Friday, May 9, 2008

Montara Mountain - May 2008

Brooks Fall Trail - Montara Mountain
Ladies Lompico Book Club
7.5 miles
1,800 elevation gain
4 hours hiking time
Barbara, Tara, Toni, Priva, Julie
Photos by Toni

Since the Lompico Ladies Book Club was having an overnight at Montara Hostel, I couldn't resist a hike to the top of Montara Mountain since the views are so spectacular. Other members of the hiking group were going to try and join us, but in the end it was the just the five of us.

The original plan was to hike from the Montara side, since the trailhead was less than a mile from the hostel. This is a steep fire road all the way to the top. The morning dawned extremely foggy, but the group was up for the hike - hoping it would be clear but satisfied even if it didn't.

I consulted with Barbara who had done the hike the first time with the fantastic views. We decided to repeat the Pacifica hike - because the trail would be more interesting than the fire road. Fire roads also tend to have a steeper grade since they are designed for vehicles. My Achilles were acting up so we opted for the easier option.

On the drive from Montara to Pacifica you can see the work on the tunnel that will reroute Highway One from Devil's Slide through the mountain and onto a new bridge that is being built. It is slated for completion in 2011. Perhaps they will open up the coastline for hiking once the highway is closed.

We easily found San Pedro park and loaded up for the hike. We started up the trail in the fog. I missed the views of Pacifica and the whole bay area behind the fog - but Tara, Priva and Toni focused on the beauty of the wildflowers along the trail.

I like the fog and it was nice and cool as we wound our way up the mountain side. I came to appreciate having the whole cityscape obscured and focusing on the immediate natural surroundings.

We took a break at Barbara's bench along the way where Toni got this great shot of "our" Barbara.

The wildflowers were definitely in bloom. Especially noticeable was a bush with blue flowers which smelled like Ajax cleanser. Trees surrounded us on the rutted path suffering badly from erosion. We stopped at another viewpoint and peered into the fog. The trail continued up to meet the fire road and we had entered Sam McNee park.

This portion of the hike was steeper and slippery. The sun came out - not to burn off the fog, but to heat up our climb to the top. Tara had gone ahead and soon we could see the satellite equipment at the top of the mountain. Some cyclists who had ridden past us were resting at the top and took our picture. We looked for the container holding the summit notes, but it wasn't there this time. Perhaps someone tossed it off the mountain.

We lunched in the spot on the side of the hill with just enough room for us all to squeeze in. After lunch we headed back down the mountain. The fog rolled in even thicker than before. Toni cme down the hill all bundled up with one glove on. We returned down the fire road to our trail, but on the way back took the trail to Brooks Falls, even though we knew the falls wouldn't be running.

This part of the hike was less foggy then the last time and was quite dramatic. The foliage was lush and felt like a jungle. Flowers bloomed and ferns overgrew the path.

The opposite canyon wall was partly bare rock face and also covered with trees. I expected to see monkeys swinging through the trees at any minute. It had a wild feeling to it. We stopped at a viewing bench and could here the falls and even see a little trickling water. This area is a hidden gem. Unexpected. Lush. Open.

Continuing down the trail we walked through thick bushes. I small a tiny bright yellow bird flittered through the brush. We passed a dramatic grove of eucalyptus trees which were flowering. I don't think I have seen them flower before. We walked under an archway of manzanita bushes.

The trail came out along a creek and looped back to the parking lot. The rest of the group headed back to Felton for a post celabratory dinner, but I was anxious to get home since I had been gone all week. It had been a most enjoyable day and a great end to our away book club weekend.

Lessons Learned: If you don't know what you are missing - you won't miss it. When you are in a fog, appreciate what's closest to you. Take Advil before hiking.

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