I couldn’t let the subject rest without sharing these really dramatic views from Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. You’ll recall my post from July 8, 2014. I returned to experience the scene one more time and capture some of the drama created by the trees, cliffs, and lighting over the ocean. The “God rays” as I call them can be seen descending from the clouds toward the ocean in the last shot. The effect in real life was much more breathtaking than could be captured by my little Canon Elph, but you can get an idea of the beauty at every turn.
Not too far south of San Francisco on the Coast Highway, you come to Pacifica. A sleepy little town of 38,000 (well, it seems sleepy to big-city dwellers), it has three main beaches along its 2-1/4 mile coastline. If you start at the Pacifica Pier, you can walk south along Sharp Park Beach (bordering Sharp Park golf course), to the site of Mori Point Inn, built by Stefano Mori, an Italian immigrant farmer in the 1870s. The roadhouse was taken over by his son Jack, who turned it into a speakeasy during Prohibition of the ’20s, smuggling in boot-legged Canadian whiskey from offshore. The feds caught up with Jack in 1923, confiscating 24,000 cases of liquor and closing down the establishment.
A steep flight of wooden stairs (now known as Bootlegger’s Steps) leads directly up to a high bluff overlooking the ocean, where you can walk along the coast toward Half Moon Bay. The uninterrupted view of the Pacific is breathtaking.
If you don’t climb the steps, and instead turn left at Mori Point, you can walk along a restored wetland area at the end of the lake (Laguna Salada) that is the habitiat of the endangered California red-legged frog. I had ventured here a few times, but never saw a frog until I met some locals, who told me exactly where to look. The walk also encounters crows, gulls, unabashed squirrels, lizards, and lots of other wildlife.
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Just 20 miles south of San Francisco in the town of Moss Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve sits placidly on the fog-dappled coast. Renowned for its rugged beaches, tidepools, sea lions, the occasional sea otter, pelicans and other sea birds, the reserve has been identified by marine biologists as “one of the most biodiverse intertidal zones in California.” It is also a vantage point for whale watchers. Humpback, blue, and gray whales can been seen periodically from a high promontory, and a look downward reveals a beach full of harbor seal moms and their pups, who are protected by the park.
You can descend a long stairway to see them at beach level, but visitors are cautioned to stay 300 feet away so as not to interfere with seal family business. Along the trail at the top of the cliff, you walk through carefully planted rows of aging pines on the grounds of what was once the expansive Smith-Doelger residence in the early 20th century. Farther down, you walk on parts of the foundations, faced by massive palm trees that once graced an elegant entrance.
Walking south from the reserve, the road winds alongside residences perched on the cliff, with beautiful gardens and huge plate-glass windows facing the ocean.
You can walk right up to the Moss Beach Distillery, a historic restaurant where liquor was smuggled in from offshore during Prohibition in the 30s, and where the fabled phantom “Blue Lady” is still seen occasionally by visitors. You can read more about her and the Moss Beach Distillery by clicking here.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is one of those “so close, yet so far away” types of day trips. It is well worth the hike to feel that you’re at the end of the earth–in another world and another time. If you’re visiting California, this is an opportunity to experience the best of what the coast has to offer: diverse marine life, natural beauty, and a bit of California history.
You get so caught up in the day to day.
and you know it’s time you got away,
so start rolling along down the highway…
Down Highway 1,
You never think about it,
but it’s always been there-oh.
[It’s no big deal–
just a few shops,
a couple churches,
and live outdoor music]
“What a pleasant surprise,”
as your mood starts to rise.
- Goats! Harley Farms, Pescadero (anaturemom.com)
- Organic Olallieberry U-Pick: Swanton Berry Farm, Pescadero (anaturemom.com)