Carmel Mission Ranch, Carmel River Beach, Hike, Scenic Drive

Scenic Drive – Walk Between December Storms

Scenic Drive Carmel Beach Walk photo BeachWalkDecember14201410_zpsafe0f65f.jpgBetween two storms.
Time to get out and walk Scenic Drive
from Ocean Avenue to Carmel River Beach. 
Scenic Drive Carmel Beach Walk photo BeachWalkDecember1420141_zps9c1e801e.jpg

Not the only one with this idea. Scenic Drive Beach Walk photo BeachWalkDecember14201413_zps9d026695.jpg
Beach at Thirteenth Avenue
 taken back by the ocean.
Scenic Drive Carmel Beach Walk photo BeachWalkDecember14201419_zpseb5dbbd8.jpg
Walker House with Carmel Beach in the distance.
Scenic Drive Around Point photo BeachWalkDecember14201433_zps0cc11ed1.jpg
Round the Point to Carmel River Beach.
Carmel RIver Beach photo BeachWalkDecember14201494_zps45547b75.jpgHiding in the reeds in
 Carmel River Wetlands Bufflehead Carmel Wetlands photo BeachWalkDecember14201437_zpse352161a.jpg a family of Bufflehead out for a swim.
Carmel River Beach Breach photo BeachWalkDecember14201453_zps9917d298.jpgSomeone casts for Steelhead as the
river breaches the dune.
Carmel River Beach Breach photo BeachWalkDecember14201467_zpsea5ce30b.jpgI consider crossing the river stream
to hike Carmel Meadows.
  The next wave shouts, not a good idea! 
Mission Ranch From River Beach photo BeachWalkDecember14201478a_zps19bcbf83.jpgThe Mission bells chime 11AM Mass
and my attention turns to toward the wetlands.
Mission Ranch photo BeachWalkDecember142014114_zps5ba4283d.jpg I decide to detour off of Scenic Drive
and walk home via Dolores.
  But first a stop at Mission Ranch. 
Mission Ranch photo BeachWalkDecember142014109_zpsc1d3b1f6.jpgThere is something so fascinating about
Mr. Eastwood’s wooly sheep.
Mission Ranch photo BeachWalkDecember142014123_zps27904a99.jpg
Gaudete in Domino semper!

Carmel, Carmel Meadows, Carmel River State Beach, Crespi Cross, Hike,

Wildflower Hike to the Portola Crespi Cross – Carmel River Beach

The river too is quiet, except when the winter floods rage down the valley to battle the waves across the sand-bar, or surge out in a tremendous bore through new-cut channels. At most times it spreads out like a placid lake, and trickles into the adjoining water-meadows. Here among reeds and tough grasses the pools reflect every changing hue of sky and clouds, and the shadow of the hills lies darkly.”
 (Una Jeffers describing the Carmel River Wetlands)

The historic Portola Crespi Cross is an easy one mile loop that can be reached from either the Carmel River Beach (Carmelo and Scenic)  or Carmel Meadows (Highway 1 and Ribera Road) see map.  

Today we hike from the Carmel River State Beach.  The first thing when making the hike from this side at this time of year, is to look southwest toward the highlands 

to see if the Carmel River has broken
through the sand bar.

If it has, care should be taken to make sure not to be trapped on the Crespi Cross side.  The picture below shows the river flowing to the ocean from the Carmel Meadows side in April of 2013. 

Though this does happen, 

Today this will not be a problem. With an unseasonably high temperature of 78 degrees, the entire town has descended upon the river side of the beach. 

 Our destination is the field 

of yellow beyond the beach and 

the Portola Crespi Cross.

On our hike we will first pass the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands, a protected sanctuary for migrating birds.  This lagoon is formed by the opposing forces of the Carmel River and the Pacific Ocean.  This force is also what causes the Carmel River to periodically break through the sand dunes, as shown in some of the earlier pictures.  

While the ocean currents continuously deposit sand on the beach, the lagoon rises and falls according to the seasons. During the summer and fall the lagoon waters are low, tule reeds visible two feet above the marshy wetland water.   (Below  the Mission Ranch is seen in the distance during the summer over the lagoon.)

