Monday, 27 July 2015

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Continuing our lighthouse theme, we visited the Point Bonita Lighthouse on Sunday. After crossing the GG bridge, we took the Alexander Avenue exit, but the tunnel under the mountain was closed so we went up and down the mountain. Surprisingly, traffic wasn't too bad, and we made there in good time. The parking lot near the trail head is small, but there was plenty of parking a little down the road (plus plenty of road side parking near the YMCA). We parked at the farthest point, and while we were walking up, five deer crossed the road just in front of us and then dawdled on the other side of the road.

The walk down to the lighthouse is very nice. You get excellent views of the GG bridge all along the walk, and most of the walk, you are on the side of the mountain with a steep drop on one side. The only time this changes is when you cross one of the three bridges, at which point there are steep drops on either side :) On our way there we saw plenty of harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocks.

The path to the lighthouse also has a tunnel, which was fun for the 5 y.o. - I don't have any photos of that though. The lighthouse is built on a rock jutting out into the ocean, so the lighthouse itself is quite a sight as you walk down the trail.

The final approach to the lighthouse is over a bridge:

As you can see, when you reach the lighthouse, you are in front of the coastline, so you can look back and see the coastline for quite a long distance.

For families: the restrooms near the lighthouse are smelly - stop at the visitor center 1-1.5 miles before the lighthouse.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Hike 20 of the year was the Point Reyes Lighthouse - more driving, less walking, as it turned out. The drive there was beautiful, especially Lucas Valley Rd. We were targeting the lighthouse because we have seen whales there before, and were hoping for a repeat performance - didn't happen though :(

The parking lot at the lighthouse is always full, but we were lucky and managed to find parking along the road close to the entrance. The hike itself is very easy - it is a walk on a paved road all the way to the lighthouse steps. On the way we saw quite a few deer, even a mother and baby, just a few feet off the path.

There are 300 lighthouse steps and you cannot take a stroller down, so families with toddlers - be prepared to carry the kids. The 5 y.o. had done these steps on his own when he was 3, so he did them quite easily this time too. Unfortunately, only the base of the lighthouse was open, the way to the middle level was closed and so we couldn't get a very clear view of the lens itself. From the lighthouse, we saw plenty of birds, but no whales.However, the deer and assorted bugs made the 5 y.o. quite happy :)

For families: there are a couple of restrooms at the parking lot, and a few more close to the lighthouse stairs.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Armstrong Redwoods SNR

We had a rather busy 4th of July weekend, but we managed to fit in one day for a hike. This particular hike was a long way from home - the Armstrong Redwoods SNR in Guerneville, CA. The drive up to Guerneville was quite a nice one, we took the long, scenic way in - north along Skyline, then drove along Ocean Beach, into SF and through the Presidio to join 101 near the Golden Gate Bridge. Even after crossing the GGB, our scenic drive continued - we got off the freeway just north of Tiburon, and then drove through the Sonoma wine country for some time before joining 101 again .. and we made good time throughout. Except at the very end :( - just a couple of miles short of the Armstrong Redwoods SNR, we had to take a right turn off a single lane road. Unfortunately, that single lane road led to the Austin Creek State Recreation Center, so we were stuck in traffic for quite a long time.

When we finally made it to the park, the ranger at the entrance was very helpful. I explained that we wanted to hike, so he suggested that we park in the free visitor parking lot instead of driving through and paying $8, and take a trail just behind the entrance. The Armstrong Redwoods SNR is like Muirwoods, without the crowds. The biggest difference, was that the creek was dry - the creek running next to the path adds a lot of charm to the Muirwoods hike.

We chose to take the flat trail - the East Ridge trail had a "steep" sign at the beginning, and hills can dampen a 5 y.o. very quickly. From the visitor center, we took the Pioneer Nature trail to the picnic area, past the Parson Jones tree and the Burbank circle. The Burbank circle is what the park called a "fairy ring" - a circle of redwoods growing from the roots of a dying redwood. You can see how the root system spreads out in the ground from some fallen redwoods.

On the way to the picnic area, we passed a hollowed out tree where we could clamber in - the space inside the tree was easily the size of a small room, and the 5 y.o. and I spent a fun 5 minutes there :). On the way back from the picnic area, we walked along the Pioneer Nature trail, took the right fork along the Armstrong Nature trail and reached the Colonel Armstrong tree. We didn't go to the Forest Theatre, but headed back along the Discovery trail.

Our final stop was at the visitor center, where there were stuffed birds and animals, as well as dead and mounted baby rattlesnakes and other creepy crawlies, very interesting stuff for a 5 y.o. armed with a magnifying glass :)

For families:
There are plenty of clean restrooms at the visitor center.

Pescadero Marsh Preserve

After a really busy Friday and a busier Saturday we were debating whether to head out on Sunday or stay in. A quick vote, and apparently, no one wanted to stay at home - so we headed to Pescadero Marsh Preserve. Following Jane Huber's detailed information, we parked at the middle parking lot (no fees!) and walked along CA1 towards the beach. This walk is separated from traffic by a low wall, and once you cross the bridge walk east under it to see the trail head for the marsh. Interestingly, there is a lot of driftwood around, and many attempts to build shelters using these.

W.r.t the weather, we were lucky - the day was warm but not sunny (since this trail is mostly exposed) - but we were unlucky in our choice of month, there weren't too many birds. That was made up by the abundance of wild flowers - there were also lots of wild berries to be seen.

Note that the start of the trail involves walking through sand, so wear appropriate footwear. The 5 y.o.'s hiking shoes still let in sand, so we had to stop a few times to tap it out.

The trail itself is beautiful, something that we hadn't expected (I didn't really know what to expect of a marsh). The noise from CA 1 stops bothering you after a bit, and you can take in the beauty.

On the beach itself, where we started out - there is a cave! We didn't explore it - the tide was coming in and we weren't dressed for wading through water. But it will be a destination some other time.

We did walk to the top of the cave though, and were rewarded with some rather interesting formations:

For families: there was a pit toilet in the parking lot, but it stank and we didn't go there, having stopped at a Taco Bell in Half Moon Bay.