Friday, April 4, 2008

Pt. Reyes National Seashore - Polomarin Trail to Alamere Falls

"I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier... writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures." - Jack Kerouac

Locale: Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Marin, CA
Date: Sunday, March 30, 2008
Duration: 8.5 miles (took 5+ hours)

Price: Free and priceless all in one
Rating: *****
Maps & More Info:

I only mention Mr. Kerouac because on your way to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, you will pass the Zen Center on your left. This center resembles Zen Centers that were visited by Kerouac and others of his fellow rucksacking Buddhist friends. I, myself, am not Buddhist but after the hike at Polomarin Trail to the beach could understand some of the enlightenment that is entailed.

Pt. Reyes was a place I chose (my boyfriend chose Muir Woods) because I love the seashore. I know some native bay area residents who avoid the beaches during certain times of the year due to the wind and chill. As I've mentioned earlier, we are from the frozen tundra of the midwest and like to go to the beach regardless. We know the Pacific waters are frigid year round here but it's not about that at all. I did some reading about it on and was impressed by the pictures. This hike was a bit further then Muir Woods but oh so worth it. Far less people and so much to explore.
This was also our first hike after buying proper boots (such a great investment). I got a pair of hi-tecs which were originally sixty bucks, better and more expensive ones are available but I'm a student and my job doesn't provide ample finances so they work great. What I really like about Pt. Reyes is there's a mixture of beach, waterfalls, woods, forest, lakes, cliffs and grassy knolls all into one trail. The drive there has a LOT of curvy roads so be careful. It's quite a drive from Mill Valley/Muir Woods to the seashore. I'd say a good twenty plus miles which takes longer due to the curvy, hilly roads but the views are amazing. The road resembles that of Big Sur. Not at all straight, narrow, not a continuous guardrail with a steep and beautiful cliff over the pacific. On your way you might pass stands of local vendors selling fruit and roasted almonds.

It tends to get windy here so definitely wear layers. The beginning of the hike goes through some shade and woods areas away from the coast. This doesn't last very long before the trail opens up to the coast. A trail also exists that you can walk down to the beach and walk all the way to the falls when the tide is low but we were unaware of it at the time and stayed to the regular trail above. There is no potable water here and be sure to have phone numbers in case of emergency as there is no one at the trailhead as there is at Muir Woods. My cell phone worked at the parking lot but not on the trail. One might say screw technology out in the wilderness anyway, I'm one to agree but sometimes shit happens and a cellphone is the only way out. Maybe if the Donner Party had one back when they were pioneering the Sierras, they wouldn't have resorted to cannibalism.

Anyhow, the trail gets a bit strenuous because of loose rocks and a short steep trail forward - this happens as the trail first curves away from the shore which for us was a bit of a blessing as it got extremely gusty where the trail was exposed. And we were walking against the wind as well. In fact, a couple's dog in front of us nearly fell over due to the winds.

After the short steep walk comes the first lake (Bass Lake I believe) on the left. We took a breather here and shortly ahead of us was a group of fellow twentysomethings, one with a guitar singing. The musician didn't even have a case (in fact we saw them later down at the beach by the falls and were wondering how careful he must've been climbing down with his guitar).

About a mile later comes Pelican Lake, if you look at it, it looks like it connects to the ocean. I mentioned to Nat how this must've been the first lakes we'd seen since we moved out here.
The trail to the Alamere Falls is marked by a sign stating it is unmaintained and it is indeed so. It's a single file trail that had a lot of brush and poison oak growing over it so it'd be best to wear long sleeves walking down to the falls area. It's maybe .5 miles on this trail before getting to the waterfall. The waterfall is in 3 parts. The source, the second fall, and the third and biggest which goes down to the beach. The whole falls is about 50 feet.

Once you climb a bit to where you are between the source of the falls and the ocean. You will be standing around forty feet on a cliff so no horseplaying guys. In fact here's a view of my boyfriend laying on the edge.
The climb down to the falls looks scarier than it actually is. I figure if I can do it, then any average person can as well with no hiking/climbing experience. But still be careful. You need to make sure you have a grip on your feet because rocks slip. It was very windy hear. I had dust flying in my eyes and the people above me unfortunately were inadvertently sending rocks down at me. The beach is very beautiful and provides you with a great view of the falls.
If you look closely in this above picture you will find the guitar loving friend in which I spoke. There were actually quite a few people on the beach and when we were ready for the strenuous climb back up to where the falls start, we had to wait in line. If you come here with a group make sure to space people out - you don't want rocks in the face.

After getting back on the main trail, you turn right. The way you came and the rest is history. Point Reyes was a great experience. But bring lots of water because there's no water source. In fact on passing one of the non-potable water stations we saw that the pipe was broke. Not much help there.

My accident-prone self managed to slip just standing as I was about to kiss my boyfriend on loose gravel. So boots or something with good gripping is key. This time around my feet hurt much less but I didn't stretch enough and after all that climbing from the beach, I soon realized my mistake. But this is definitely one of the most beautiful places to hike for sure.

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