Half Moon Bay and Other Coast Visits

Tennesee Beach Hike

One of our favorite hikes is the Tennesee Beach hike in the Marin Headlands. It is a short hike down to the beach, which is only a few hundred yards wide and surrounded by magnificent cliffs. At low tide one can navigate a small point to another beach. But must of the time, it is just fun to listen to the sound of the water as the waves crash and caress the beach.

Looking north at Tennesee Beach.

A view to the north. If you look carefully, there is a hole where the next set of cliffs can peek through.

Waves on Tennesee Beach

One of the more spectacular waves crashing on the beach.


Cindy at the beach.

Cindy's Romantic Birthday at Half Moon Bay

For Cindy's birthday, I kidnapped her and took her to Half Moon Bay. We stayed at the Mill Rose Inn bed and breakfast. It was a fancy place with very nice rooms, complete with feather beds, a fireplace and a spa. We stayed in the Botticelli Rose room, which had a sea shell motif that Cindy's mother would like.

On Saturday, we went for a 6 mile hike on the trail from Big Basin to the sea and visited the Pigeon Point lighthouse. We had a wonderful dinner at Pasta moon (excellent Frito Misto) and hung out in the spa. On Sunday, we went to see the Elephant seals in AŅo Nuevo State Reserve.

Mill Rose Inn

The front of the inn when we got there. Note the overcast sky, which made us feel as though we were back in Ithaca. It did rain Saturday night, but the rain mostly held back during the day (unlike Ithaca).

Botticelli Room

This was the bedroom that we stayed in. The bed was very comfortable, and there were flowers everywhere.

Big Basin to the sea trail

The trail starts at the sea and goes up to Big Basin. There are backpacking camps along the way that people can reserve. This picture was take shortly after we started our hike, looking east towards Big Basin. The trail follows a river that cannot be seen here.


Along the way, we saw these flowers which we believe to be snowdrops.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

On the way back from our hike, we stopped at the Pigeon Point lighthouse. We got a tour that took us to the top (all 136 steps).

View from the top

The view from the top of the lighthouse.

AŅo Nuevo and the Elephant Seals

AŅo Nuevo State Reserve is devoted to the preservation of the Elephant seals. These animals come to the beach to give birth, mate, and raise their young. During this season, one has to get reservations for a docent lead walk, usually weeks in advance.

AŅo Nuevo Lighthouse

The tour starts at the parking lot, and goes to a meeting place near the Elephant seals, which is a about a 20 minute walk. This picture was take near the beginning and shows part of the coastline to the park, with an island containing the ruins of the AŅo Nuevo lighthouse. It used to be a point, but the surf has erroded the land bridge between the lighthouse and mainland.

Bull Elephant seal lying on the beach

The first animals that arrive at AŅo Nuevo are the bulls. What they do is to stake out a territory that is above the high water line where they believe is optimal for the females to give birth. The females will choose these areas, give birth, nurse, come into heat, and mate with the dominant males.

The first step to establishing a territory is saunter up to an open area and plop down in the middle. Because these animals will remain in the same place for 3 or 4 months (and lose up to 1500 lbs), they need to concerve energy, which they do by sleeping.

Bull Elephant seal vocalizing on the beach

Every 10 to 30 minutes, the bull will defend his territory, or bachelor pad, by raising his head and vocalizing. If he gets no challenges, he goes back to sleep.

Bull Elephant seals sparing on the beach

If he is challenged by another bull, they then will fight. They do this by presenting their proboscises to each other. Since their proboscis is directly proportional to girth, the seal with the bigger nose wins. If this isn't obvious, they then go after each other's noses. The one that is nose bitten loses. Here, two juveniles are mock fighting with each other.

Elephant seals on the beach

This is the more typical scene, with bulls, cows, and pups on the beach. Can you see the island of males surrounded by females and their pups?

Juvenile on the path

On the way back, we were greeted by this juvenile.