Sunday, August 26, 2012

Angel Island

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  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Segway Tours
  • Diggler Scooter Tours
  • Tram Tours
  • Quarry Beach
  • 360 degree view of Bay Area – View of Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and Richmond Bridge
  • United Stated Immigration Station
  • Mt. Livermore (Highest peak in Angel Island)
  • Deer 

More Info
  • Take a ferry from Tiburon or San Francisco to Angel Island. Check out the ferry schedule here 
  • $13.50/adult fee to take the ferry from Tiburon and additional $1 to take the bikes; Only cash or check accepted
  • No online reservations to take the ferry from Tiburon
  • $17/adult fee to take the ferry from San Francisco. Advance online reservation can be made here
  • Bike rentals, Segway rentals and diggler scooter rentals inside the island; Check out the rental rates here 
  • Free map provided in the Angel Island, as soon as one exits the ferry
  • Picnic tables at several places along the bike trail
  • Restrooms at several places in the island
  • One café (Cove café) available in the island, next to Ayala Cove
  • Live music during summer; Check out the schedule here
  • Biking trail is shared with Segways and trams

We have been planning to go to Angel Island for the past several months and finally had the opportunity to tag with friends and visit the Island in late August. At the crack of dawn, bursting with excitement, we started on our drive to Tiburon to take the ferry to the Angel Island.

There is a car parking lot very close to the Tiburon ferry tickets office and parking fee is $16 (cash only) for the entire day. After driving around a little bit, we found another car parking lot, just a block away from Tiburon ferry tickets office, close to CVS pharmacy where the fee is just $5 (cash only) for the whole day. Have the exact change handy.

After parking the car, we literally ran to board the ferry so that we wouldn’t miss the first ferry to the Angel Island. We reached there and then learned that they accept only cash or checks. Luckily I had an unused check in my purse! We were on the dot to board our 10am ferry, the first ferry to the Angel Island.

View of San Francisco from the ferry

We went to the top deck of the ferry to see breathtaking views of the ocean, Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco and within 10min, our ferry was in Ayala Cove dock in the Angel Island. As soon as we stepped out of the ferry, we noticed ushers handing out the island maps to everybody and we picked one.

The 5 mile biking path is on the Perimeter Road, which is paved around the island. The biking trail started on a proper road, then ran on a steep unpaved path for a bit. Before long, we found ourselves peddling hard and huffing and puffing. To my glee, the trail soon became a paved road which alternately ascended and descended.

As we biked on the Perimeter Road, we saw the entrance to the United States Immigration Station. Popularly called the “Ellis Island of the West”, Angel Island was the port of entry for immigrants migrating to the US until 1940. An August 1940 fire, which destroyed the administration building caused the immigration office to be moved to San Francisco. The Angel Island Immigration Center is now open to the public to explore and the entrance fee is $5/adult.

We continued biking and came upon several vista points along the trail that offered sweeping views and we stopped every so often to capture pictures. We also noticed several deer grazing on the mountains next to the biking trail.

Video of a deer grazing:

A detour in the trail led us to the secluded and placid Quarry Beach. At the junction of the Perimeter Road and the trail to Quarry Beach we noticed our voices being echoed. Creepy! The undisturbed Quarry Beach was just beyond beautiful and the unusually sunny and clear day added to its beauty.

Undisturbed Quarry Beach

After spending some time in the Quarry Beach we continued biking until we reached a vista point overlooking Point Blunt to the left, Bay Bridge in the front and Golden Gate Bridge to the right. The shades of water varied from blue-green to green to streaks of green running in the waters. After enjoying our sandwiches and dessert on one of the picnic benches, we continued biking on the Perimeter Road until the loop took us back to the ferry dock in Ayala Cove.
View from a visa point near Point Blunt

View of Tiburon, Belvedere Cove, Belvedere Island, Racoon Strait from another viewpoint

The Ayala Cove seemed to be a popular picnic destination; we noticed several families that had brought tons of food with them and it looks like they were just relaxing in the same place for the entire day. I wouldn’t raise my brows, of course the place was so lively that one could probably sit there the whole day and enjoy BBQ. They also have live music in the afternoons in the Cove Café, which is just next to the Ayala Cove. The spirit of summer was simply lingering in the air.
Ayala Cove

We took the 3.20pm ferry back to Tiburon and called it a day. Known as "Shark" in English, Tiburon has a small yet beautiful downtown which hosts this nautically themed structure.

Nautically themed structure in Downtown Tiburon

  • Bring sufficient cash; you will need it to pay for the ferry and for car parking
  • Have the exact change to pay for parking
  • Bring food with you; the Cove Café is overpriced 

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Loch Lomond Recreation Area

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  • Artificial lake reservoir in Santa Cruz
  • Hiking
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Island in the lake to which one can travel by boat 

More Info
  • $4/car entrance fee (Free after 4pm)
  • Five car parking spots
  • Restrooms near the car parking spots
  • Several picnic areas with BBQ pits
  • Park store inside
  • Free trail map inside the park store
  • No swimming in the lake
  • Click here for the trail map 

On a late Saturday afternoon, we planned to go hiking with friends to the Loch Lomond Recreation Area. One of my friends, who is an avid traveler suggested this place for hiking. As she can almost always be seen with a couple of travel guides and maps in her hands, I knew that I could blindly trust her recommendation.

After a little over an hour’s drive through the flexuous roads of the Santa Cruz mountains, we reached the Loch Lomond Recreation Area. The drive made my stomach a bit queasy. We did not know that parking was free after 4pm until we reached there and saw that the ticket booth was unmanned.

