Rockaway Beach to Francis State Beach

July 20:San Mateo County
Rockaway Beach to Francis State Beach. 16.8 miles

Marilynn Mariano is again our leader and today we are joined by Julie Groves from Los Gatos. The day begins with an ascent and descent over the ridge between Rockaway Beach and Linda Mar. Our route is a very new wheel-chair trail with many switch-backs and therefore very little grade.

We walk through the neighborhoods of Linda Mar and begin to follow the new approach route for the to-be-realigned Highway One. The Devil’s Slide area of the highway will someday be replaced by a tunnel through Montara Mountain, and the old route will become part of the coastal trail.

We walk up the old route for the coastal highway, so again the grade for us is easy. It is an absolutely glorious day – we can see back to Mt. Tamalpais to the north and from the summit ahead over entire Half Moon Bay region. The trail takes us down to the north end of Montara Beach, where we take our lunch. This beach is of coarse sand of a yellow sandstone color. The water in the breaking waves is light blue. The total effect is tropical. While we eat we can watch the many surfers who are catching the waves in front of us. After lunch it is a short walk up to the Coastal Affair Coffee shop and another break for our coffees to be individually brewed. For a day with a high total mileage, it seemed that we were always taking a break for one reason or another.

Then it is on to Moss Beach and a walk past the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and also past the Moss Beach Distillery, once a restaurant called Frank’s Place and, if the sign is to be believed, a spot where whiskey was smuggled onto the coast during prohibition. Prohibition having ended, the current business seemed to be thriving.

Then it was on to Princeton, a little town caught half way between the old fishing and fishing service ways and the new ways of tourism. There we met Jerry Wetle from Moss Landing, sometimes the captain of his own boat and now mate to his friend on the “Lady J”. The “Lady J” fishes for squid, and Jerry described the process and some of the rules: she is limited to 40 tons a day, which seems a lot, but she has to travel back to Moss Landing to unload her catch.

After Princeton, it was beach walking on fairly firm sand the rest of the way. It being Sunday afternoon and a wonderful day, the beach was being well used. The people on the beach were concentrated wherever there was access. Even with the crowds there was plenty of room on the beach; the parking lots are the limiting factor here. It is a little sad to walk along, knowing that our destination is a long ways away, and all the people we saw were already at theirs.

Julie, our day hiker, set a good example all day for handout distribution. We have an explanatory leaflet that we are supposed to give to the folks that we meet along the way – it tells a bit about our mission and how one can contact Coastwalk or view this website. It seemed as if Julie tried to give away all of our handouts in one day.

Finally, this was written at the end of an extension cord coming out of the bathroom at Francis State Beach. During the course of the writing, I got to chat with Mike McCann from Seattle who is bicycling from Whistler, B.C. to Ensenada and who had heard about our hike from others. We talked of the perils of using Highway One as a foot or bike path. He is attempting to raise funds for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and can be contacted through his website (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)