At the end of August, Charles and I embarked on our first trip by plane since the start of COVID. We flew to San Francisco and spent a week in Napa and on the Sonoma Coast followed by a few days in the city. I love traveling to California for so many reasons: the food, the wine, the weather, the endless variety of landscapes, and my favorite – the easy access to nature. On my list of things to do when visiting the Golden State, hiking always makes its way to the top. I like experiencing the local flora and fauna up close, which is so unique and different from the Northeast biota that I’m accustomed to.
On the Sonoma Coast we stayed in Bodega Bay, which is in close proximity to so many amazing hiking opportunities. One morning while Charles was reading and relaxing at the hotel, I ventured off to explore Pinnacle Gulch. The trailhead is located in Bodega Harbor, a community of contemporary beach homes cascading down a headland that drops into the ocean. After parking the car, I began to descend a steep path into the ravine created by the gulch, which was as dry as a bone. It hadn’t rained in weeks, but the mist and humidity from the marine layer provide the coastal flora with enough water to sustain life. Sere dill and fennel stalks were everywhere, which permeated the air with an herbaceous bouquet. The ravine created a perfectly framed V, with the mighty blue Pacific filling the center.
After a quick half-mile descent, the trail let out onto a deserted stretch of beach. Huge hunks of jagged boulders dotted the shoreline, remnants of a Mesozoic volcanic eruption millions of years ago. I had arrived just as the tide was pulling out, which revealed numerous magical little pools teaming with aquatic life. I was hoping to spot a starfish, but none were to be found. However, I did come across a consortium of bashful red crabs that would scurry out of sight as I approached and then peek out of their hiding spots with an outstretched eye or claw. The sound of the waves was quixotic, as the water ebbed and flowed over and around the rocks. I sat for a while and listened to the acoustics of the ocean.
I meandered along the shore heading south. Steep cliffs stretched for miles, plunging precipitously into the ocean. From Bodega Rock, a tiny island 2,000 feet off the coast of Bodega Head, I could hear the cacophony of barking sea lions and harbor seals echoing from across the bay. After another half-mile or so I reached the Shorttail Gulch Trail, which runs parallel to the Pinnacle Gulch Trail in the opposite depression of the same bluff. I began the uphill ascent through the ravine, which not surprisingly looked very similar to Pinnacle Gulch. In the distance were rounded, withered headlands that sloped inward towards a ribbon of greenery created by Shorttail Gulch. The trail passed through a grove of towering coastal cypress, which emitted a heavenly evergreen aroma. At the top of the path, a long, steep staircase brought me back up to the road, where I made my way back to the car. It was a short hike, but it packed an indelible, senses-heightening punch that left a lasting impression.
Last visited in August, 2021