December 25, 2017

Go Tell It on the Mountain

I was having trouble summoning any holiday spirit in the Bay Area this year. No desire to hear the music. No interest in baking cookies. I even felt half-hearted about pulling out my treasured decorations.

My good friend and chief biking buddy, Ms. C, suggested a stroll through Christmas in the Park, which features many traditional Christmas trees decorated by groups large and small. As well as some non-traditional trees, California-style.

The last concert in the Season of Giving series at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph featured the Harpers Hall Celtic Harpists. The program ranged from the local to the traditional, with selections from around the world—almost as diverse as the faces in the audience. Children enthusiastically embellished Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (“Like a flashlight!”). I chimed in for Silent Night; luckily there were plenty of voices to carry Feliz Navidad (note to self: learn the words). We both felt drowsy at the same time, and agreed that the Carol of the Bells was the piece most suited to the instruments.

The past two years have seen us exploring the coast in Half Moon Bay on Christmas Day; this year, Ms. C suggested we try something new: Montara Mountain. We followed the Gray Whale Cove trail first, for the coastal view. Although it didn't seem that we'd climbed all that much, we were soon looking down—way down—at the parking lot where we'd started. We saw lots of gray clouds, but no whales.

And while this would seem to be an unlikely way to spend Christmas, the parking lot filled up and many fellow hikers (and mountain bikers) greeted us sincerely with “Merry Christmas!”

The mountain lies within the expanse of McNee Ranch State Park, which (despite its size) is treated like a footnote to Montara State Beach.

There are no facilities. No posted trail maps. No pamphlets. A few signposts at some junctions, that's all. We asked some descending hikers how much farther to the top of the mountain, and were surprised when they said a few more miles. Having foregone a recommended short-cut, I wasn't entirely surprised; Google Maps confirmed our fellow hiker's estimate, so we soon chose to turn and follow a different route back to the car. The trail was steep, and sandy; challenging enough with our hiking boots and walking sticks. A trio including an older woman outfitted with ordinary running shoes hiked past us; we couldn't imagine how she'd fare on the way down. In the distance, the Farallons were just barely visible.

We were satisfied with our 5.2 mile hike. The mountaintop will wait.

1 comment:

  1. Montara mountain is also a great place to bike. I've done it Southbound from the end of Higgens Way, up and over, and down to highway 1 on my roadbike. Once upon a time it was a/the paved road (1920s?) before the highway existed.