point reyes

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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.

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.

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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