SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED, NO JOKE

So are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Well, you may just have to wait … until 2018.

Even though this stunning 54 ft. high waterfall is less than 2 miles along the coast from a very popular beach at Pt Reyes, very few people have ever been to see it. I have only seen one other photo of it (and it was a crappy one). Why is that? Because there are only one or two days out of the entire year that you can see the waterfall (especially with good lighting), and as for this year, now that the rainy season is over, there may not be any more opportunities at all. There are a number of conditions that need to be just right, and I describe them all in detail on my website page. So if you want to know how to get here, please check there. This hike takes a lot of careful planning.

This weekend the conditions seemed about perfect. Even so, there was trouble.

I arrived at the trailhead before sunrise.  I could hear a strange animal squealing somewhere out in the dark. What the heck is that? It was quite frightening. I know there are ranches out here but it certainly could not be a cow. What is it then? Coyote? Mountain Lion? Sasquatch? It wasn’t until afterwards I realized what it was because that is when I saw them: Tule Elk!

Anyway, the hike started out as an easy jaunt down that previously mentioned popular beach.  Before too long I came to the interesting part. The deadly part. You have to wade through the ocean water around a corner. The water was up to my waist. The tide was still going out and the waves were still coming in. Should I wait longer for the tide to go out more? I thought about that, but if I had done so, then when I got back here later, the tide would be coming back in, and that would be even more serious. I decided to get around that corner as fast as I could and hope for the best. About halfway, I got hit by a sneaker wave. I saw it coming. Never turn your back on the ocean, right? There was nothing I could do but hold onto the rocks. The wave almost pulled me off the rocks and potentially out to sea, but I held on. I tried to get through the rest of the water as quick as I could before another one got me. I found it difficult to pull myself up in waist deep water onto the rocks, but I finally got up and onto safe ground. I was shaken, but not stirred. I decided to continue on, knowing it would be easier when I got back to this section later. My GPS was in my pocket (not sure why I had it in there), and it was soaked. I thought it was toasted, yet it amazingly survived the ordeal. Now that is good construction, Magellan! However, my GoPro was not so fortunate. I thought I had it held above water when the wave hit, but obviously water got on it. I did not have it in the waterproof container because I did not expect to go swimming! It was dead in the water. I am hoping it comes back to life later, otherwise that will be an expensive casualty. This was definitely one of the more stupid things I have done in my life. Perhaps when I was younger there were worse incidents, but I don’t remember them now. I realize I am posting this on April Fool’s Day, but I assure you all this happened as I described. No joke.

The rest of the hike was a cakewalk in comparison. You have to walk through a cave which is fascinating, then you are walking along the beach the rest of the way, but it is very rocky and slow going because the rocks were wet and slippery. There were strange bugs on the rocks that skittered away as I approached, hundreds and hundreds of them. They were like cockroaches. Sand cockroaches? I also saw a bunch of crabs, including one huge one on the sand, upside down! There’s not many things more pathetic than a crab on its back, flailing away. I turned him over with my hiking pole and I heard him say “thank you, sir” before he scuttled off to the ocean.

I finally arrived at the waterfall. It was marvelous! It is such a remote falls that few have ever seen, and you can get right up close to it. I was hoping the flow would be stronger, but it was still flowing decent enough. I would have loved to stay here much longer but I had to get back before the tide turned.

When I got back to the wading area, the tide was about at the peak low point. It was much easier getting back through this section but even so, the waves were still coming up to the rocks. I had to time it carefully but I made it across without incident. If I ever come here again I will want to make sure there is a lower minus tide than I had this day.

I rested on the beach in the sun for awhile before heading back up to the car. It was a lovely morning and no one else on this popular beach at all. I felt like I should do a second hike but I was not prepared for that so I just went back to the car and drove home. It was quite an interesting morning at the ocean.

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STINKY FALLS

Here are your March 1 weather stats: Rainfall is at 221% of average for this date for Northern CA, 221% for Central, and 210% for Southern Sierra. We only need 12 inches of rain to surpass the wettest year on record. That seems like quite a bit, but I think it will happen, though perhaps not by April 1. The snow pack is at 161% of average (North), 193% (Central), and 204% (South).  It is going to be an incredible spring waterfall season this year. We have one official month of winter left and although it is starting off slow, there is a storm in the forecast this weekend and perhaps more in the next couple weeks. Some of you folks may be all done with the rain for this year, but I am not. We still gotta beat that all-time record. Ha ha.

My first hike of the day last weekend was to Kehoe beach. It is a short, easy hike down to the beach. It was very muddy, however. I thought that would mean the waterfall will be flowing fabulously. Not quite.

