Monday, May 23, 2016

San Francisco Bay hiking: Sweeney Ridge

TOO often we overlook the bounty in our backyards. It’s probably the result of the natural cycle of life, getting so immersed into the routine that it becomes difficult to hit the pause button to glance around at the wonders beyond the porch.
My friend Don Carroll had the most potent antidote for the malady of routineness. He preached to his beloved wife Joyce and their children a simple, yet elegant, sermon: “Look how we get to live today.” Yeah, look at them mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding, creating a slice of paradise in their Santa Cruz Mountains home. To the end, Don constantly reminded his loved ones to grab hold and cherish everything near and dear.
We certainly enjoyed the precious moments of hiking and biking among the redwoods and mossy rocks and surfing along the craggy Central Coast.

I thought about all those fabulous times on a chilly late May day while embarking on a head-turning hike in the Sweeney Ridge section of the Golden Gate National Parks. The slender finger of scrub-covered wilderness points its windswept tip toward crowded Daly City and San Francisco in the near distance. But up here on the hilly ridges and ravines, it’s easy to ignore the teeming humanity that has covered the landscape to the north.
The network of trails here have one particularly quality: visitors get vistas of the San Francisco Bay to the east and the mighty Pacific to the west. This is as close to a manageable bay-to-sea hike as there is. Starting above SFO in San Bruno, I traipsed up the eastern rampart overlooking San Andreas Lake and the Diablo Range of the East Bay in the distance. Once at the summit take a short diversion trail to the south to visit the historical stone marker citing the location of the first-known view of the bay by the Portola Expedition. It’s called the San Francisco Bay Discovery site. The Ohlone People, however, might question the distinction as they knew about the massive bay for years and years before the Spaniards “discovered” it.

Heading north along the ridge the trail descends sharply after one mile into Pacifica’s Shelldance Orchid Gardens before crossing Highway 1 to the terminus at Mori Point.
The ridgeline is about 1,200 feet in elevation so don’t worry about oxygen deficit. But expect some thigh burners if Mori Point or the western park entrance is the turnaround destination. It’s an unrelenting climb back to the ridge along a shadeless, stony path.
The east-to-west trail ends at the sea, but it’s still some distance to Pacifica’s commercial areas to the north and to the south. So pack a lunch instead of planning to find a nice seaside cafe, as appetizing as it sounds.

San Andreas Lake

Pacifica Pier juts into the ocean just beyond Highway One.

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