After winter rains, in early spring the lagoon is high and the tule reeds barely visible with most of the beach on the lagoon side covered in water. Below a Mourning Dove observes the high waters of winter over the lagoon. 

Walk past the lagoon
 and scan the reeds for Mallards.

 By the shore watch for Sandpipers. 

In the distance on the sand bar,
look for the meeting of the gulls.

Today the gulls appear to have invited a couple of Caspian Terns noticeable in the back. 

At the end of the beach,
climb the stairs to the loop trail

 to the Portola Crespi Cross.

Which is still in the distance.

The trail is clearly marked and goes in a circle. During wildflower season this is a spectacular hike. Word of caution, stay on the path! 

 There is a lot of poison oak,
and the only way to be sure of avoiding it,
 is to stay on the path. 

Since moving to Monterey County two years ago I have taken advantage of the Let’s Go Outdoors program a life long learning program for all ages.  It is here that I was introduced to the wonders of wildflowers (and numerous other things in the wild). Through the direction and knowledge of Michael Mitchell and Susan Hubbard the art of identifying the gazillion varieties of wildflowers became manageable.

Michael and Rod M. Yeager, MD, wrote Wildflowers of Garland Ranch – a field guide and manage an incredible web site Monterey County Wildflowers, Shrubs and Trees

Susan Hubbard, of the California Native Plant Society, lectured on the identification of wildflowers and their families. The information provided in this lecture made identifying flowers easier, by breaking everything down to the basics.  


The predominate flower on this hike is the yellow Field Mustard. There is an urban legend surrounding this plant.  It is said that Blessed Father Junipero Serra introduced the Field Mustard seed to California by scattering it as he walked from mission to mission.  As the years went by the seeds provided him with a “golden pathway” between missions. 

Mixed with the Field Mustard is the purple Wild Radish.  

Wild Radish and Field Mustard are both from the same family.  One of their distinguishing characteristics is that their four petals form the shape of a cross.

There are about 25 different forms of Lupine found in Monterey County.  I believe this one is Summer Lupine (don’t hold me to that). Lupine’s are a member of the pea family and they have flowers that look like Pac Man.

There were a whole gathering of Lupine
hanging out by the stairs and the
Angler Survey box. 

Besides the Pac Man shape flowers notice the palmate leaves. A palmate leaf is like a circle with leaflets growing out of the center. Remember it by thinking of the palm of your hand.

The next few wildflowers are a bit harder to spot.   So be on the lookout for Red-stemmed Filaree, a member of the geranium family.

Fun fact about the Filaree is their seed dispersal method.  The long seed heads in the picture will coil into a twisted tail; the seed at the end.  After the tail dries and falls to the ground it will act like a corkscrew, responding to wet or dry conditions, alternating between coiled and uncoiled, eventually planting the seed in the ground.  Amazing!

Don’t overlook our state
 flower the California Poppy.

Or the Seaside Fiddleneck which
 gets its name from
 the curve in the neck of the flower.
Think of the neck of a Violin.

They also have distinctive leaves
with sharp hairs and bumps.

The Fiesta Flower was a common corsage for women of Early Monterey. On their way to the fandango, a gentleman would pick a flower from the Fiesta Flower plant and place it on his dates lapel. The small “hooks” on the stem and leaf would stick to the fabric, becoming one of the first corsages. 

The Morning Glory always reminds me of my sister, it is just a joyful flower. Morning Glory’s varieties have different leaves.  This one is the Beach Morning Glory, you can tell because the leaf is kidney shaped.  

Sticky Monkey Flower
Who names these things?  
It is easily recognized by its bright orange
 tubular flowers that almost always are in pairs.

Beside wildflowers, be on the lookout for the large boulder which points the way to the Portola Crespi Cross. 

This cross is one of two crosses erected in 1769 by Captain Gasper de Portola and Father Juan Crespi. You may read more about the history here.   

From the location of the cross the view north 
over the Carmel River Wetlands is spectacular. 
When ready follow the path back down past 
a hillside of Seaside Coastal Paintbrush.

 The Coastal Paintbrush is from the
Broomrape family which can be parasitic.  
Parasitic or not, it is stunning in bloom!

If all goes according to plan you have
 made a full circle ending up back at the
top of the stairs to the Carmel River Beach. 