It was all so stinky! You can smell the cows all along the hike and on the beach even up to the waterfall. I did not see any cows at all. There is a ranch above the beach, I suppose that is where they all are, but I did not see them, I just smelled them. It was not horrendously awful, but it was not the typical ocean smell that we all know and love, and the reason we all like the ocean so much.

I also saw coyote prints on the trail to the beach, and they looked very fresh, but I did not see Mr. coyote unfortunately. I did see cormorants, and pelicans, and of course seagulls.

The waterfall was not flowing as much as I expected, even though it was only one week since the last big storm. We definitely will need more rain in March if I am going to do that other ocean hike at the end of the month. Anyhow, it was a lovely (albeit stinky) morning hike to an ocean waterfall.

 

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IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER

Just a couple days ago, it was looking like the dreaded Ridge would make its first significant appearance in California, resulting in our first extended dry period of this season. After 3+ months of continuous rain with very little break in between storms, now the rain would be over. Done and done. I am sure there was much rejoicing among flood weary Californians. I was bummed. We still have one more month of winter left and I would like to still see a decent amount of rain this month. Yes, I am out of my mind. I suppose I am being selfish, especially since the main reason I want this is because I have a plan to go to a certain waterfall at the end of March and it is the only time I can go see the waterfall, and it will be dry by then if we do not get any rain in March. Well, after just a short break this week, it now looks like the storms will be returning this weekend, and maybe some bigger ones by mid month. I might get to see that waterfall after all. The fat lady has not sung yet for this winter.

Here is a good case in point. This waterfall was not flowing as great as I hoped it would be. I was a bit disappointed. Even though it was only one week since the last big storm, the flow was already down substantially this week.

It is a long and boring hike out to this waterfall. It is pretty much at the end of the world. Well, Point Reyes is at the end of California’s world, anyway. It is about 5 1/2 miles one way, mostly flat and very easy. Although you are hiking through a pretty forest, and alongside a very  lovely stream, I still find hikes like this rather boring if they are flat. It is more interesting and challenging if there is elevation to hike up and down.

It is also an extremely popular hike. I did not see too many people on the way into the waterfall, and I saw no one down at the beach, but on the hike back I think I saw 1 million people. Every type of people you can possibly think of: hikers, runners, backpackers, bikers, dogs (though they are not allowed), old people, teenagers, little kids, foreign people, wimpy people, weird people, you name it, I saw them.

I really messed up on this hike, though, in a couple different ways. The first is that I should have brought my big lens. My back would not have been thanking me if I had brought it along on a 12 mile long hike. However, I needed it. I did not think I would because the park’s website indicated that this particular section of trail (Arch Rock) was closed due to a slide that happened last year, thus I figured I would not be able to get to this particular spot where I would need the big lens, and so did not bother to pack it along. However, it was not closed. I went out to Arch Rock, and that is where I wish I had the big lens. Aargh. I could see three waterfalls from this spot, including Alamere Falls three miles off in the distance. I also saw sea lions on the beach below me. It was an amazing viewpoint.

The second thing is that I should’ve done this hike first thing in the morning when the tide was low. I did not think I would need a low tide. Also, it was supposed to be a cloudy day. All my weather apps said it would be cloudy and showery all day long. Guess what? It was sunny. This would be disastrous for photography. As I hiked that long boring 5.5 miles, I prayed often: please bring those clouds in.

Well when I got down to the beach, guess what? There were some clouds. It was not what the weather people said it would be, just a few clouds covering the sun for a short period of time, but it was enough to take photos of this waterfall. Thank you, Lord. But where was that rain, anyway?

The second waterfall on this beach is the one I needed a low tide for, and it was actually a nicer waterfall than this one, but when I got down to it, the waves were crashing up against the cliff. I could only take a handheld shot in between the waves crashing every 30 seconds, I had no time to set up my tripod for a proper photograph. The scenario: Wait for the wave to end. Run up around the corner. Take a photo of the waterfall. Run back before the next wave got me. Rinse and repeat. Oh well, what can you do?

I went back to this first waterfall, took my photos standing in the middle of the stream, then had my lunch beside it. It was certainly a beautiful day. I saw no one else on the beach, except for two joggers that came down to the beach, took a selfie of themselves with the ocean in the background, then left. They did not even look at the waterfall, let alone go up to see yet, even though it was right there beside them.  Really? What is wrong with people! Who would rather look at the ocean than a waterfall? Sacrilege, I say. LOL.

