DM's San Francisco 2017 Diary

Day 2 - Walking in Pacifica

Sunday, 29 January, 2017

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20:36

Today was a very active day, with over 22 km of walking through the city of Pacifica, which is on the coast just south of San Francisco. After a restless night in which I didn't get nearly enough sleep, I got up a bit before 07:30 and had a shower, then headed out to get a taxi to Rockaway Beach. This is almost due west of where I'm staying, just over on the ocean side of the peninsula, but there are steep mountains and the San Andreas Lake in the way, so you have to go around those.

I asked the hotel concierge to call a taxi for me, as I couldn't get the Uber app working last night. The guy who helps guests with transport at the front of the hotel didn't know where Rockaway Beach was, and when I told the taxi driver he didn't know either. I had to tell him Pacifica, which turns out to be the name of the city area where Rockaway Beach is. And when we arrived there, with me using a GPS map tracking app to make sure I was going to the right place, I realise why he'd never heard of it. Rockaway Beach is a tiny settlement with just a couple of blocks of small businesses and maybe a handful of houses, with two motels right by the waterfront at the tiny beach.

The fare was nearly $60, so I gave the driver $70 with a tip. He asked me how I was going to get back to my hotel, and said there weren't going to be any taxis here. I just said I'd figure it out and thanked him for his service. He was a cheerful chap who chatted with me during the ride, telling me how the Pacifica area used to be fashionable, but now after the tsunami threats have become well known, nobody wants to buy there any more.

View from Breakers
View from Breakers diner, Rockaway Beach

I walked a short distance towards the beach and found a diner called Breakers open for breakfast. It looked busy, so I went in and was given a prime table with a window view of the ocean. I could see pretty quickly why people didn't necessarily want to buy too close to the ocean here, as waves crashed onto the shore and sprayed sea water onto the road just 15 or 20 metres from the diner. There were portable signs there saying the road was closed, which made sense, because cars could get sprayed with sea water quite easily.

Crab cake benedict
Crab cake benedict at Breakers diner

The diner had some seafood specialties, including the intriguing crab cake benedict, which was basically an eggs benedict with the addition of crab cakes between the muffins and the poached eggs. This sounded too good to pass up, so I ordered it. It came with a huge hash brown as well, and it was really good, with fresh tomato and red onion also on the benedict stacks. The hollandaise was a bit runny, but really the rest was so good I didn't care. I paid and asked the woman at the register if there was an ATM nearby, as I'd given the taxi driver almost all my cash. She said she thought there was one in Nick's, which was a bar/restaurant across the road. There was indeed, but for some reason it declined to give me any money.

Rocks on Rockaway
Walking towards Mori Point, from Rockaway Beach

After filling up, I set out on the first serious walk of the day. This involved going through a small car park behind the Best Western next door to the Breakers, and then following a flat paved cycling path north for a while, before turning off onto a foot trail worn into the grass that meandered up the steep hill and towards the coast. Mori Point is a rugged and steep cluster of hill peaks next to the ocean, and paths criss cross their way all over it. There were a few other people out walking on the tracks too, and as I reached the top of the hill nearest the sea, I could see down onto the point jutting into the ocean, where dozens of people were gathered to enjoy the view. When I got down there I found that there was an easy walking track to the point from the nearby town just to the north, so I presume a lot of people just do that and don't bother walking right up the rest of the hill. There were still several people on the steeper paths though, many walking dogs. The views both up and down the coast were pretty amazing, and you could see the heavy swell breaking in waves on the dark sand beaches, as well as crashing against the rocks on the outcrops in between.

The endless reach
Mori Point

Rather than go down to the town on the north, I turned inland again, back up the flank of the highest hill and around to another hill resting inland a bit. There was a ridge trail over the top of this hill and down to the highway below, across which was another small cluster of buildings with a few shops. I needed some water, so stopped in at a small market shop to get a one litre bottle. I also asked the sales guy if there was a bathroom somewhere nearby that I could use, and he pointed me at the staff bathroom in his shop. Outside were a couple of small knick knack shops, and a cafe inside an old caboose, still on its wheels, which had a few customers hanging around outside waiting for their take away coffees. I walked back south towards Rockaway Beach along the highway, and passed Gorilla Barbecue, another establishment inside an old rail car. Someone online had recommended this place, but it had a sign indicating that it was closed due to storm damage.

Contemplating the swell
Surfer on Rockaway Beach

I reached Rockaway Beach again, and then planned to continue south to the next settlement, where I could walk inland to San Pedro Valley County Park. But the footpath beside the highway disappeared as the road climbed up over a hill, and there was no obvious way to walk along it. Then I spied some people walking up the hill through the grass, away from the road over on the ocean side. Checking my map I saw that there were walking trails leading that way and then down to Pacifica State Beach, the next beach south down the coast. So I crossed the highway and used the trail, which again had several other people walking along it, some with dogs.

Pacifica State Beach
Pacifica State Beach, Linda Mar

This trail also had some good views, and it led down onto the beach, running along the sand dune area where grasses stabilised the sand right behind the beach proper. The beach looked popular, with dozens of surfers out in the water, as well as quite a lot of people sitting on the sand or doing other things, and even a brave few wading in the surf. Near the northern end, I crossed the highway again and turned inland. Here was the Linda Mar shopping centre, and I spotted a bus stop on the other side of the street, where a lady was sitting and waiting. I crossed to have a look at the bus schedule, and found that a few of the bus routes went to either Colma or Daly City BART stations. This would be ideal for getting back to the hotel, and much cheaper than a taxi. But then I saw the timetable, which didn't actually have departure times. It only had an "average time between services", and for Sundays this was listed as either 60 or 90 minutes, depending on the route! I didn't really want to have to wait for an hour or more for a bus, but decided I'd give it a try when I got back from San Pedro Valley.

