Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a small but beautiful and dramatic cove in the tiny town of Montara, just south of San Francisco on Highway 1. Steep trails and cliffs that drop abruptly into the Pacific Ocean plunge you down to the sandy, sheltered cove.
This beach is frequently referred to as "Devil's Slide" due to landslides that occa-sionally close Highway 1. In some circles it has also been called "Edun" - "nude" spelled backwards - as its protective cliffs keep the au naturel sun bathers out of view of passing motorists.
During migration in winter, Gray Whales can often be seen close to the shore, although I was not personally privy to any sightings on this late February morning.
Roxy and I drove to Starbucks in Half Moon Bay where we met Associated Press photographer Paul Sakuma. This blog was featured in an AP Article a couple of months ago, and on this morning Paul was going to photograph me pretending to take pictures at the beach.
We caravanned to Montara, and pulled into a parking lot on the east side of the highway. A dash across this busy road to get to the beach is almost as exciting as the view from the top of the cliffs.
I stood on a long flat rock where surf was breaking, while Paul took pictures of me with my camera and a panoramic view of the beach behind me. I much prefer being the photographer to the photographed. As we strolled around the beach he asked the question that so many do. How is closure of this beach going to prevent people from using is anyway?
In truth, closing the outdoor parks will not keep people out. I pointed to the trash cans and porta-potties. "That's what won't be here when the park closes," I said.
Ruth Coleman, director of the State Parks, has indicated in interviews that she hopes people do keep visiting the parks even when they are closed. But there will be additional considerations to keep in mind when doing so.
In a recent KQED California Report interview she stated, "...in most cases we will have closed the bathrooms and locked them, closed any buildings and locked them, removed trash cans, so all services will be removed. We will have staff that drive periodically. But there won't be any services. So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk. You can get vandalism very quickly if people who are, in essence, have bad intentions perceive that if they go in, they will be truly alone, and could get away with whatever they want to do. So what we've been advised by other directors who've had to close parks is to actually keep your gates open and communicate that people can still come in and walk around, but don't expect any services."
I waved good-bye to Paul as he dashed across Highway 1 back to the parking lot. I remained on the beach, actually taking pictures instead of just posing.
If you prefer not to navigate the moderately steep, sandy pathways down to the beach, a wooden stairway offers a less slippery - although still aerobic - way down. On the south end of the beach are the remains of an old stairway going straight down the cliff.
On the north end of the beach was an equally astounding sight: a Mother and Daughter who had decided this blus-tery February morning was perfect swimming weather!
Back at the car Roxy was waiting for me. No dogs are allowed on this particular beach. So now we treated ourselves to a little hike. The Gray Whale Cove trailhead begins right in the parking lot.
An easy one mile walk loops around the mountain, offering park benches for relaxing while gazing through the mist below. The trail actually goes on up to seven miles if you wish, hooking up with Old San Pedro Mountain Trail and McNee Ranch State Park.
But, we had another park on our agenda for the afternoon so we kept it short. After a little snack, we were on the road again.
I hope to see you at the state parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, a man who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick
April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012