Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Coastal Highway and windy roads...

On Saturday we went for a drive out to Half Moon Bay, along the Coastal Highway and down to Pescadero Beach, coming back across the mountains. With our trusty Google driving directions, guidebook, camera and 'exploring hats' on, we headed first to Half Moon Bay sharing a winding road with (what felt like) half of San Francisco. (And then we had BK for lunch - see the post below.)

Side note: Thanks so much to my ex-colleagues at the Commerce Commission for this guidebook - we have used it many, many times and it's helped us a lot. I anticipate it will be even more helpful when we go on our honeymoon. :) So thanks once again, it was a fantastic gift.

The beach cost $6 to park for the day, and was packed with families enjoying a day on the beach. But it was foggy along the entire coast - very foggy. So what had been a brilliant day here in San Jose quickly turned into a slightly cold, sticky grey one. The sand was a beautiful yellow colour, and huge waves crashed on the shoreline. We walked along the beach and played chicken with the waves. Brendan decided it would be funny to push me right as a wave came! But several times we both had to run away before he got wet feet from rouge waves!

Next, we drove to San Gregorio Beach, and wandered around at the parking area there - it was quite pretty. We watched a guy performing an improptu singing concert in German, while people videoed. A plaque commemorated a Spanish explorer in the 18th Century who had camped at this beach, lost and looking for Santa Cruz Bay. Instead, as the plaque wryly stated, he found San Francisco Bay!

We continued on down the road, passing miles and miles of gorgeous hidden beaches. Eventually we arrived at Pescadero Beach. This beach had a remarkably different feel to it - it had rocks smoothed and rounded by the sea instead of the fine soft sand of Half Moon Bay. A rocky point extended into the sea.

A fisherman stood at one end, where the waves crashed into the rocks around him. Suddenly, a large wave broke over him up to his waist, almost sweeping him off the rock - dangerous! He quickly moved to higher ground. So many fishermen (and women) in NZ have been drowned at places like Castlepoint for just this reason.

The township of Pescadero itself was a tiny village with church, post office, oversized American flag and a few shops. Very cute.

We drove on, further into the mountains. As we climbed, the road became more and more narrow and winding, so much that I half expected it to end around any corner (or for us to meet someone coming the other way!) The trees started to grow hanging lichen and moss, and the fog closed in around us.

Finally we turned right at Alpine Road - even more narrow, extremely windy and one-lane in most places. Was this really where we were supposed to go? I checked the Google directions several times, but here we were, going right at Alpine Road. So we shrugged and continued on.

When we got to the top of the ridge, the sun started shining again and the fog cleared, since it was above the hill level. The forest turned to tall yellow grass waving in the sun. Further away, a bank of fog literally poured over the lower mountains. It moved slowly, much like a river of cream.

We stopped for a break at a small "open space" park at the top of a hill. Signs warned of rattlesnakes and mountain lions - I kept watching by my feet carefully for movement, and in the surrounding bushes. I don't particularly want to meet another mountain lion.

We felt increasingly lost as we continued on the road, since the directions given were slightly different in one or two crucial places. Were we ever going to find the right way back to Palo Alto?

Finally we found a sign which pointed that way, and gratefully followed it back to the 280 Freeway. (Everything in the US is navigated by which freeway(s) it's near.) Coming back down the mountains, we saw a great view of San Jose and the surrounding area. It always has a haze over it, though. I do notice that about NZ - there's no washed-out haze of pollution most days.

The link to our webshots page for the full album is here.

On the downside, I suspect our CV joints are going. Geoff says we can leave it for a while cos it won't break - any other thoughts?


fia said...

half moon bay sounds like it was awesome! wish i was there too :)

pple have been drowend at castlepoint? i never knew that. lol last time i went out there i saw nikita and craig, n they were engaged lol. i knew craig wen i was in masterton, at Hiona Intermediate n he was not very nice, tho that changed after he came to kuranui andi got to know him n his twin jeremy better.

that road u mentioned doesnt sound scary to me, it sound cool, as does the park, tho that pic u had of the sign annyed me cz i HATE seeing cougars referred to as mountain lions. dnt worry tho, thats just smething personal wif me. wat did u mean by "I don't particularly want to meet another mountain lion."? have u seen one already?

hey i hope u dont mind me nicking pics from ur blog, theyr awesome!!

Anonymous said...

That looked soooooo cool!!!! Awwwwwww!!! Hope you have a lot more of these days even though it was foggy. Oceans rock! I miss them so much! And the beaches look really nice. =)
Ah, right, when I went to Castlepoint there were warning signs around so you wouldn't climb the rocks.
I second Fia's question: You have seen a mountain lion? O.O
And unfortunately I have no idea what CV joints are so I can't give any advice. *gg*

Tina said...

Hey Fia, mountain lions are what they're called here, and it refers obviously to a specific breed of cougar, native to the area. People using the word "cougar" get looked at funny.

Tina said...

Nina!!! How are you??? How's the uni decisions going? Let me know how it goes, best of luck!!

Yeah, lots of people have died at Castlepoint for climbing on rocks on the reef - the sea is pretty treacherous. I honestly thought he was going to be swept off the rocks and we were looking at it happening in front of us!

Yeah, I saw a mountain lion on Easter Day. I need to write a post about it at some point. We went to Alum Rock park on the edge of town, it used to be a famous mineral springs area. Standing on a track by the parking area, I looked up the track 100m and something HUGE and dark with a long tan tail jumped onto the trail, crossed and jumped off again - as I was fiddling with the camera and yelling "what was THAT?!" to Brendan and Alex. It was pretty huge, it took up a good part of the trail width. It had a lioness-like tail, roughly that colour and hanging in that way.

We walked up there and there was another really loud rustling in the bushes, but I didn't want to let Brendan go in there. Luckily I did cos they can kill people easily. But very cool - I wish I had used the other camera cos I had both around my neck, but I was trying to make the video work so I could zoom in to see what it was!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tina! =) I'm good but still working on the uni decision thing. Of course, I'll let you know what I'm gonna do (once I've actually figured it out).

Man, you've seen a mountain lion! I'm jealous! Even if I would have enjoyed it more out of a car. *gg* Sounds like you're having a lot of adventures in the States, just as it's supposed to be. =)