In the darkness of Northern California, the fog slithered through the trees as we made our way to Stinson Beach. The head lights split through the night as we lost ourselves in the curves of the tree line. We arrived at the Palomarin Trailhead at 6am with our feet burning to cover some ground. Anthony and I looked at each other as we swung open the car doors in the gravel parking lot. Our feet crunched against the cold hard ground as we packed our bags in the red glow of the break lights. I inhaled the salty breeze as I laced up my hiking boots. The cold air filled my lungs as I tugged the laces until my knuckles gave a light shade of pink. We stuffed our bags to the brim with food, water, and our camera gear, each weighing about fifty pounds. We began our journey and headed towards the dark treelike, our hearts pounding with the same power and stride as the ocean the crashed against the cliffs below us. With every step we would come closer to the anticipated 13 mile hike to Alamere Falls and back.
My fingers grew swollen from exertion and the change in temperature.
The muddy path led us through a hollow coastal forest, cliff sides, and up steep rocky slopes. As the day progressed and the sun rose higher in the sky, we shed our layers one by one. My fingers grew swollen from exertion and the change in temperature. Off came the beanie, the vest, and the jacket, and into my backpack they went. I noticed the dew disappear from the tall grass with each mile further we trekked. From time to time, we stopped to gawk at the endless seascape to our left. We continued on and after about 3 bananas, 2 granola bars, and 5.5 miles, we finally made it to the Wildcat Campground.
We emerged from the never-ending forest and were greeted by the cool breeze of the ocean. I felt completely ridiculous trudging through the white sand in my massive hiking boots. Yet at the same time I thought about how just a couple hours prior, we were traipsing through the damp woods, and how incredible it was to endure different climates on the hike. We had 1 mile of shoreline ahead of us.
[IT was] a place that could only be witnessed by those with an adventurous soul and the luck of the low tide.
We saw the mist exploding from around the coastal bend and in no time we came upon the waterfall. I had never seen anything like it. I had never seen a waterfall gushing fresh water off a cliff and into the ocean. It made me think about how far that water had traveled to make it's final decent, and how we had hiked through various terrain to meet up there - a place that could only be witnessed by those with an adventurous soul and the luck of the low tide.
We stood at the foot of the waterfall and listened to the rush of the cold water for a short while. The cool mist rejuvenated our flushed faces. The tide was making its way in quick as when we noticed a route up alongside the waterfall. (In the end, this shortcut saved us 2.5 miles) We wedged our feet into the rocks and pulled ourselves up about forty feet. Famished, we dug out our PB&J sandwiches and our Sufferfest tall boys and relaxed next to the calm water at the top of the falls. The view was surreal - being in a place where the fresh water and salt water collided. We wiped the sweat from our brows and wrung out our socks and said farewell to that magical place.
Hand and foot up another few steep gradients and we were back on the main trail. We trekked another 4 miles before reaching the car. We kicked off our boots and and plopped down on the back of the car. A huge sense of accomplishment filled our lungs as we recounted our journey. We felt lucky and appreciative to have hiked this beautiful trail. How could this wonder exist just an hour outside the Golden Gate Bridge?
Words: True O'Neill
Special thanks to our friends at Millican for keeping us inspired!