Place: Point Reyes National Seashore, Bolinas, California
Coordinates: 37.934184, -122.747055
Length: 8.4 miles in and out
Point Reyes National Seashore offers some of the best coastal views in California. It was a prime area to take my visiting friend to, to show her the beauty of the Pacific Coast. Hiking to the Alamere Falls has been on my mind for a while, and now I had and excellent opportunity to go there. Papa Quail had arranged to be home and take care of the chikas, enabling me and my friend to have a full day for that hike.
We arrived at the trailhead a bit later than planned, and after an all too relaxed breakfast we started our hike.
|Our hike from the Palomarin Traihead to the Alamere Falls as captured by my GPS.|
This eucalyptus grove had been around for a long while. Long enough to produce some nice-looking giants (on a eucalyptus scale).
|Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum).|
The Point Reyes peninsula slants to the west. We walked along the southern coastline and when I turned to look behind me, I was facing the mid-day sun as it hanged right above the ocean, shining off the sea surface.
We couldn't have had a better day for the hike: the weather was perfect and everything was lush and clean after the rains earlier that week.
After about a mile the trail leaves the coast cliffs and turns inland and uphill to bypass some deep canyon creeks and lakes. As we went up the vegetation closed in around us, and the heavy scent of forest earth filled the air.
I didn't have to look too hard for the mushrooms: they were there. Large and small, emerging, full grown, and in decay. And always beautiful to see.
|Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)|
Groves of willow and sycamore marked the creek beds, all in their winter-wear, nicely contrasted with the bright green of adjacent new herbaceous growth.
Halfway uphill the trail split and we continued left, westward. Immediately after the turn we saw a few small ponds left of the trail. One of them was particularly interesting: it was completely covered with pond vegetation. It looked almost as if we could walk on it. (We didn't). We were inticed to come over and take a closer look. There were newts in the shallows too, but they swam away as we approached.
We went on and eventually reached another, much larger lake: Bass Lake. The lake was far below the trail, and had we not started the hike too late we might have gone down to see it closer too. As it was, we remained on the trail above and appreciated its beauty from afar.
I noticed some movement in the water and looked through my binoculars. A few bufflehead ducks were swimming here and there, occasionally diving underwater. I changed to the high zoom lens but they were pretty far down. A male bufflehead, however, fits very nicely in the ripply background of the lake surface.
|See the duck?|
The fern too are recovering from the harsh drought. New shoots were rolling out, delicate and tender, adding new fern leaves to the forest undergrowth carpet.
The abundant moisture brought out the resident mollusks: the banana slugs. My visiting friend was duly impressed with their size but all the slugs we've seen there that day looked 'unripe', without the signature bright yellow color. (We've seen those later at Henry Cowell Redwoods SP).
We nearly missed the trail turn leading to the falls. It looks like a narrow gap in thick vegetation and is marked with a sign saying 'Unmaintained Trail". The part of the sign that says "Alamere Falls" was painted over by graffiti. A nice fellow hiker we met there confirmed that that was indeed the turn we needed to take to get to the falls, and he too warn us about the poor trail condition.
We made it to the overlook first, and the view was spectacular.
|The Overlook: View to the North|
|Looking down from the Overlook|
Half way down there is a lovely view of the Alamere Creek as it cascades down with cheerful noise of intensely running water. The flow was nice and high and we were facing the next challenge: crossing that creek to get to the second part of the trail down.
Basically, there are two ways of doing that. Hopping across or wading through. My friend hopped with ease. I duly took off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and waded through.
At this point I must add that entering a fast running creek atop a waterfall isn't the smartest of things to do. Many fatalities were caused by poor decision taking at such places. The risk of crossing the Alamere Creek at that point was not high for me but I would strongly recommend not to let young children enter the water there on times the creek runs high. Better to carry them across.
|Upper Alamere Falls|
And in the end - there's the beach. And the most beautiful waterfall in the larger Bay Area.
Alamere Falls is a tide fall - a waterfall that drops directly to the ocean beach. There are very few such falls in the world, two of which are in California. (The other one is McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park). Alamere Falls is a wonderful sight to see.
There were quite a few people there and it was challenging to take a photo of the falls without other humans in the frame.
|Made it down in one piece|
|Glaucus-winged Gull on Alamere Beach|
|Going back up: the Chutes|
I promised not to stop for anything since we were going back on the same trail anyway, but the same trail can provide new sights even a couple of hours later.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying the pond plants!