Saturday, February 25, 2012

Point Lobos State Reserve

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  • Hiking
  • Seals
  • Sea Lions
  • Jellyfish
  • Whale watching (depends on migrating season)
  • Deer
  • Birds
  • Scenic viewpoints of Pacific Ocean

More Info
  • $10 car parking fee inside the State Reserve
  • Free car parking just outside the State Reserve; $1/person walk-in fee; Bring flash lights if you park outside the State Reserve and plan to stay inside until sunset
  • Restrooms at park entrance and a couple of other places (near Whaler's Cove and Sea Lion Cove) 
  • Take a print-out of the trail map (Can also use Maps feature in cell phone)
  • Trail maps can also be purchased for a small fee inside the State Reserve

Length: ~4 miles (half of the reserve); Elevation: 3%; Time: 6 hours; Difficulty: Easy
"The greatest meeting of land and water in the world"
- Francis Mc. Coma
I could not agree more! 

There is limited parking inside the state reserve which is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. When the parking lot is full, you would need to wait in line near the ticket counter until a car leaves the state reserve; on a one-vehicle out, one-vehicle in basis. However, the good news is that there is ample parking space just outside the state reserve, along the CA-1 curb and parking is free! For those who park the car outside and walk-in to the state reserve, there is a little box at the park entrance where you could drop a $1/person; no one monitors it, but it is just good to pay.

If I make too many references to Hawaii in this blog spot, it is because of the little part of me which has still not gotten over our recent trip to the wonderland and how the beauty of Point Lobos reminds me of the islands.

Whalers Cove

From the park entrance, we took the Carmelo Meadow trail until we reached the Whaler's Cove. The refreshing shades of blue and green waters in the Whalers Cove immediately reminded me of the Hanauma Bay in OahuThere were teams of seals basking on the rocks in the Whalers Cove and a few other seals that were climbing on the rocks and fighting for space. We even noticed sea otters, jelly fish and birds.

Seals in Whalers Cove

As we turned right and took the Granite Point trail, we soon reached the Coal Chute Cove, one of the several mind-blowing coves in Point Lobos. As soon as we crossed the Coal Chute Cove, a little detour took us right to the pebble shore of the Coal Chute Cove! Don't be surprised if you find yourself spending too much time here, watching in admiration of the beautiful location and natural cave formations near the cove. The documentary on "Big Sur" shows a cougar sauntering on the pebble shores of the Coat Chute Cove. Glad that we did not bump into one of those during our visit to Point Lobos.

Coat Chute Cove

We continued on the trail to see the Granite Point Pinnacles, where the wild Pacific was hitting on the rocks and splashing water. 

Granite Point Pinnacles

We then walked back to Whaler's Cove, where we came upon the Whaler's Museum, the only whaling museum on the West Coast, built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850s. The cabin/museum is dilapidated and I believe the state has commenced a project to re-build and protect the museum. We were also told that Point Lobos is an excellent place to watch the migrating whales.

There is a parking lot and restrooms near the Whaler's Cabin and picnic tables near the water. Would anyone miss a relaxed, delicious lunch sitting on one of the picnic tables near the gorgeous cove? Certainly, we did not!

Cannery Point Pinnacles

From the Whaler's Cabin, as soon as we took the North Shore trail along the ocean, we came upon the Blue Fish and Cannery Point Pinnacles, where the fierce Pacific waves crashing against the rocks (Blue Fish and Cannery Point Pinnacles) awakened my memories of Lanai Lookout in Oahu.

Blue Fish Cove

We continued on the trail, halting at several places such as Blue Fish Cove, Big Dome Cove, Cypress Cove, Middle Cove, Pinnacle Cove and Headland Cove. I was surprised how each nook and corner of the trail offered uniquely magnificent views.

While near the Headland Cove, we noticed something moving on the opposite side of the cove and with a close look, we noticed teams of camouflaged seals on the rocks.

Sea Lion Cove

Immediately next to the Headland Cove is the Sea Lion Cove and yes, the name flawlessly suits this place. One cannot leave this place without hearing the barking sound of sea lions and setting eyes on numerous sea lions and harbor seals in the water. The terrain of Sea Lion Point looks very different; it is comprised of the Carmelo Formation, a sedimentary rock that is at least 60 million years old. We went all the way till the top of the cliff and walked down through the naturally formed rocks that took us closer to the fierce Pacific. Ropes and poles and have been placed  along the edges for safety; it is perilous to go beyond the poles.

