February 17, 2007
Brooks Falls Trail to Montara Mountain Summit
Total hiking time: 5 hours (lots of photo stops)
Graciela, Barbara, Mary, Julie
Another amazing hike. We drove to Pacifica where the trail began in San Pedro County Park. We started a little after 11:30. It was a beautiful clear day – not a cloud in the sky so rain jackets were left behind. The trail began with some mild switchbacks though a large eucalyptus grove. As you climbed higher you could see more and more of Pacifica below.
The trail was on the edge of the hill with a bit of erosion – but well maintained and signed. As we climbed we began to get views of the coast; the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais and eventually we could see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. When we came to the first viewpoint you had a clear view of the north coast from Pacifica all the way up the peninsula. We had a great view of the Farallon Islands through Mary’s binoculars.
We started on the Montara Mountain Trail which now entered the Sam McNee State Park. Our original plan was to do a car shuttle with one car in Montara and the other in Pacifica. This didn’t make sense with just the four of us, but it would definitely be doable with a larger group. The trails were well marked.
We heard from other hikers that Brooks Falls was just a trickle – which is what we really expected. We decided to wait until our return to take the waterfall path. We came out on a fire road leading to the top of Montara Mountain. The views kept getting better – you could now see the Oakland skyline, Mt. Diablo, the San Mateo Bridge and a lot of the bay. To the south you could see down the coast to Ano Nuevo. We noticed by the time reached the summit the Farallon Islands had disappeared into a mist off the coast.
At the top of the Mountain is satellite equipment, but the view was spectacular in so many directions. You could see the San Francisco skyline and almost all the way around the peninsula. I really started to better understand the geography of the Bay Area. There was a summit journal in a container, but the journal had gotten wet. We wrote a quick entry and left it in the sun and wind to dry. We asked the next group of hikers to put it away.
Although it was a three day weekend – the trail was not too crowded. There were other hikers, a few bicyclists and two motorcyclists (don’t know where they came from). We had lunch in a secluded shady spot. We looked at the view through binoculars and watched the crows catch the air currents.
As we headed down we could see a blanket of fog rolling in. It was still fairly far out to sea, but by the time we reached our trail junction we were engulfed. If we hadn’t just seen the spectacular views we would never suspect they were there. Everyone pulled on long sleeve garments and Mary even put her gloves on.
Now the landscape was transformed into a lush mysterious trail bearing no resemblance to its earlier rendition. We stopped to take a picture in the fog where earlier that morning had been a panoramic viewpoint.
We took the Brooks Falls trail – but never saw the Falls. We peered into the fog, but couldn’t see across the canyon. This trail and the Old Trout Farm Trail had giant eucalyptus trees and followed the creek.
By the time we got back to the car and drove out to Highway One – the fog had cleared. It took a long time to get back to Santa Cruz – we made several stops and hit holiday traffic in Half Moon Bay. Mary kept us entertained with stories from her travels sailing around the world. It was a wonderful day and a great hike.
Lesson Learned: Seize the moment – take the picture when it strikes you and don’t wait until later – the opportunity may be lost in the mist.