Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Devil's Slide

The western ridge of Montara Mountain sticks out into the sea just south of Pacifica and for most of the last century the road used to skirt the steep, unstable cliffs above the ocean. But increasingly frequent closures led to the opening, in 2013, of a tunnel that bypasses the worst of Devil's Slide.


The road is now closed to cars, but remains open to foot and bike traffic. At least until the next big slide.

The old bunker just south of Devil's Slide


The low bluff along this stretch of Half Moon Bay's coastline is gradually retreating - as bluffs do. As it does, it leaves this armored stretch of beach standing proud. The road and the houses remain, for the time being, but most the beach is gone - and tough to get to without walking around.

The photos provide a pretty good idea of what the original shoreline looked like and where it wants to go. Mirada Road will get awfully expensive to maintain over time. I suspect the cost is spread broadly, whereas the benefit is disproportionately small - at least that's the way it works on most developed shorelines.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pelican Point Beach

I wasn't sure whether to title this post Pelican Point Beach or Miramontes Point, but the beach won out - because this is a blog about beaches more than it is a blog about big hotels perched on the edge of the sea.


I joined the small crowd of paying guests and riff raff (like me) wandering down to the beach south of the hotel. A stairway leads down to the beach itself - the lower landing was propped up on a small suite of jacks, suggesting that the riprap had settled a couple of feet (big rock often does this in settings like this - making it's use as a foundation dicey).

Note the use of both riff raff and riprap in the preceding paragraph - the terms are occasionally confused.

Maybe on a future visit, I'll walk north around the Point to Three Rocks Beach. I'd like to check out the efforts that have been made to maintain Miramontes Point for posterity.  I could see some of the structure from the top and found you get a better view (but still somewhat mysterious) from the air (Aerial: California Coastal Records Project).

A couple of notes on public access to the shoreline. The small parking lot at the top of the trail to the beach was full, but the woman at the Ritz-Carlton gatehouse pointed me to the sites in the garage reserved for coastal access. These things rarely happen without controversy or requirement (see below), but I definitely appreciate both that California has always taken public access seriously and that the resort is willing to cooperate.

Earlier, just a few miles south, I considered (but decided against) parking on Highway 1 and walking down to Martin's Beach, but wasn't sure of its current legal status. Turns out, just a couple of days earlier, the case had been appealed to the Supreme Court (The Guardian). I look forward to visiting Martin's Beach on a future trip.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


These photos are from Pescadero State Beach, just south of the mouth of Pescadero Creek (Gravel Beach: 2013).


Some of the beaches along this coastline are sandy right up to the toe of the bluff and some have nice cobble ramps like this one. To get cobble, you need a source of resistant rock - granite works better than the softer sediments that compose a bulk of these eroding bluffs and that yield only sand or finer stuff. I suppose even the completely sandy beaches may sometimes have cobble underneath, but I suspect the relative proportions of fine and coarse material vary significantly from one beach to the next. Of course, there are probably seasonal differences, too - typically we'd expect sandier in the summer, less sandy (and more exposed cobble) in the winter.

I think the sandpiper-like birds on the beach were indeed sandpipers. They seemed to spend as much time up near the edge of the cobble as they did down at the water's edge.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove, west of Santa Cruz, almost to Davenport, is a narrow bite carved out of the marine terrace - steep cliffs on both sides and a sandy pocket beach trapped in between. The shark fin (or tooth?) is a sea stack, left as the surrounding cliffs were eroded landward by the waves.


There's a neat little cave that frames the east side of the cove and some human artifacts, including a tunnel, at the head of the cove that suggest an interesting human history.

Some more info on Shark Fin Cove.

Santa Cruz

Some shots from a couple of weeks ago - a Friday evening and a chilly Saturday morning in Santa Cruz, before heading up the coast.


The photos are from several different spots on the west end of town. For a couple of posts from the east end, check out: Pleasure Point: July 2013 and Capitola: July 2013.