Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sonoma Coast Park and Armstrong Woods

Last Sunday, I went to Armstrong Woods for the first time. I hadn't really intended to end up there. I had to work all morning and by 1pm, it was such a beautiful sunny day, I just had to get out of the house. So I drove north up Highway One, figuring I'd just stop wherever looked interesting.

I stopped first at Goat Rock beach in Sonoma Coast State Park, hoping to see the Harbor Seals that apparently come ashore there this time of year to have their babies. Unfortunately, they haven't arrived yet for the year. This is the sign that greets you as you enter the beach.

I don't know if you can read the sign, but it says "This is one of the most deadly beaches in California." Reassuring, eh? Apparently these massive "sleeper waves" occasionally come out of nowhere and snatch unsuspecting tourists off the beach and suck them out to an untimely demise in the sea. Fun.

This sign is at one of the parking areas up above the beach. Sadly, this forces me to admit that my mom was right. (Did you hear that, Carol? You. Were. Right.) She's been warning me about mountain lions for months, telling me about how a mountain lion ate off a woman's face while she was hiking and so on. I really thought she was just being overly paranoid and trying to stop me from hiking alone. But, then, look at the pretty picture. I mean, it's not going to stop me from hiking, mountain lions or no. I'm pretty sure that the reason things like mountain lion attacks make such a big splash on the news is because they're so darn rare. Still, I wouldn't like to run into one of these beasties out on the trail.

In any case, after seeing neither harbor seals nor mountain lions (or goats, for that matter) at Goat Rock, I continued up highway 1 for a couple more miles, then decided to cut across 116 through the Russian River Valley and circle home that way. I have to say, the drive along the river there is nearly as pretty as the shore. And I totally want to live in one of the cute little houses perched up in the trees in all the little towns along the Russian River. Too far from work, I'm afraid, but maybe someday when I'm allowed to telecommute. Eventually, I ended up in Guerneville, and when I saw the sign for Armstrong Woods, I couldn't resist, since several people had recommended the hiking there.

I wasn't disappointed. Armstrong Woods, for those of you who don't know, is a state preserve that is chock full of massive Redwoods. What I'll say about it is this, for the trees, it's just as lovely as Muir Woods, with less than a tenth of the crowds (no tour buses!!!). The views if you hike up into the hills above Muir Woods are much better, but the lack of crowds is such a big draw, I think I'd probably rather come to Armstrong. Though I don't think I would hike alone here, again. Not enough hikers for me to feel safe. If I fell and sprained an ankle or something, it could be ages before someone came along and saw me.

In any case, It was fairly late in the day by the time I got there, so I only hiked a couple miles, up a ridge and then back down into the Redwood grove. It was also a bit of a gloomy day, so I don't have many good pictures. Here's one of something that blew me away, though:

The height and diameter of the tree are amazing enough, but the thing that really gets me is the age of the tree. How is it possible that something that is 1300 years old can even still be alive? How can something have been in the same place for 13 centuries and not have been disturbed? It's shocking, and wonderful. Makes me feel pretty insignificant, actually. And the tree is healthy, too. If stupid humans don't screw it up, it could live for hundreds of years longer. wow.

Anyway, today is the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market for the first time, and probably the SF MOMA. I've been told it's actually kind of disappointing if you've been to the art museums in DC, NY, etc. But I'm going to give it a try, anyway.

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