So I’m doing something a bit different today, and posting about a hike I just went on, as opposed to something that occurred months ago! Thought I’d mix it up a bit, to keep it interesting, ya know? 😉 This past Sunday, I randomly felt the itch to go hiking, since it seems like I hadn’t been out for ages, what with my stupid shin blowing up every few days or so. Actually, we had went out walking to Chinatown on Saturday, and while we were walking home, my shin had started complaining again. But I was absolutely determined to not let my pesky shin derail my plans again! We were going hiking whether my shin liked it or not! I picked out what looked like a short and easy 3.5 mile hike from this link (first mistake of the day…), and around 10am Sunday morning, Brian, our friend Otto, and I were off!
Second mistake of the day was not checking the weather before deciding to go hiking.. the mountain was blanketed with mist! You couldn’t see more than 10 ft in any direction. I had brought a light jacket with me, but it was not enough at ALL. Luckily, Brian had a sweatshirt in his trunk that I threw on over my windbreaker. I guess that was my fault though.. having lived in SF for 8 months now, I should have expected it to be cold. and windy. and cold.
The beginning of the hike was a familiar trek that overlooked the Marine Mammal Center, as well as a beach that was bustling with the last of the early morning surfers. We paused at Battery Townsley for Otto to take pictures, since he’d never seen it before. We meandered on, missing both of the turns that would have turned us towards Tennessee Beach, and it wasn’t until we were halfway to Wolf Ridge that we realized that we had screwed up somewhere!
So we retraced our steps back to Battery Townsley. I turned on my Maps, and realized that we could join up with the path we originally meant to traverse by taking the upper loop of the Coastal Trail towards Tennessee Beach. We started walking, and I got more and more confused as we progressed – I would look at my phone, and see that my GPS dot was moving squarely along where Google Maps proclaimed the Coastal Trail to be. I then looked down, and forward, and around, and there was no discernible trail!
Brian scouted forward into the mist, towards the direction we thought Tennessee Beach would be. A few moments later, he called back, “Nope, that’s a cliff!” We followed Maps blindly, straying from the vector trail only when it veered in a direction too steep for us to safely proceed.
Finally, we saw it off in the distance! Tennessee Beach, the promised land! The way down was perilous – Brian set off in one direction and Otto in the other, Brian choosing to drop down about 10 ft into the sand, while Otto climbed down a rather steep gorge in the mountainside. I was perched on the precipice that Brian had descended from, and as I was steeling myself to jump, a family walked by, and one of the children called to me: “It’s easier from the other side!” Breathing a sigh of relief, I scrambled back up the side of the hill, and descended through the gorge.
Here’s a snapchat I sent to a few friends, depicting the final stretch to the beach. It was actually quite a bit steeper than it looks – if you slipped at all you would either fall back on your butt and start sliding through the dirt, or you’d pitch forward and tumble all the way down. I’m glad I did neither, and some how managed to clamber down without letting my klutzyness ruin me.
And here was the fruit of our labor – the beach that had eluded us for so many a mile. Not the most spectacular beach I’ve seen, but a welcome sight nonetheless.
After goofing around on the beach for a bit, we decided to take the path where most people seemed to be coming from, instead of attempting to retrace our steps. We figured – we must have just taken the wrong way down, so following the flow of people must take us back to the path we should have taken!
About 3/4 of a mile along the path, we decided to ask someone where they had come from. Turns out there’s another parking lot which is in the complete opposite direction of where we came from, and all of the people on this path were coming from there. Alas, we decided that attempting to climb back up the Coastal Trail would be more painful than taking an alternate, more roundabout route home (Wolf Ridge cuts across the Tennessee Beach Trail and meets back up with the section of Coastal Trail that would take us back to where we parked), so we pushed forward.
About a mile later, I looked at the map, and realized we missed the turn onto Wolf Ridge. I racked my brain – I hadn’t seen a junction anywhere! There was a part where we could have turned northbound, but there was no trail marker indicating the existence of the southbound Wolf Ridge trail.. Unfortunately, Wolf Ridge was our only way of getting home, so we doubled back and retraced our steps.
The path was there, grown over with grass and, for the most part, entirely unnoticeable. I noticed a trail marker, facing north, that would have told southbound hikers which way to turn, but which was invisible if you were coming from Tennessee Beach. This was where we had missed our turn.
Frustrated, we turned south and started heading up Wolf Ridge. It was a steep, strenuous climb that we definitely weren’t anticipating when we had departed in the morning. My shin started complaining less than a mile in, and I couldn’t be more thankful when we found the junction to the Coastal Trail.
After we finally reached familiar territory, I found where we had missed our first turn. We had seen this stop sign at the end of the road, and assumed there had been no path in that direction, but our trail was actually hidden behind a bend in the road. I guess that’s a lesson hard learned for next time..
For reference, this is the hike we ended up taking – all 7.6 glorious miles of it. It’s a bit hard to tell, but there was a lot of doubling back and forth.