Want to get to a parking lot where you can watch migrating whales? Or see the surf pound against crevassed rock? Or walk a trail with scenic ocean and coastal views? With wildflowers at your feet?
Follow the signs to Westside Park and Bodega Head off of Hwy 1, north of the town of Bodega Bay. Take the road right around the harbor and when you’re near the opening between harbor to bay, go up the hill to the right all the way to the end. On a sunny day, like last Saturday, the place shines with color and excitement.
We thought we’d delay whale-watching and took off on a trail to the north. From the lot we looked up the hill and saw a herd of egrets pointed west.
The rain from Friday left some low spots on the trail soggy. The steeper parts are eroded, so this first section of the walk was not easy. But by keeping my eye on an egret, looking for wildflowers and stopping to look back at the ocean I gradually made it up the hill.
Gulls, crows and Turkey Vultures vied for flight space. The birds cruised on the updrafts from the beach below.
Buttercups dominated the meadow, with a few Seaside Daisies and Buckwheat. Baby Blue Eyes looked back. I think the reduction of the invasive Iceplant has made the meadows easier for these native plants. As the season progresses, I’m sure there’ll be more popping up.
At the ½ mile point is a trail crossing. (I used to think, I’d really done some walking if I got this far.) It’s 2.2 to the dunes and 1.2 mi to Salmon Creek beach. From this point we could see Doran Beach to the east. Saturday, there were six deer hiding out to eat in peace on the backside of the slope.
We continued north another .1 mile to the Horseshoe Cove overlook. This is the end of the trail. Leading to the overlook are meadows and an increasing number of rocks and rock outcrops. The meadows had Buttercups and Baby Blue Eyes again. Nearer the rocks, Footsteps of Spring were starting to bloom. These are a low-lying yellow ring of flowers.
At the overlook are more exposed rocks with colorful lichen making themselves at home. Wild Cucumber grew at the base of the rocks. The view from here does indeed overlook Horseshoe Cove where the Bodega Marine Lab is. We viewed the coast north, turned to our right to see Bodega Harbor and then Doran Beach.
We stood with the Whale Watch guides and other visitors and got to see the backs of two whales. The group “oohed” like it was a fireworks display. Thank the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods for the Whale Watch volunteers.
Behind the bathroom another path heads up and along the cliff. It’s a more crowded trail, but with the openness of the land here, you have no trouble seeing what kind of trouble you’re going to get into with ups (and downs on the way back). The dirt is eroded when it goes up (or down) and when the path is flat it’s just fine.
The meadows here also had Creamcups in the wildflower mix. The view of the ocean, cliffs, rocks, beach, and distant land was worth frequent stops. It’s a fine place for absorbing the beauty of this County.
We were informed on the way back to our car that the two large cypresses provide a well-protected spot in strong winds and a room-like peaceful refuge on any day. With a couple of miles travelled and lunch calling, we passed.
Driving back along the harbor we saw a heron, brants, and a coot armada standing off a less organized group of grebes. If I didn’t have a blog, I guess I should start marking my bird book with sightings.
See you on the trail!
Pictures by Mike Millar
Other interesting places out there: Spud Pt Marina, (could walk along cement pier around marina – crabbing spot), Westside Park (part of County Parks) with boat launch and campground. Bodega Marine Lab, open Fri 2-4pm. (belongs to UC Davis) at Horseshoe Cove. The next docent tour is April 16th. The San Andreas Fault runs through here. That’s why Bodega Head is the LA Side of the Sonoma Coast.
Closed Places: As of July 1, 2010, these should be open. Campbell Cove, now closed, after parking lot fix last year. This was to be the site of a nuclear power plant. Another parking lot up the hill is also closed.
Wheelchair: Not much here. Parking lot and access to picnic tables. Trails too narrow and uneven. Best to wheel around the marina.
Whales: Look for the green-vested Whale Watch people who can help you spot whales. They, the whales, go south from November to January and north in the spring.
Dogs: Nope. Not even on a leash here.
Bathroom: Solid building with real doors. Pit toilets. No water.
Food: Spud Pt. Crab Co. near Marina is great for the chowder. The Sandpiper restaurant has survived moving up hill from the old location. Good lunch and view at 1400 Hwy One in the small shopping plaza. Market there is also good.