The walk to San Pedro Valley was a bit longer than I realised. About halfway there I came across a small cluster of shops, including a Beach Monkey Cafe. I decided to stop there and have some lunch, rather than rely on the breakfast keeping me going all afternoon. It was an organic cafe, and they had a lot of health food stuff. Which suited me fine after the rich breakfast. I chose the Beach Monkey acai bowl, which was the first thing on the blackboard menu. It had bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and goji berries, with acai, oats, honey, and a choice of either apple juice or almond milk. I said apple juice without thinking, but I think I would have liked to try the almond milk. Anyway, it was really delicious, and no doubt a good sight healthier than breakfast.

Beach Monkey
Lunch at Beach Monkey Cafe, Linda Mar

From here I continued walking to San Pedro Valley. I passed a historical site called Sánchez Adobe, an old two storey adobe residence with a wrap around first floor veranda, which has been preserved and turned into a small museum. I was curious enough to go into the property and take a couple of photos, and saw the museum closed sign. But when I turned to leave, an old lady was just coming in and asked me if I'd like to go into the museum. She'd just arrived to open up for the day, as it opened at 13:00. She spilled her take away coffee as she talked to me, and fumbled with the lid, which made me feel bad that I'd distracted her. After she opened the door, I went inside and browsed through the three fairly small rooms, which were filled with displays of old household items and tools and stuff, plus some explanatory signs. Honestly it was a bit tired and dull, but it was nice to see inside the building, which was the real treasure.

Sánchez Adobe
Sánchez Adobe

Eventually I arrived at San Pedro Valley Park, where there was a car park and picnic area not far from the entrance gate, and a visitor's centre building. I went in and a friendly lady helped me choose a good walk to do in the 2.5 hours I'd allocated before heading back to Linda Mar and trying to get that bus. She suggested taking the Brooks Creek trail, and joining up with the Montara Mountain trail, taking that up as high as I thought I could manage and leave enough time to return back to the junction and then return to the car park via the Montara Mountain trail.

The Trollshaws
Brooks Creek Trail, San Pedro Valley County Park

After using the toilets, I set off on the walk. It was a steady climb up a forested path, with a mix of redwoods, pines, cypress, oak, and imported eucalyptus trees. The first trail ran along Brooks Creek, though well above the water, on the steep valley flank, leading eventually to a view point towards the Brooks Waterfall, which was running thanks to winter rains. The waterfall was tall, but thin, and some distance away across the valley, so it wasn't especially impressive. As with the earlier walks, there was several other walkers on the track, and I passed many coming the other way, and a handful going the same direction at different speeds.

View over Linda Mar
View over Linda Mar, from Montara Mountain Trail, San Pedro Valley County Park

It was the same up the Montara Mountain trail, which followed the ridge line and gave some great views of the coast. After a series of large switchbacks to climb up a steep slope, there was a spectacular lookout point. I'd hoped to go a little higher and reach the equestrian road trail a bit higher up, but decided my feet had had enough and turned back down the hill. It turned out that I had plenty of time, as I reached the car park again around 15:10, so I dawdled a bit and walked along the short Plaskon nature trail, which was really designed for people unable to walk up any slope at all, but it had a couple of good views of the stream from wooden bridges.

Then I left the park and began the long walk back to the Linda Mar bus stop. As I approached, I could see a bus waiting there, so I ran the last block or so to try to make sure it wouldn't leave without me. It turned out to be parked with the driver taking a break, so I needn't have bothered. One guy was waiting at the stop with a small dog or cat in a cage (I didn't see the animal), and as I waited another couple of people showed up. Then a bus coming from the south pulled in and let a bunch of people off, some of whom were obviously planning to transfer to the bus I was waiting for. When this bus left, empty, the driver of the other bus got ready and pulled up to the stop, with the sign indicating it was going to Colma BART station. I guess he was waiting for the connection.

I paid by $2.25 and got on, sitting near the back, in front of a man and his young daughter and their quite large dog. The bus took a back street route, avoiding the freeway along the coast, and required almost an hour to reach Colma station, but the trip was interesting as it went up some steep coastal roads so there were some nice views.

At Colma I went straight into the station and I thought I could hear a train, but when I got down to the platform there was none there. Then I saw the indicator board and it showed the next train to Millbrae was another 21 minutes. In other words, the train before had just left. So I had a long wait there. When I got on the next train, there were several people with handwritten signs and placards, going to the airport to protest against Donald Trump's banning of travellers from some Islamic countries, which has been blowing up in the news over the past day.

At Millbrae, I went to the shopping area near the station to buy some bagels and cream cheese for breakfast tomorrow. I also went into Walgreens and got some Old Spice deodorant sticks, which Andrew always asks me to get for him whenever I travel to the US, as most of the varieties are unavailable back home. Then I walked back towards the hotel, wondering whether to drop my things off and then go out again for dinner, or to just stop at the King of Thai Noodle House on the way for dinner.

It turned out the the Thai place was further from the hotel than I remembered, so when I ran across it and realised how far it was, I decided to stop and eat rather than walk all the way back. As a waiter was showing me to a table, I spotted Stuart sitting at another one, and joined him instead. He had just finished, but stayed to chat while I ordered and began eating, then left as I started my main course. I got some fish cakes as an appetiser and then the deep fried salmon with red curry that I've had a couple of times at the San Francisco restaurant location. Stuart pointed out that the signs up around the restaurant indicated it would be closing, this Tuesday! They're having a closing down party, with half price drinks all night, until 2am. Our waiter said he'd only been working there three days, and now the restaurant was closing down, so it was a very short job. He'd taken it to help out since they were short of staff.

After eating, I walked back to the hotel and wrote up the day's events. And now it's time for bed and hopefully a good night's sleep.



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