Monday, August 31, 2009

Point Reyes National Seashore, Arch Rock to Mt. Wittenberg

point reyes

Difficulty - Moderate
Length - 8.5mi
Crowds - Busy
Fees - Free
Best Season(s) - Any

The weekend took a few turns, initially Beylah and I had planned to backpack through Point Reyes with some friends, sadly all the camps had been booked up for weeks. Then we fell back on a trip to Yosemite, which fell through the morning of the trip ( a giant sack of potatoes replaced beylah at 4am when we had planned on leaving). Saturday we decided to salvage something of the outdoorsy weekend we had planned, twice.

We set out at about noon for Point Reyes from Beylah's place in Sunnyvale. It took us about 2 hours, but we finally reached the Bear Valley visitors center. I immediatley began bothering beylah to get moving like a dog pulling on the leash before you take it for a walk. I knew what was ahead and I couldn't wait to get moving. So we visited the map board, picked up a map and hit the Bear Valley Creek Trail down towards the coast and Arch Rock.

The trail followed Bear Creek as the name suggests which treated us to some small waterfalls scattered all along the trail as well as a very lush forest the entire way. The first two miles or so was disappointingly crowded (though the kids on tricycles were remarkably cute). After we had walked for awhile though the groups of people strolling along turned into people out on hikes like us, which was appreciated. Its always awkward when you are fully dressed for hiking, passing guys in Khaki's and women in heels.

While nice though, the Bear Valley Creek Trail was not especially beautiful and I could not wait to get to the coast, after all this was a National Seashore, not a National Forest.

About 4 miles down the trail it started really cooling down, some time while we were in the cover of the forest the fog must have rolled in and the coastal breeze was blowing full blast. Sadly between the two of us we only had one jacket and we were both just wearing t-shirts (well, and pants). Since I was freaking out to get going on the trail, I neglected to bring the heavy shirt I wore in the car, Beylah more in control remembered to bring a jacket. Bey had the jacket for a few minutes before I promptly stole it from her (what a bastard!). She did claim that her backpack was keeping her warm, though when I held her hand it was like an icicle.

Finally the trees opened up though to totally grey skies and freezing winds. We were looking forward to having the bagle we brought out on the coast we could see ahead. Arch Rock as it turned out was an extension of the cliffs along this stretch of coast which rose about 200ft from the water. The point itself was about 200ft out from the rest of the coast and accessed commanding views of the entire coast. Only because it was so foggy (we are after all about an hour north of San Francisco) we could hardly see 2 miles down the coast in either direction. As it turned out, this fog was nothing compared to what we would be running in to.

There were trails down to the beach through a small canyon, but since it was high tide there was not much of a beach to go down to. So we sauntered up on to the rock and perched ourselves and had lunch with about 4 other couples and a seagull.

While we ate our lunch a seagull which had been hanging out with another couple eventually sauntered over towards us. Noticing how bold he was, I had to toss him a little piece of my bagel.

"Stop, what if he attacks me, that beak looks sharp!" Beylah whispered to me. Whispering presumably so the seagull would not know how intimidating he was.

I of course tossed another crumb which the gull devoured then sauntered away towards another group to see what scraps he could gleam off them. We too moved on after our bagel was done. It was just too cold to stay out on that rock for long. We elected to go up the coast a little ways though and follow the cliffs until we hit the next trail, "Sky Trail".

Turns out, "Sky Trail" was also aptly named, immediately after we turned up it, the trail hauled ass right up the side of Mt. Wittenberg. Initially offering some beautiful views of the coast (though mostly obscured by fog) it quickly turned into a thick fog forest. We watched wisps of fog roll up the hill below us and hit us in the face with a cold blast of moist air.

The tops of the trees were almost all totally obscured. It reminded me very much of the temperate rainforests in Washington State. Only because its California the forest was immensly diverse.

After the initial climb up from the coast the trail became much more gentle and our legs had a chance to mellow out a bit. At this point we had no intentions of climbing up Mt. Wittenberg, instead we had planned to take a small trail back to the Bear Valley Creek trail. The trail however was just too beautiful to veer off of and we kept climbing up slowly towards the Sky camp.

The temperature remained very cool, probably in the low 50's, amazing since it was over 100 in Sunnyvale the previous day.

Eventually the fog got thicker and thicker until it started raining lightly. The rain was in fact being created as the moisture from the fog collected on the leaves of the trees, became too much for the leaves and dropped down on us. Sadly at this point I had to put my camera away for the rest of the hike to protect it from the moisture.

The trail was unbelievably beautiful, still we were getting cold, and tired, and now wet.

Beylah, who had previously been a very good sport was starting to get a little bit irritated at how long this detour I had created for us had become. Still the trail went on and on until we reached a big split. Left was the sky trail which would have taken us to the campground, right was the "meadow trail" which would have taken us backwards and then back to the Bear Valley Creek trail. Straight ahead was the Mt. Wittenberg trail, which I was pretty sure would lead us op to the top of the mountain, which we were already close to. The trail marker indicated the summit was only .2mi ahead.

Beylah begrudingly accompanied me up the trail with a sort of roll of her eyes probably thinking;

"Why am I following this crazy man with a bushy beard up the mountain even further, we didn't even mean to climb this high!"

She would not have been wrong. But I was.

The trail climbed awhile longer before hitting a T. We would have had to go up another .1 miles along another trail to actually reach the summit. After yelling at the trail for about 2 minutes we both decided, fuck it, there is no way we are going to double back on the trail at this point. So, about 100ft from the summit, we had to turn away and descend straight down the mountain and to the trail head.

When we finally shambled back to the car, dirty, weary, and dehydrated it was 7:30 and almost dark. We ravenously munched on Twizzlers and Pringles as we crossed the Golden Gate on towards home.


  1. I'm so jealous! Although this hike sounds suspiciously like a little day hike turned 13 miles when we got lost. Remember that? I do. I couldn't move for days my hips hurt so badly. :)

    Anyway, let's set up a camping trip soon! We've been toying with the idea of Mt Madonna with some other friends at the end of September. You should come!

  2. I've actually done that 13mi hike 2 other times since then, it remains one of my favorite hikes in the Bay Area.

    This one was not quite as bad, probably about 9 miles, but a little more elevation change.

    Let me know whats up with the Mt. Madonna trip, sounds like fun!

    Beylah and I decided backpacking in Point Reyes is an absolute MUST. Mid-October is going to be the first opening though. We also have something planned in Yosemite Mid-September. I'll keep you posted.