Until next time, get outdoors!

Photography – L. A. Momboisse –
Quote (Una Jeffers 1938 – From Jeffers Country, page 12)

Big Sur, Hike, Lighthouse, Lightstation, Point Sur, Point Sur Lightstation

Point Sur Lightstation Walking Tour Part II


In 1939, the United States Coast Guard became responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all lighthouses including Point Sur.  When the station was automated in 1972, the lighthouse keepers were no longer needed and left the station.

In 1984, the Coast Guard turned over all but the lighthouse, oil house, and mess hall, to the California Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1987, volunteers began giving tours of Point Sur and in 1993 the non-profit Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers (CCLK) was formed to assist the state in restoring Point Sur Lightstation.

CCLK has no paid employees, yet it is due in part to their work with the State Parks that complete restoration of the carpenter/blacksmith shop (1999), the barn (2000), water tower (2001) and head keepers quarters (2012) has been accomplished. Because of the work of CCLK and all the volunteers we are able to tour this incredible location today!!!! 

After a one hour hike, on a magnificent January day,
 we arrive at the Point Sur lighthouse.

Our tour began in
the Fog Signal Room.

Originally this room housed the two boilers used to generate the steam for two fog whistles. Now the room is filled with informational placards and vintage equipment.

In order to help mariners determine their location as they travel the coasts of the United States each lighthouse is built with a unique look. When inclement weather or fog makes visual identification impossible, each lighthouse is also equipped with a unique fog whistle sound pattern and light flash pattern.


In the early days of Point Sur lightstation when the fog whistle was necessary, it would take 45 minutes to generate enough steam from the boilers to fuel the steam for the whistle.  The lightstation would go through a lot of wood, notice the wood pile in the picture below taken in 1907.

In the 1930’s the steam whistle was replaced with the Diaphone air horn which produced a two tone “bee-oh” sound. The picture below shows the Diaphone horn used at Point Sur from 1935 to 1960. 

The boilers in the fog signal room were replaced with large machines that produced the compressed air for the Diaphones.  The picture below shows this machinery inside the fog signal room in 1939.  

In the 70’s the Super Tyfon (a horn named after a mythological Greek Giant who apparently howled loudly) was installed.  It consisted of two compressed air horns that sounded simultaneously and could be heard up to 3 nautical miles away.  


For 83 years, from 1889 to 1972, the Point Sur lighthouse was lit by a First Order Fresnel Lens.  Today the original lens, which stands 18 feet high, weights 9,570 pounds and contains 586 glass prisms can be seen at the Museum of Monterey.

The Fresnel lens was a complex system of glass prisms that bent light and magnified it. Before the invention of the Fresnel, the brightest lighthouse beam could be seen only 8 to 12 miles away. The light from the Fresnel was visible to ships over 23 miles away.

At night the lens would rotate around five wicks lit by kerosene.  As the center “bulls eye” of the lens passed in front of the wicks, the light would get very bright.  As it rotated away from the wicks, the light would dim. 

The 9,570 pound lens was rotated by a weight mechanism similar to that of a grandfather clock. 450 pound weights were suspending down a center shaft (shaft shown in the picture below) to the base of the staircase. A light-keeper would crank these weights every four hours at night to keep the light working.  

Another innovation made possible by the Fresnel lens was the ability to produce individual light patterns.  This gave each lighthouse its own unique light signal.  Point Sur’s light signal is a flash every 15 seconds.  

In 1972 the Fresnel was replaced with the electric incandescent lamp shown in the picture above. In 1975 the incandescent lamp was replaced with the Aero-Beacon which is still in use today.  Although the equipment at Point Sur is now automated, the lighthouse still performs its historic function – guiding mariners along the Big Sur Coast. 

John now invites us to climb
 the spiral staircase to the lantern room.  

In 2001, with the help of grants and of course our tour fees (which are quite nominal with what we get in return), the lantern room was completely restored by the International Chimney Corporation.  Those who are able to make the climb are rewarded…  

…with a never ending vista,
spouts of the migrating Gray whale,
and sea lions frolicking in the kelp.