Deer, in North Shore Trail
As we headed back to the North Shore Trail, we noticed three deer grazing and immediately dropped to a pin drop silence to not scare them away. 

In 6 hours, we had covered only half of the reserve and as it was time for sunset. We decided to stay back at the Sea Lion Point which gave us an unperturbed view of the sunset. Like us, there were several people parked at several destinations along the trail, waiting to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunset. 

It was getting dark and we had a 3/4th mile walk back to the car; wish we had brought flash lights with us. Definitely hoping to visit Point Lobos again in spring to explore the reminder of the reserve. 

Within a few meters away from the Point Lobos State Reserve is the Carmel Bay, where we stopped for a few minutes to grab a quick photo shot before heading home.

Carmel Bay

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park

  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Coastal redwood trees (Sequoia Sempervirens)
  • Sempervirens Falls
  • Slippery Rock

More Info
  • $10/car parking fee (cash only)
  • Souvenir shop at the entrance
  • Restrooms at several trails

On a nice Sunday morning, a little over an hour’s drive from San Jose took us to the oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Luckily, the ~20mile sinuous roads did not make our stomachs queasy.

We were given a trail map at the park entrance after paying $10 parking fee. The national park features 80 miles of trails and we took the ~4mile Sequoia trail and 0.5 mile Redwood Trail. The other popular trail is the ~12 mile Berry Creek trail that takes you through the four other waterfalls in the Big Basin. Hiking the Berry Creek Trail is certainly on our to-do list.

Sequoia Trail – North Escape Road

Length: ~4 miles; Elevation: 600 feet; Time: 3 hours; Difficulty: Easy

The Sequoia trail, which is one of the oldest trails in the park, begins at the opposite side of the road (236). About a mile into trail is a little detour with clear signposts that took us to the popular Sempervirens falls. We crossed the road and walked down a short stairway to see the beautiful ~20 feet falls amongst the lush forest.

Sempervirens Falls

As we continued our way back into the Sequoia trail, we came across the extraordinary Slippery Rocks, running to about 200 yards long, 100 yards wide and tilted at a thirty degree angle. It is probably here that the trail reaches its maximum elevation. Though the rocks were not too slippery, we were being prudent to not step our feet on the rocks where there was a lot of water. After climbing up the Slippery Rocks, it was spectacular sight to look back at the surrounding neck-straining coast redwood trees.

Slippery Rocks

I later learned that the Slippery Rocks is an exposed slab of Miocene sandstone. Apparently, the underwater springs seep through the ground and flow down the rocks making it a little slippery, hence the name. 

The Slippery Rocks also has a deep historical significance. It is in this place that the Sempervirens Club was formed with the objective of preserving the Big Basin as a public park. 

Sequoia Trail

As we continued further into the tapering Sequoia Trail through an awning of the giant redwood trees, we could not help but think about how similar it was to the Muir Woods trail. We then reached a place where the trail forked into North Escape Road and Skyline to the Sea Trail. We took the paved North Escape Road to reach the park headquarters.

The trail signs and the trail map were a tad confusing; and not receiving the cell phone signal (maps are a heaven) made it hard on us to figure out where we were!

Redwood Trail

Length: 0.5 miles; Elevation: Flat; Time: 30 min; Difficulty: Easy

This popular, easy, half a mile Redwood Trail is home to some of the tallest redwoods in the Big Basin. The trees with the widest circumference are named as “Mother of the Forest” and “Father of the Forest”. The Chimney tree, which was once recorded as being the tallest tree (~320 feet) smoldered for 14months in a forest fire and now stands at ~290 feet in this trail.

Mother of the Forest

It is interesting how several of these redwoods have a hollow bark, one could stand inside the tree hole and look up at the sky through the bark.

We spent a few minutes in the souvenir shop, looking at the cute little things and hunger would not let us stay any longer in the park. I wish we had brought some food with us; we had snacks, but that did not help too much.

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