After eating, it was time to hike back. It was a very long 5 1/2 miles. Every few minutes, I had to put on my happy face (though I was tired and my back was hurting), and say hello to the next group of hikers that came by. That gets tiring after awhile. Anyway, it was a beautiful day at the ocean.

 

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Cute Baby Otter

When we were at Monterey a couple weeks ago, we saw this very cute baby sea otter and its mama in the water very close to the dock at around sunset. The baby made such a cute little squeaking sound. I was able to get some great closeup shots of it until my camera battery finally died (I had left the backup back in the car), but no matter I was very happy. There was also a sea lion cruising around them at this moment trying to cash in on some free crab, but the mama and baby are watching it closely.

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Road Trip

Here is a quick post from my big road trip on Saturday. I have many pics to go through but I wanted to get this first one up, mostly for my wife (who loves lighthouses) but also because I was excited about this one. A waterfall dropping into the ocean, with a lighthouse in the background. What could be better?

I went to five waterfalls on the north coast yesterday. I got up at 2:30AM and returned home at 9:30PM. It was a long day! But it was a very fun day!

I will tell more in subsequent posts, but here are the highlights. As I left the city in the early morning, I saw another coyote. Different location and who knows if it was the same one, but it was crossing the street in front of my car on what is normally a very busy street (obviously, not too busy at 2:30AM). That was about it for the most interesting wildlife I saw on this trip (not counting birds or deer). The forecast called for rain the whole day on the coast. I did not really see much of that while I was hiking, but I did see snow! It was snowing in Willits as I passed through and this was shocking to me, as that town is only at 1400 ft. elevation. Unfortunately, the first waterfall I went to did not have any snow beside it (which would have been super cool).

By the time afternoon came along, the sun was really trying to break through the clouds, and it was succeeding. This was upsetting because obviously I was hoping the clouds would stick around (as they were supposed to do!) all day long. I wanted to get to all these waterfalls in good lighting conditions. Indeed, if I had known the sun would be coming out, I probably would not have done this big trip to the coast. Nonetheless, God provided for me again. Even though the sun was poking through at certain times during the day, whenever I was at a waterfall, the clouds were covering up the sun, and the lighting conditions were very good, for all five waterfalls I went to. This made me very happy of course, thank you Lord. If you read my blog regularly, you might think this happens all the time for me. The truth is, not always, but definitely far more often than not. I believe God knows what is important to us, and He loves us and will give us what we most desire and need, if we ask Him and have faith in Him. It also helps to plan your trip accordingly. If all the forecasts are telling you it will be sunny all day, then you probably won’t have cloudy conditions. This time, the forecast was saying it would be rainy all day, so I figured I would have good conditions all day and it should be a good day to go over on this mega trip. I did not have any rain really, except driving over there in the morning, and then driving back at night.

Anyway, back to Stornetta Falls. It was about 2:30PM when I arrived at the trailhead. The hike to the falls is short and easy, and involves going through a field with plenty of the dreaded cow beasts again. You know I love cows. But none of them charged at me to knock me off the cliffs and into the ocean. In fact, they pretty much ignored me. Go figure. In very short order, I arrived at a waterfall. This could not be Stornetta! It was not, though it did also drop into the ocean, but was probably only about 10 feet high. I continued on along the cliffs overlooking the beautiful ocean. The ocean was churning and I saw ocean waterfalls in the distance as waves crashed over rocks with great consistency. As I approached the stream at Stornetta Falls, I realized I would have to cross it. I did not want to get my feet wet, and I had no desire to take off my boots and wade across. What is the alternative? Jumping across the stream of course! Hmm, well I found a spot that seemed jumpable. Remember now, that I still have a bad ankle. It is much better, but is still not 100 percent healed. I would have to jump off on my bad ankle, and land on my good one. This is not something that is really of the smart variety. I succeeded with only a small protest from my bad ankle (and a slightly larger protest on the return back). But I did somehow manage to break my hiking pole as I jumped across. Argh.

Stornetta Falls is in an incredibly beautiful setting. It drops off at one end of a U shaped cove. The best view requires hiking around the cove to the other side so you are right across from the falls. A seagull guarded my backpack with interest as I went down to the end of the cliff and took photos of the waterfall. Thank you Mr. Seagull, and sorry I did not have any food in my pack for you. The waterfall is only 19 ft. high. I have seen reports saying it is 50 feet. Not even close. Still though, it is definitely a pretty waterfall, and even better because it drops right into the ocean. The Point Arena lighthouse can be seen in the distance from the middle of the cove, and I found this composition with the lighthouse in the background. It is incredible.

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