From the top of the lighthouse we view the steep set of stairs we will take to reach the lighthouse keepers living quarters. These stairs were built in 1945, prior to that the lighthouse keepers reached their living quarters by a dirt trail.   

Stairs now lead to the living quarters on the lightstation. 
The carpenter/blacksmith shop,  

originally built in 1907, was restored in 1999

 to look as it would have in 1929.

Next door is the barn which is now used as a classroom for school children on field trips. Restored in 2000, it’s actual building date is unknown.

The picture below shows the barn in the 1950’s when this building was used as a recreation center. The carpenter/blacksmith shop is to the right.  
The picture below shows the two buildings today. 
The water tower (shown in the picture below) was built in 1907 to store water high enough to provide water pressure for the new flush toilets installed on the 3rd floor of the assistant keepers’ quarters.

The redwood supports on the original water tower were milled in Big Sur.  When the water tower was restored in 2001, redwood supports large enough to support the replica tower were not available locally, so the restored supports were milled out of Northern California. 


Lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the two building shown below.  The one to the right is the head keepers and the one to the left the assistant keepers.  Though living quarters had indoor plumbing by 1907, they did not have electricity until 1949.  

The picture below shows head keeper John Astrom (center) and his wife, Alice in 1916. There were a number of children living at the Point Sur, most under school age. 

Only one family lived in the head keepers quarters

 which was renovated in 2012.

Inside the rooms have been renovated to depict what life would have been like on Point Sur in the 1950’s.  Using photos from the 1950’s of the kitchen…

the renovation looks pretty authentic down to the coffee pot. Being Baby Boomers, my husband and I enjoyed touring this renovation….

finding something in every room that reminded us of our childhood.  The phonograph…

Erector Set!…

and yes, parents did smoke in the bathroom.

Next door to the head keepers quarters is the assistance keepers quarters, three apartments, one on each floor.  

Currently money is being raised to renovate this building, with the idea of making each floor depict a different era.  

Our last stop is the Point Sur Visitors Center, where one may view more informational exhibits and a very informative video on the U.S.S. Macon.  

By the end of our four hour tour my pedometer had clocked 2.25 miles.  Our decent was easier and faster than our accent…the view, still spectacular!  

The tour of Point Sur Lightstation is another hidden treasure in Monterey County. Well worth the price of admission!!!  Special tours and events are held throughout the year, check their web page for tour details. 

One of the best resources on Point Sur is the book Images of America Point Sur by Carol O’Neil, wife of our fearless tour guide John O’Neil.  It is available on Amazon.

  And now a video recap
and a map of our hike on Google Maps



All photos and video by L. A. Momboisse except listed below:
– Black and white photo United States Coast Guard  

– Black and white photo from 1907 showing the wood used to power the steam engines for the fog whistle. (Images of America Point Sur, Carol O’Neil, Arcadia Publishing, 2003, p63, photograph courtesy U.S. Lighthouse Society)
– Black and white photo from 1939 showing the machinery that produced the compressed air for the diaphones. (ibid. p 71)
– Black and white photo from the 1950’s of the barn and blacksmith/carpenter shop. (ibid. p 101)
– Black and white photo of head keeper John Astrom and family from 1916. (ibid. p 111)

– Black and white photo head keeper quarter World War II era (ibid. p 97)

Big Sur, Hike, Lighthouse, Lightstation, Point Sur, Point Sur Lightstation

Point Sur Lighstation Walking Tour Part I

Gray whales have the longest known migration of any mammal, traveling around 10,000 miles round trip between the Arctic and Mexico every year.  During their migration, the entire Gray whale population migrates within three miles of the Monterey coastline every winter and spring, as they pass through the Monterey Submarine Canyon to feed.  January is peak season for observing their migration south.  And Point Sur is a perfect on land observation post.

Our tour starts at the multi-padlocked gate 18.6 miles south of Rio Road on Highway 1.  This is where we wait for docent tour guides from the Point Sur Lightstation to met us.

Docents direct our caravan to follow the road which cuts through an area covered with low sand dunes,  European Beach Grass, and

cattle from El Sur Ranch who appear to be our greeters. No car gets passed #158 without his okey dokey.

