I have accumulated enough nice photos from my trail runs around the Bay Area to create a photo gallery! If you follow my blog these pictures should be familiar, but it always looks different when placed in a compilation format. I hope to someday create region-specific galleries for the Peninsula, Marin County, East Bay, Big Sur, Mendocino, Redwood Coast, and other places I visit. In the mean time, most of the photos in this first gallery are from the Peninsula. All of the thumbnails can be expanded to full size. Comments, suggestions, and tips are appreciated. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago we went to sea the largest breeding colony of northern elephant seals in the world at Ano Nuevo State Reserve along the San Mateo coastline. The breeding season begins in the end of December and lasts through mid-March with the peak between the last week of January and first week of February. We were lucky to join a docent-led tour of the colony on a warm and sunny winter day. It was amazing to see the thousands of seals packed on the beach, including hundreds of seal pups! The guides are also highly knowledgeable providing interesting details about elephant seal behavior and the history of Ano Nuevo.
Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a sheltered beach nestled in the cliffs of Devil’s Slide. It’s amazing that such a rugged beach exists so close to the concrete streets of San Francisco. The slopes of Montara Mountain rise abruptly from the ocean creating a very impressive backdrop. A steep road and then a very long flight of stairs leads down to the relatively small and skinny beach. The north end of the beach is widely recognized as “clothing optional” so beware if that is not your sort of thing. The parking area for the beach also serves as a trailhead for McNee Ranch State Park (part of Montara Beach) where paths and fireroads climb steeply up to 1,898 foot Montara Mountain with additional access to San Pedro Valley County Park.
Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park is known for the iconic McWay Falls, which is the epitome of Big Sur promotional travel material. A short path leads to this extremely photogenic waterfall that is walked by nearly every traveler through Big Sur. This attraction is heaven for tripods and large SLRs! Here is a photo of my favorite shot of the post-sunset glow and some shots I took on a drive in the morning.
We enjoyed the spectacularly rugged coastline of Garrapata State Park at Garrapata Beach and on the trails around Soberanes Point. Garrapata Beach is a gorgeous beach with solitary rocks protruding from the fine sands. We ate lunch on a rock and watched collosal waves thunder ashore. Soberanes Point is incredibly scenic with an intricately carved coastline that is very photogenic. I could spend hours exploring the rock formations here.
Cowell Ranch Beach is a little known beach just south of Half Moon Bay. The beach was purchased by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in the 1980’s and is now part of the State Park system. Reaching the beach entails a half mile walk through a farm easement to reach the bluff and then a staircase descent to the beach. Thus, there is much less visitation compared with many of the other beaches along the San Mateo coast where parking is available right next to the beach. One interesting facet of Cowell Ranch Beach is the consistency of the sand, which is course and more like tiny rock granules – not good for sand castle building. We enjoyed the unusually warm and clear weather for January by spending the afternoon on this beach watching the waves breaking and taking in the clean ocean air. We also had some hot, fresh-baked artichoke garlic herb bread from Arcangeli Bakery in Pescadero. We found out why this bestselling bread is so famous as we devoured an entire loaf between the two of us :)
Mendocino is a gorgeous area of the northern California coast. We visited six parks with incredible variety from giant redwoods to lush fern canyons to rugged coastline. Here is a list of the series of blog postings from the trip:
- Hendy Woods State Park
- Van Damme State Park
- Mendocino Headlands State Park
- Russian Gulch State Park
- Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park
- Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve
Below are a few more photos from the trip, including the Blackberry Inn and the Orr Springs Road.