San Francisco: Couchsurfing and Hiking Point Reyes National Seashore
On the Woodward Valley Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore (photo credit: Colleen O’Connor)
I have returned from San Francisco and am already missing the phenomenal dim-sum and temperate weather. Though I do love Minnesota winters, I am quite disappointed by the lack of snow. I haven’t had a chance to use my snowshoes and my skis are collecting dust! (Though I do feel bad mentioning lack of snow, especially knowing that many people are without heat because of the blizzard ravaging the Northeast.)
Other than that, I haven’t been up to too much since I’ve gotten back. I’ll mention a couple things before I write about my adventures in SF.
1. I went to a fantastic birthday party hosted by my friends John and Alsa. The party was full of party games, musical performances (including Bakfat), and N64’s Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers. I didn’t join in the party games as much, but I definitely sang a tune with my friend Ranjit. I will also say that I stunned some young men with my N64 skillz. I won’t go into detail, but I definitely left some boys in the dust while cruising on Choco Mountain and might’ve sent some people flying off Sector Z’s Star Fox central command ship. It must be the inner 5th grader in me that still feels a slight tinge of satisfaction when I beat boys in a boy-dominated sport/game/etc.
2. My friends and I went to a performance by Lux String Quartet at Northeast Minneapolis’ Eat My Words! Bookstore. The troupe consists on 2 violinists, 1 violists, and 1 cellist. My friend Ben (who also invited me to a Chamber Jam a couple months ago) plays viola in the troupe and he’s the reason I knew about this cool event! They are all very talented and I would recommend going to any of their shows.
Couchsurfing and Point Reyes National Seashore:
So, I had big plans for my trip to SF, but ended up having to change it up when I got there. And as someone who often likes to fly by the seat of her pants, it worked out swimmingly. I ended up posting a message on the local Couchsurfing page asking if anyone wanted to go hiking near the SF area. Within the day, a nice gentleman named Albert responded and we (Albert, my sister, and I) made plans to do a 13-mile trek through Point Reyes National Seashore!
2 days later, we rendezvoused in Richmond and then drove 1.5 hours north of San Francisco. On the way there, we introduced ourselves and reminisced about our past couchsurfing and travel experiences. We learned that Albert was originally born in the Philippines and had travelled all over the world! He told us some pretty cool stories. It made the car ride seem very short.
When we got to the parking lot, Albert told us that we had to check out the short Earthquake Loop. This path highlights California’s earthquake history and is within the San Andreas Fault Zone. It’s famous for having a fence post that shifted over 15 feet during the deadly 1906 earthquake. After we saw the fence, we looped back to the Bear Valley parking lot and veered left onto the Bear Valley Trail. By this time, the morning fog had lifted and the sun had come out.
Since it was a Thursday, the trails were very quiet. Albert told us that over the weekends, this park is packed with people. I was thankful to have the park all to ourselves. We reached Meadow Trail and turned right. The trail began with a steep incline, following the Inverness Ridge. I was happy to see that the trail was canopied with a Douglas fir/mixed-evergreen forest. It reminded me of my weeklong camping trip along the Oregon Coast with my friend Kerry. Especially, the smells of the fern-y underbrush and wet dew in the air. It made me yearn for Oregon’s cool, wet mornings again.
For 2.5 miles, we hiked beneath the towering Doug firs. It wasn’t until we reached the Sky Trail that the trail transformed into a whole different environment. The wind picked up and the dewey smells of the forest were exchanged with the faint smell of salt. From the Sky Trail, we could see the Pacific Ocean. My sister had never done a hike that took her from ridge line to sea. It was fun seeing her so excited. It really is quite empowering to walk across a landscape to find an ocean.
We followed the Sky Trail till we intersected with the Woodward Valley Trail. Albert had mentioned that he wanted to see Sculpted Beach, which was at the bottom of this trail. We hiked down the ridge line and, soon enough, the evergreen forest faded away and we entered a sunny coastal scrub. The trail switchbacked a couple times down towards the Pacific and though we must have hiked more than 2 miles, it still felt like no time at all when we reached the beach entrance.
We ate lunch and explored the beach. I even got to use some bouldering skills to climb in and out of the beach bordering our picnic spot. Sadly, high tide was rolling in, so we didn’t have too much time to explore the cool sculpted arches.
Our shadows were getting longer at this point, so we decided to hike a bit faster along the Coast Trail. While hiking south, it was nice to hear the ocean waves crash against the coastal cliffs and smell the salt in the air. It isn’t often that I get to hike along an ocean, so I made sure to soak it all in.
It was almost sunset when we reached Arch Rock, our 3/4 point. Albert and Colleen went down to explore the beach below, while I decided to chill instead. (Mostly because my Keen sandals did not have the best grip against wet rock.) As they played, I felt a little nervous because we didn’t pack a flashlight and our phones were pretty low on battery. But I was soon relieved when we met some fellow hikers who had planned accordingly and brought headlamps. They invited us to hike back with them. So, they encouraged us to sit back, drink some tea, and enjoy the sunset. And we did just that.
Our new friends were Mike and Jay. They met in the Air Force many years before and now work as pilots for major airline companies. It was a long 4-mile trek back, but their company was well appreciated. Not only did their lights guide us back safely to the parking lot, but their conversation made the trek back much more enjoyable.
The best part though? At mile 3, we entered a clearing and had an amazing view of the night sky. I was surprised at how many stars I saw! Even the Milky Way gave an appearance. I never thought you could see so many stars so close to a city, but I was proved wrong. We all stood together, necks cranked back, staring at the starry sky, hoping to see a shooting star.
It took a little over an hour, but we made it to the parking lot and said goodbye to our pilot friends. Albert was kind enough to drive us all the way back to our sister’s apartment too. Albert, thank you so much for the great time. I look forward to meeting again. Maybe next time it’ll be for a week long camping trip to Yosemite??
Well, this post became a lot longer than expected. I’lI leave it here and talk about Big Basin Redwood State Park in my next post.