Sunday, 20 May 2007
We went for our annual hike to Alamere Falls on Sunday, and had the pleasure of going with my colleague Ondrej, who is here for business from Prague. Sarah & I have done this hike every year since 2003, and it remains one of our very favorites in the Bay Area.
It took quite some time to escape San Francisco, since the Bay-to-Breakers foot race was on, leaving only two north-south roads through the city open. As we idled in traffice, we enjoyed watching some of the participants walking back, since a this race is only about 10% race, and 90% moving street party with people in costume, revelling.
Eventually we made it to 19th Ave. and crept north. Another 45 minutes of twisty roads brought us to the Palomarin Trailhead at the extreme south end of Point Reyes National Seashore. We started hiking at 12:50.
Looking south from the Coastal Trail
The Coastal Trail starts off in a dense eucalyptus forest, which groaned and creaked creepily in the heavy winds, then emerges and follows the coastline for half a mile or so. This stretch was quite gusty, threatening to blow my cap off, and making wildflower photography all but impossible (had I not been with two other people, I might have tried my hand at abstract windblown flower pictures, but I didn’t want to make them wait).
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
Fortunately the trail soon turns inland and stays there for most of the hike. Descending, then climbing a small gully, it becomes rocky and open, a good habitat for flowers, of which we saw many: California Poppies, Baby Blue Eyes, Paintbrush, Cow Parsnip, Fern-leaved Lomatium, Lupine (mostly gone to seed), Pacific Pea, and Pearly Everlasting, to name but a few! This is a sort of annoying stretch of trail to hike due to its rockiness, but it makes up for it in flora.
Baby Blue Eyes w/a bonus spider
The environs change suddenly at the top of this little hill, going from open rocky grassland to heavily wooded fern paradise in just a few steps. As in other hikes here, the Cow Parsnip was going great guns, growing to at least 8 feet in height. A small lake on the left had a large showy stand of Foxglove, its tall magenta and white stalks easily discernable from across the water. We continued along, passing a group of equestrians, and another small lake. A Wilson’s Warbler warbled from a bush top, giving us a nice view of himself before flying off.
A particularly verdant stretch of trail
Emerging from the forest, we hiked downhill, soon arriving at the unmaintained spur trail to the falls. As before, it was pretty rutted and overgrown – I’m not sure why they don’t put in an official trail, except perhaps that they don’t want the responsibility of people injuring themselves on either of the two scrambles near the falls.
The spur trail to the falls had many flowers along the disturbed hillsides, as usual, including California Poppy, California Manroot, Paintbrush, Seaside Daisies, Strawberries and Blackberries, Sticky Monkeyflower, Tidy Tips, and Pearly Everlasting. A lone shrub of Sticky Sandspurry grew at the top of the final scramble to the waterfall, this being the first time I’ve seen this flower on this hike.
We climbed down the steep embankment and admired the series of cascades and pools above the falls, then sought out a sheltered area to have our lunch, since, like near the trailhead, it was quite windy on the immediate coast. Sandwiches eaten and mini-wines drank, Ondrej and I climbed down one more scramble to get to the beach below the falls, while Sarah stayed up top and relaxed.
There were perhaps 10 people on the beach, including a group of 4 who I suspect were enjoying this lovely scene with a little pharmacological assistance, if you know what I mean — they seemed just a little bit too into swirling and twirling and touching everything
After enjoying the beach for 15’ish minutes Ondrej & I climbed back up and rejoined Sarah, then we all returned to the car the way we came. Along the way I was surprised to see not one, not two, but three different wildflowers that I hadn’t noticed on the way in: Chinese Houses along the rocky stretch of trail, a few Goldwire by the eucalyptus grove, and another I haven’t yet identified in the forest.
Mystery flower – anyone know what it is?
As always, this was a lovely hike, albeit a somewhat overly-gusty one! After 5 hikes I’m not nearly bored with this walk. Varied terrain, lovely wildflowers, and a waterfall emptying onto a beach (Alamere is one of only two in California, the other being McWay Falls in Big Sur) make it a real treat!
Goldwire (Hypericum concinnum)
I tried something a bit different on this hike, photographically. Rather than my usual complement of wide-angle zoom, macro, and tele-zoom, I brought only my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens and a 36mm extension tube. This combination worked pretty well, and having only one focal length available definitely made me think about composition more, which never hurts! The 36mm tube is actually a little much on this lens, requiring me to get very close to achieve focus – next time I’ll try the 20mm and maybe 12mm tubes. This combination worked very well, however, and the f/1.4 lens allows for easy background blurring, in addition to being a very sharp lens overall.
Distance: 8.4 miles
Hiking time: 3hrs, 8min
Stopped time: 1hr 10min
==> See also my photo album, containing photos from all of the hikes I’ve done to Alamere Falls, with more/better photos of the falls themselves.
I’m experimenting with adding links to my photo gallery for birds and flowers – what do you think? It takes some time, but if it’s useful/interesting for folks, I’ll keep doing it.
|Birds seen:||Wildflowers seen:|
|– American Crow
– American Goldfinch
– Black-headed Grosbeak
– Common Raven
– House Finch
– Song Sparrow
– Turkey Vulture
– Western Gull
– Wilson’s Warbler
|– Anderson Thistle
– Aster sp.
– Baby Blue Eyes
– Ballhead? Phacelia
– Beach? Strawberry
– Blue-eyed Grass
– California Blackberry
– California Hedgenettle
– California Manroot
– California Poppy
– Chinese Houses
– Cow Parsnip
– Douglas Iris
– Fern-leaved Lomatium
– Lupine sp.
– Marin Iris (hybrid)
– Pacific Pea
– Paintbrush sp.
– Pearly Everlasting
– Seaside Daisy
– Seep-spring Monkeyflower
– Spring Vetch (yecch)
– Sticky Monkeyflower
– Sticky Sandspurry
– Tidy Tips
– Western Thimbleberry
– Wild Mustard
– Wild Radish