This post is from May 2010, but I’m very into spring and there’s no place like the bluffs between Wright’s Beach and Furlong Gulch for some beautiful wildflowers.
Wrights Beach is downhill to the left after turning off of Hwy 1 north of Bodega Bay. There’s camping and miles of beach. This is part of the Sonoma Coast State Park that stretches 17 miles from Bodega Head to Vista Trail. Unfortunately, some of the access is closed due to state budget cuts. (2016 update: most are reopened.) High tide can make some of the beaches small and getting from one to another impossible or dangerous.
We prefer the high road – or Kortum Trail. Off to the right after turning off Hwy 1 at Wrights Beach is a small parking lot. The walk from here to Furlong Gulch is the longest walk – over 2 miles round trip without any drastic ups and downs. A perfect walk for me and there are now signs that indicate grade change, path width and distances.
The first part of this trail is a wide hard-packed gravel road. There’s a great view of the coast to the north. Sunday the sky provided extra interest. Along the way we spotted lupines, blackberry and thistles just starting to bloom. Hedge nettle (a stacked pale purple flower with mint-like leaves), owl clover and seaside daisies were well into bloom. The poppies weren’t quite open for the day, but two turkey vultures perched on posts were trying to pretend there was enough sunshine to dry out their wings.
In less than half a mile, the gravel road circles in a turnaround and a dirt and grass path goes off to the right heading inland towards Hwy 1. Nearer the road there’s a boardwalk over this wetter part of the area with fern, horsetail, vetch and meadow foam. Directly over the creek, we could hear the water. At each creek crossing along the trail the vegetation is different. Lots of wild radish and mustard prevail, though we could see a wild rose down creek.
The trail heads back to the ocean through coyote bush. Along the bluff, buttercups dominate. At ¾ mile the trail splits. To the left are steps down to the beach and to the right the Kortum Trail continues along another creek. Calla lily blooms and blackberry bushes abound. At the bridge, I could see and hear the water. The area was lush with Twinberry, Thimbleberry and blooming Western Dogwood and monkey flowers.
When the trail comes to a road that looks like a parking lot, we turned left towards the ocean, the vegetation is lower and there are fewer bushes. Blue-eyed Grass is everywhere with Sea Thrift spotted around the meadow. At cliff edge above the beach, Seaside Daisies, Red Maids, a few strawberries and Indian Paintbrush bloom. The ocean and gulls move below.
Just over a mile is an overlook to the ocean and a grand beach at Furlong Gulch. If you can handle the steepness down to the beach, it is well worth a visit. The rocks have amazing colors of green serpentine and red rock with intertwining quartz. (Do I have to know my rocks too?)
On the overlook Goldfields outnumber the Buttercups for a fine yellow carpet. The Footsteps of Spring have faded away for the season. In another week or two the bush lupines will undulate in purple mounds, cascading down the cliff walls. They’ll be amazing for a couple of months along with the other bushes in the gullies as the other flowers fade. We’ll come again as we love to be amazed from Wright’s Beach to north of Shell Beach. It’s our favorite stretch of coastal walk. Ocean and flowers. What could be better?
Get out the guide books and id those plants!
In Bloom: Blue-eyed Grass, buttercups, Calla lily, checker mallow, cow parsnip, dogwood, goldfields hedge nettle, meadow foam, monkey flower, morning glory, mustard, owl clover, poppies wild radish, wild rose, Sea Thrift Seaside Daisy and vetch,
Will bloom more: Blackberry, coyote bush, Indian paintbrush, Lupine, Mule Ears Strawberries and Thistle
Will bloom: Sea Lettuce, Twinberry and Thimbleberry.
Not bloomers: Fern, Horsetail.
This is a sign after my own heart.
On the gravel road portion north of Wrights Beach, I’m sure a wheelchair could handle the trail. I’m not so sure about the other parts. Let me know.
Photos by Mike Millar.
See you on the trail!
For more of coastal walks – click Sonoma Coast.
Bathroom: Down hill at Wrights Beach or near the parking lot at Shell Beach.
Food & coffee: Since we came back via Hwy 116 to Guerneville, we stopped in Duncans Mills. The car now stops on its own at Gold Coast, so I can have a Café Cubano. We had slices of pizza too.
Meanwhile back to walking…