We took a break at the Glen Brae Picnic Area to drink maté (Argentinean tea), eat snacks and chocolates and then headed over to the Park Store to enquire about boating. The boat rental prices are quite economical. Pedal boat is $5/ hour and motor boat is $10/hour with a minimum of 2 hours of rental. There is a boat launch pad right next to the Park Store. A couple of snakes were caged inside a glass box and placed in the Park Store.

Loch Trail - Highland Loop

Length: ~5 miles; Elevation: 1100 feet; Time: 3 hours; Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous

We started our hike on the Loch Trail at the Park Store and continued on the narrow trail along the lake, noticing several coves along the lake such as Cunningham Cove and MacGregor Cove. Clar Innis, the small island in the middle of the lake is probably reachable within a few minutes of boat ride. One can boat to the island, use the BBQ pits on the island and enjoy food in the middle of the pristine, beautiful lake. We definitely intend to return another day to take a boat to the island and enjoy a BBQ lunch on the island.

Loch Lomond Lake

When we reached the MacGregor Cove, we noticed a few ducks paddling upside down with their heads underwater, forming circular ripples around them. It was such a cute sight.

Video of the ducks paddling upside down:

We continued to walk on the tapering Loch Trail along the lake, observing the Fir Cove and Huckleberry Cove until we reached the Deer Flat Picnic Area. There are a few benches here and a small dock on the lake. We spent some time enjoying the undisturbed lake and continued our hike on the Highland Trail. 

The Highland Trail, which is paved on the mountains, runs parallel to the Loch Trail with no view of the lake. Although the trail was well shaded with trees on either sides, the steep ascends and descends made us all weary and sweaty. There were pesky flies all over the trail and we were waving our hands vigorously most of the time to keep them away. After reaching the highest elevation of the trail, about 1000 feet, a scenic point that revealed the view of the narrow lake amidst the lush trees knocked our eyes out.

View of the lake from highest elevation (~1000ft) of the trail

The rest of the trail was so steep that every so often one of us in our group almost slipped while walking on the loose gravel. The park gates close at 8pm and as it was very close to 8pm, we tried to finish the hike as quickly as possible. It would have been a nightmare had we not made it on time, especially because the cell reception was almost null. We finally reached the paved road just 10 minutes to 8pm and literally ran to our car and darted out of the park exactly 2 minutes before 8pm.
Highland Loop trail

  • Bring lots of food and water if you plan to take the Loch – Highlands Loop
  • If you are interested in BBQ, definitely take the boat to the Clar Innis island and enjoy a BBQ in the middle of the lake. The experience, I think will be unique
  • Wear hiking shoes or bring hiking poles if you decide to take the Loch-Highlands Loop because the trail is very slippery due to loose gravel
  • Be aware that mountain lions linger in the forests here; we did not see any but be cautious of them
  • Wear covered clothing because the Highland Loop trail has a lot of flies around

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Muir Beach

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  • Muir Beach
  • Hiking Trails
  • Pirates Cove
  • Dolphins, Sea Otters, Steelhead Trout, Seals
  • Birds

More Info
  • Free parking
  • Free admission
  • Mobile restrooms at the parking lot
  • BBQ Pits near the beach

Coastal Trail - Coastal Fire Road - Coastal Trail

Length: ~4.5 miles; Elevation: ~150 feet; Time: 3 hours; Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous

Although I like to say that the Muir Beach is located within an hour and a half drive from San Jose, with the heavy traffic and the circuitous roads, it took us two hours to get here on a weekend. We parked the car in the lot and walked for a bit when the path split into two; one leads you to the Coastal Trail and the other leads you to the Muir Beach. We turned left to take the Coastal Trail, which started ascending immediately and took us to the top of the rugged coastal bluff. Once you reach the top of the cliff, look behind to see the beautiful Muir Beach and the Redwood Creek forming a lagoon and connecting the beach.

View of Muir Beach and Redwood Creek from the top of the cliff

We continued on the Coastal Trail for a little over a mile and saw the Pirates Cove to the right. Take a keen look at the rocks in the Pirates Cove; you might find a few seals basking on the rocks. The alternate ascends and descends of the trail kept us huffing and puffing through the hike. At one point of time, the trail is on a ~150 feet cliff and another point of time, the trail runs very close to the ocean.

View from Coastal Trail

A small detour in the trail that takes you closer to the waters in Pirates Cove and when we were walking down the trail, I thought I saw a tail fin just off the shore. With a closer look we noticed three dolphins swimming very close to the shore.
Pirates Cove

We then reached a point in the trail, where it split into Coastal Fire Road and Tennessee Trail. The Tennessee trail takes you further away from Muir Beach all the way till Tennessee Cove and Tennessee Beach. As the day was very foggy, we decided to return to the Muir Beach and take the trail to the Tennessee Cove on a different day. The Coastal Fire Road trail running parallel to the Coastal Trail is paved on the mountains offering very limited view of the ocean. The gradually descending trail took us back to the Muir Beach without too much of heaving.

Trail on the mountains

We spent some time in the Muir Beach and noticed steelhead trout and a sea otter in the Redwood Creek that forms a lagoon next to the beach. The rocks in the Muir Beach offer a vivid look that photographers love and we returned home after watching the sunset.

Sunset from Muir Beach

If you are somewhere near Muir Beach, I highly recommend going to the Muir Beach Lookout, which is a few miles away from the Muir Beach. We did not get a chance to visit it on the day we went to the Muir Beach but we certainly plan to go there sometime.

  • Wear covered clothing because certain parts of the trail are narrow and there were bushes on either sides of the trail; we had to clear the bushes to make our way

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