Francis State Beach to the San Gregorio Country Store

July 21, San Mateo County
Francis State Beach to the San Gregorio Country Store. 12.8 miles

Thanks to Jon Zaugg, Maintenance Chief here at the State Beach, we are able to start our day by sending out yesterday’s log. Jon’s help is typical of the support we have been getting from State Parks all along. That and the truck honks as Parks personnel pass us along Highway One. It definitely makes us believe that we are not in this alone; that together we will get this trail done.

You can get a sense of what the Parks folks have to deal with on a daily basis by reading the white board in the office. Notes ranged from a warning that seedy characters were hanging at a certain parking lot so beware, to the birth announcement of three new plover chicks at Francis Beach.

After meeting up with Carl May, our day hike leader, we began by walking along the bluffs.  At first, we were in fog but soon after starting it burned off revealing a flat sea. At first, the trail was asphalt, but it soon changed to dirt. The State Park lands adjoining the trail wind through old agricultural fields separated by windrows of cypress. Now the fields have gone to primrose, mostly yellow, but with occasional pink blooms. In one, radio-controlled model airplanes go through barrel rolls and other aeronautical tricks. There is no underlying bedrock here, only soft material, so there are areas of extreme erosion along the bluffs.

We were soon stopped by a gap in the Coastal Trail. Ocean Colony, a fancy golf-oriented gated community has a mandated trail running through its property but we could only walk it starting from the south. On this development’s northern edge lies Strawberry Ranch: thus there is a ¼ mile space between where we were and where the trail is. We were forced to walk inland along Redondo Beach Road. However, it was just as well today: coming towards us were 50 or so members of the “Hike for Health” group out of the Santa Clara County Adult Education program. We met Willie Wool, their day leader and Coastwalker, who introduced them to us, and Linda and Diana return the favor. Then they continued on their way to Princeton and we to San Gregorio. We later met their leader, Jon Menard and bus driver Bill Addison who was anxious to move his rig down to Princeton and shop for fresh fish for dinner. Jon organizes a hike for this group each Monday.

Our morning break was at the trailhead to Cowell Ranch Beach. The Cowell Ranch was sold to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in 1986. In 1989, the property was transferred to the Coastal Conservancy and after conservation easements were established the land was sold to a private party. Access and bluff trail easements now exist. Soon after, we ran into 4 POST people in a Jeep scouting property for vertical easements from the Skyline area down to the coast.

Lunch on the lawn at Lobitos Creek was provided by Shasha and Mike; they had read of our trip and were happy for us to bivouac for a bit near their house.

Our entire afternoon walk was on Highway One or on back roads. We walked at the edge of the fog; sometimes it was too hot for a jacket, the next moment more than cool enough. We ended at the San Gregorio General Store where we could get coffee and ice cream. Ginny went a step further and donned a fine straw hat, one of those cowboy affairs that looks like its been slept in (or on). It is amazing that a hat brim can be bent in so many different ways and still be considered new. (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)

Left: Half Moon Bay Trail challenges Max. Right: Expedition meets Willie Wool’s hiking class.