than valley views. My high-maintenance side is coming out…these views just weren’t good enough!

Moss

Moss

Despite all this, I had a great time. I learned a couple things on that excursion. One, a pastrami sandwich from Robert’s Market in Woodside with a bottle of red wine transforms a hike into a gourmet experience. Two, my boyfriend and his friends talk about how to get women outdoors. Three, women talk about how to get men to talk to them. And four, men can get women outdoors if they talk to them and women will go outdoors since the only thing to do is talk. Perhaps that is how to solve life’s greatest mystery - how to make both men and women happy.

Fence

Fence

And this is how I determined that my first hike would not be my last. The conversations we had on this hike make it all worthwhile!

Tip: Beware the poison oak. This is a danger that us city girls aren’t so used to. We know to look out for men loitering in alleys late at night, and the occassionally over-aggressive creep at the bar, but this little plant can be just as dangerous and a bit more innocuous. Watch out for those three glossy leaves!

Overall rating: Flip-flops (figuratively, please don’t actually try to hike it in flip-flops)

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 Lobos

Point Lobos

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but easy hikes can be a close second for those of us trying to hike in heels. And Point Lobos is certainly easy, even for beginners. So what’s the catch? Is it ugly and boring and hence easy (slight innuendo here)? Au contraire, the trails are absolutely stunning with ocean views, creepy lichen trails, seals bathing on rocks, and a coastline carpeted in richly-colored vegetation and flowers.

Lace Lichen Trail

Lace Lichen Trail

We started off on the Lace Lichen Trail, where the lichen hanging from the trees was reminiscent of Savannah’s Spanish Moss…pretty in a serene creepy kind of way. A short segment on Pine Trail and then we veered off towards the coast through Piney Woods. Within minutes, we were at the ocean climbing over rocks and peering at the crabs in the tidepools.

Sea Lion Point

Sea Lion Point

Turning right, we followed a path along the coast through beautiful vegetation (with benches if your feet are hurting) that led to Sea Lion Point. Once there, we took out our cameras and started snapping away. We also saw an otter rolling in the water, apparently very amused with itself.

We followed the coastline through South Point, Pinnacle Cove, and Cypress Cove. Here we rounded a corner and came upon a deer eating grass about 10 feet from us. She knew we were there (taking pictures once again) but she didn’t seem bothered by our paparazzi ways. We stayed until she finished her lunch and walked off.

Cypress Grove

Cypress Grove

We then followed the North Shore Trail to Whaler’s Cove and then cut back to the car just a few hours after we had left. Probably the most memorable and picturesque of all the hikes I’ve been on. It was an overcast day, which gives me a perfect reason to come back and hike it again…

Overall rating: You can totally do this in heels…maybe even stilettos. (figuratively…please don’t actually try to hike it in heels)

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: Park outside the state reserve along Highway 1 and you’ll save the park entrance fee. Put it towards your next pair of heels.

Tuckbox Teahouse in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Tuckbox Teahouse in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Check it out: The scones with ollalieberry jam at the Tuckhouse in Carmel-by-the-Sea will put you in a good state of mind for the hike. And the cute cottage the restaurant is housed in looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale.

Check it out: Reward yourself for a hike well-done with drinks at Roy’s in Pebble Beach (at the Spanish Bay Inn). Sit outside and watch the sunset while drinking girly cocktails around the firepits.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

On our way from San Francisco to Point Reyes to hike Alamere Falls, I ask…

“How hard is this hike?”

“How long is this hike?”

“Is there a lot of uphill?”

My boyfriend looks at me with a straight face and says, “I don’t know. I haven’t done much research on this hike, but there is a waterfall at the end.”

I sit back, placated by this response…there’s a waterfall. That’s a good sign. The hike should be pretty and have something for me to photograph.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The hike didn’t disappoint. It was stunning with beautiful ocean views and abundant wildflowers (we went in late spring) and we stopped for many photography opportunities. The inclines were gentle enough and we walked by a peaceful lake on the way to the falls. We passed a horse as well, and whenever they’re around, be sure you don’t accidentally dirty your shoes in their not-so-little “deposits.” Also, the trails said “No Dogs Permitted”, but I saw all kinds of cute furry pooches along the way.

Trail

Trail

It wasn’t entirely perfect though. At one point, I wanted to take a picture of a lizard (there are lots of them!) that came out from the plants and stood in front of me. I called my boyfriend to come look at it and as he started to walk back, a 6-foot long gopher snake decided to come take a look as well. It slithered across the trail, coming straight towards me. Avid outdoorsy girl that I am (NOT!), I froze and stood there paralyzed. Finally, I stepped back and I’m not sure who was more scared…me or the snake. The snake decided to let his lunch go and slither away and I almost had a nervous breakdown. At least the lizard was saved. Other than that, the hike was great.

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

At the end of the hike, the waterfall descends straight into the ocean (only one other waterfall in California goes to the ocean, McWay Falls in Big Sur). It was a beautiful day and we sat on a hill, with views of the waterfall and the ocean, and had a picnic.

On our way back to the car (it was an out-and-back hike), I asked my boyfriend:

“So how long do you think that hike was?”

He responds, “Probably 8.5 miles.” Just then we pass the entrance sign and it says the hike was 8.6 miles. Didn’t do any research, my ass! He knew all along how long it was, but didn’t tell me for fear that I would have balked at an 8 mile hike. But it’s true, if he had told me the truth, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty; Pumas for duration

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: Do your own research. Boyfriends will often pretend to know nothing when the facts get in their way.

Tip #2: A fancy picnic lunch with smoked salmon, fresh bread, smelly cheese, and red wine is not optional, so stop at Cowgirl Creamery before hitting the trail and you’ll both be happier when the glucose levels drop.

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