A Walk On The Wild Side
Last Saturday, after having been to the Orchid sale in Bolinas, we carried on to meet up with friends for a hike along Limantour Beach which is a long and wild beach on the Pt Reyes National Seashore. As we arrived I could see pink Checker mellows and blue Douglas irises in the grass nearby. We settled our orchids in the shade and went to join the hiking troupe, made up of a charming and eclectic mix of North Americans, South Americans, Eastern and Western Europeans and us, a year out of Zimbabwe.
The leader of our pack was a seventy six year old lady called Connie so I assumed we were in a for a gentle stroll on the beach, followed by some dolphin viewing. Well, I was wrong about that. It was high tide and Connie set off at a fast clip along the soft, coarse sand, off to Sculpture Beach, a couple of miles up the shore. My family always has to take our shoes off to walk on the beach so our calves started whining very shortly after we set off. But we couldn’t be outflanked by a seventy three year old so we kept our whines to ourselves and strode out. No time to stop and admire the view but I did snap a yellow Sour Fig along the way.
It was a perfect spring day with just a touch of a cool breeze that kept us from perspiring as we jogged along. When we reached the outskirts of Sculpture Beach, we insisted on walking over the ragged rocks with our bare feet, being from Africa and having tough feet, not considering that we had just come out of a California winter.
I had read signs on other beaches, warning of Sneaker Waves that sneak up and pull you into the sea, but I had no clue I was about to be attacked by one as I stepped off the rocks, down to the soothing, soft sand of a cove! A fellow hiker was totally swept off her feet whilst I got drenched by a wave that came in at least an extra twenty feet, soaking my phone as it went. I have the blurry pics to prove it.
We stopped for lunch on the rocks and my clan put our shoes back on in preparation for the hike up the cliffs. Connie, however, threw off her clothes and went for a swim in the very chilly Pacific Ocean.
Jewels In The Grass
The sheer sandstone cliffs of Sculpture Beach are quite spectacular, especially when you have to scale them. Luckily, there are steps up the cliff so we didn’t have to rely on our rock climbing skills.
As we climbed upward the scrub started to cover the rock and we started seeing wild flowers dotting the path, along with shrubs yet to come into bloom, like blue and yellow Lupins. We also started feeling the heat of the afternoon sun and my daughter and I lagged behind to take photographs of the flowers.
Bindweed draped itself over the other shrubs and bared its pearly pink flowers to the sun. On the ground, Scarlet pimpernels peeked out shyly. Pale and darker blue Douglas Irises were everywhere among the grass and we saw clusters of the charming Western Blue Eyed Grass and the upright blue California Dick.
Yellow Sunflowers (ground covers, not the tall ones) hugged the roadside, spreading over the hard gravel. I also found some Sporaxis growing there which surprised me as they are South African bulbs. But then again, so many African plants thrive on the roadways here, like Arum lilies, that I really shouldn’t be surprised.
When we looked towards the ocean we could see the fog that keeps these little jewels alive through the spring and into the hot summer.
We stepped into a refreshing shady tunnel of trees and upped the pace a bit and we and the other stragglers caught up with the rest of the hikers close to the lovely little hostel where people can go and stay. I walked there with Connie and expressed the opinion that she didn’t share my love of wild flowers but she replied that stopping and starting was far too tiring for her and made her back hurt. Fair comment, although her feet were fine whilst mine were starting to feel suspiciously as if they had blisters bubbling up on them.
After a brief rest at the hostel, realising that we had to get back to town for supper with friends, we bid our hiking friends goodbye and continued at an even faster pace back to the seashore, hobbling through a shady, swampy stretch with lots of trees, riverine vegetation and a lazy river.
I was fascinated by what turned out to be aptly named Horse Tail Ferns which look rather like hairy asparagus shoots with soft, white flowering tips. They were everywhere in the shade near the river. Growing in less shade were yellow Western Buttercups, Beach Primroses and white Beach Strawberries, along with an alluring orange and pink Sage up on the banks. We also passed the ubiquitous orange California poppies which light up the landscape in such numbers from now until midsummer and a flaming red Paintbrush looked down on us from up the bank.
Finally we found a path back to the beach between the bushy coastal grasses and limped the last mile back to the car. Even our hips ached by the time we got there, after our six-mile speed walk around the area. We’re going back again when our blisters have healed because that kind of landscape is worth the pain and a more leisurely view, but first I’m getting myself some serious walking shoes.