Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gazos Creek – Ano Nuevo

January 13, 2008
8 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal
Hiking time: 4 hours

Josephine, Teresa, Graciela, Tim, Frank and Julie

This was our first hike of 2008 and what a great way to start the New Year! This was a bush-whacking, wave running, seal stepping, cart wheeling, rock clinging, frolicking good time. Add in a little adrenaline, a sense of adventure, lots of laughter, sea foam, big waves, a gorgeous clear day and you have our hike.

We met at 10:00 at our usual meeting spot. It was a bit of a rough morning for a few folks: Jan and Paula were sick, Mary was called into work on an emergency, Josephine’s back was hurting and Teresa could have used a little more time to get it all together. Still the fearless crew gathered: Jo, Teresa, Graciela, Tim, Frank and Julie.

We loaded into three cars and headed for Gazos Creek. As we were driving Highway One – a huge hawk swooped in front of my windshield. I saw him coming, but the oncoming car heading in the other direction had to hit their brakes. Luckily both the car and the hawk seemed to be okay.

We got to the parking lot and prepared for the hike. I knew there was a creek crossing early on – so I decided not to put my hiking books on until afterwards. Tim and Graciela arrived a little late because they had stopped in Davenport for coffee. Graciela bought a loaf of fresh Challah – which she shared and which was absolutely delicious.

We started down the beach. The creek crossing was not too deep. Because Teresa had already put her boots on – I crossed over – dropped my boots, backpack and daypack on the far side – then returned and pulled a St. Christopher and ferried Teresa across piggy back. When we got to the other side we were talking and suddenly a rogue wave came up over the banks of the creek. I grabbed for all of my stuff – foremost the daypack which had my cell phone and car keys. My hiking boots, water bottle and day pack all got wet, but luckily I didn’t lose anything.

We put on our boots and walked down the beach. Graciela was feeling particularly playful. She would run ahead and find long whips of sea weed which she would twirl around with until she cast them into the sea like a giant algae discuss. Nature brings out her playful side and she was in rare form this day.

We got to the end of the beach and needed to head for the dunes. Tim, Jo, Graciela and I had done the hike before – so we knew this first section included a bit of bushwhacking until you found the trail. Each time we end up going a different way.

This time because of the recent rain – the grasses were high and the bushes prickly. We wove our way along through, up, down and over the bluffs heading in the general direction of Franklin point. We never quite found the trail but were looking for the white poles indicating where it began. We didn’t find them.

Everyone was getting poked by the bushes. I felt like I was stung by a Stinging Nettle. When the weeds became almost shoulder high, Teresa said, “Let’s just turn around now and head to the Road House for a drink.” I explained that we were almost to the trail. She said, “Oh, you mean there is an actual POINT to this hike?” I chuckled about that for the rest of the day.

We pushed our way through the brush and found a giant bench which we had never seen before. We realized that we had overshot Franklin Point and decided to just catch it on the way back. We took a quick break. The weeds gave way to sand and soon we stumbled upon the real trail. We could see our lunch spot – two cypress trees in the distance. The trail was clearly established and followed the edge of the cliffs.

The waves were huge that day. The surf competition at Maverick had taken place the day before. We almost had a lunch at a cliff with a great ocean view – but decided it was too windy so we decided to push on.

We crossed the beach where the elephant seal had been the year before. Then headed for the trees. There are only two tall trees left. The rest have been blown over and are cut into pieces. I found an orange construction helmet with ear covering to block chainsaw noise and a screen for eye protection. Whoever was cutting the wood must have been using it. It was in good shape, so I decided to take it home to Bill who I knew would put it to good use.

We ate our lunch sitting on a log – looking at the white reflection of the sun on the waves. We easily found our way to Franklin Point on our return trip. From the platform you have a nice view of Pigeon Point lighthouse in the distance. We took a break and Graciela and Tim disappeared. The rest of us were ready to go. I tried to find them, but couldn’t see them, though I called and called. I headed off towards the rest of the group when they finally appeared. Later I learned that they had some difficulty getting back up and felt bad that we had almost left them.

Since we weren’t looking forward to bushwhacking between Franklin Point and the parking lot – we decided to try to make our way back via the beach. We had barely started on the first stretch when a high wave washed in and had us all climbing up on the rocks and clinging to the sides as the water climbed closer to our heels and the beach disappeared under the wave.

The water wasn’t deep – but this happens to be one of my personal phobias – being trapped by waves in a cove – so as the water receded – Teresa and I made a beeline running around the next point. Graciela was calling “no, no – not a good time.” But we just wanted to get through there and on to the next section of beach. We both raced as the waves came in – our feet got wet – but we didn’t care. The adrenaline was coursing through our veins and we were laughing hysterically.

There was a nice strip of beach – but we stayed as far away from the waves as we could while we waited for everyone else to make it over the point.

Teresa was up in a corner and suddenly she cried out, backtracked and took a couple of running steps. I thought she might have been stung by a bee – but actually she had almost stepped on a sand colored seal that had blended into the beach.

Teresa was trying to calm down, because she had been so startled and she was patting her heart with her hand. Then we looked over at the seal and he was patting his chest with his flipper as if he was equally frightened. As we watched the seal more closely it became apparent he was actually scratching his chest with his flipper. But it had been a heart tapping moment. We couldn’t stop laughing at how similarly the two of them had reacted. (If you double click the picture you can really see him).

We crossed another outcropping without incident and had a nice long stretch of beach, covered with sea foam. This inspired Teresa, Josephine and I to run through the sea foam using our walking stick as spears and calling out the Bill-and-Julie war cry: “Mazama!!! Mazama-zama!!!!” Why? It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.

At the end of this section of beach – I had had enough wave running – so I opted for bushwhacking. Everyone else braved the beach route. I climbed up the bluffs and lo and behold there was a fine little path running right along the edge. Here was the trail that we never quite found coming out. The rest of the group joined me shortly after coming to a beach route dead end.

Soon we were back on Gazos Creek beach. I took off my boots and hung them over my shoulder. With my helmet hanging off my backpack and my boots – I looked like a forestry worker getting off shift.

I walked in the cold surf which felt great on my Achilles which unfortunately was starting to tweak a bit. Josephine walked with me and we both got caught by another wave – which soaked me up past my knees. When we got back to the creek I was ready to ferry Teresa across but she just went tromping through the water. She was too wet at this point to care. Ah, what a change in perspective a day will bring.

In the parking lot I joined Teresa and Graciela in doing cartwheels. Why? Because we can. (though I may have strained my toe doing it). It was just an amazing, exciting playful day.

Frank needed to get home to the kids, Graciela and Tim headed to Half Moon Bay, Teresa, Jo and I headed to the Road House in Davenport where Scott the bartender was indeed back from his hip surgery. We had great Bloody Marys (though sadly still no hand made pickled green beans for garnish). We also sampled his winter sangria which was absolutely delicious. Another longer-than-planned adventure on the North Coast!

Favorite Quotes from the hike:

“Oh, you mean there is an actual POINT to this hike?”


Lessons Learned: Watch the waves. Don’t leave your friends behind. Never stop playing.

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