The El Sur Ranch was originally Rancho El Sur an 8,949 acre Mexican land grant deeded by Governor José Figueroa to Juan Alvarado in 1834. Juan Alvarado went on to become Governor of Alta California.

Since 1955 the now 7,000 acre ranch is owned, run, and preserved by the Cortlandt Hill family. The Hill family granted an easement to the State Parks System across their ranch from Highway 1 to the lightstation.  It is this easement that makes it possible for our cars to reach the base of Point Sur headlands.

Access to Point Sur is by guided tour only, reservations are NOT accepted.  The number of people is limited for safety reasons and to preserve the sense of isolation.  Arrive early to this California Registered Historical Landmark #951, it is worth it.

After our cars are safely backed into the hill we meet our guide, docent John O’Neil.  He prepares us for our hike, 1 mile round trip, with a 360 foot elevation gain, one spiral staircase and one steep stairway with two parts, the longer having 61 steps. 


Point Sur Lightstation sits on top of a large rock that has been a mariner’s landmark since the days of the Spanish explorers.  The rock was first sighted by Juan Cabrillo in 1542 and Viscaino described it as “a point that appears as an island,” in 1602.

After California became a state in 1850, a survey of the coast was ordered and taken by the Navy. The large rock mariner’s landmark became “Point Sur” taking its name from the land surrounding it, El Sur Rancho.

In 1866 President Andrew Johnson reserved this site for a lighthouse.  But funds were needed for construction. One of the factors in attaining the funds would be the wreck of the Ventura in 1875. Between 1886 and 1887, Congress would appoint $100,000 for construction of a much needed lighthouse. 

But before anything could be built, the top of the rock (about 80 feet) had to be blasted off to level space for construction. The buildings were finished in 1889 and the light lit on August 1, 1889. Point Sur, known as a lightstation rather than a lighthouse because there are multiple buildings on the site, has been in continuous operation ever since.    


One of the initial construction problems was how to get materials up the 360 foot grade without a road.  The decision, build a hoist railway from the beach, up the southeast face of the rock, and across the top of the rock between what is now the head keepers quarters and the assistant keepers quarters.  The picture above shows the area today. The picture below shows the area around 1889 after the railway was built. 

Next to the railway a set of 396 stairs was constructed. Those people who worked or lived on the lightstation used these stairs daily. 

In fact everything made the trip to the top of the rock via the railway or the stairs.  That included all the stone used to build the structures on Point  Sur and the equipment necessary to run the lighthouse. 

The stone, originally quarried in the valley of the Little Sur River, was brought to the base of the railway by wagon. Most of the equipment came from San Francisco by ship, making difficult beach landings before offloading their cargo.  The Fresnel lens came from Paris by ship, making its journey without breaking even one of its 568 glass prisms.  

The beach and the buildings in the pictures above and below, part of the Point Sur State Historic Park, have an interesting history.  

The buildings seen in the distance in the picture above are the former Point Sur Naval Facility. Established in 1957, the Point Sur Naval Facility used the gray building to the right without windows to passively listen for Soviet Submarines. Wires from this building stretched 25 miles out to sea to 30 hydrophones. The Navy became very accomplished in identifying specific submarines off the coast, until senior warrant officer turned spy John A. Walker spilled the beans on a huge number of Navy secrets, including the Point Sur Naval Facility.

In 1993 the Naval Postgraduate School established the Ocean Acoustic Observatory at the former Naval Facility for the purpose of undersea research.

Now back to the railway. By 1900, many of the components of the system needed to be replaced. The expense of these parts led to the abandonment of the hoist railway system. It was time for a road.

Men used pick, shovel and dynamite to clear space in the near vertical sides of Franciscan Greenstone to build the road we walk on today.

The road remained dirt (see picture above) until 1984 when it was finally paved. With the road, supplies could be shuttled from the beach by horse and buggy up to the top of Point Sur.


But beach landings were still a challenge for supply ships. So engineers began looking for a place on the side of the rock below the road to build a platform.  On this platform they would build a docking system that could lift supplies directly from the water.  

Around 1915 once again the rock 
was blasted and a ledge
 cut to support a platform. 

The picture below shows the platform, along with a new railway that would be used to transport the supplies from the landing to the road.  Supply ships would no longer have to navigate beach landings. 

Now ships off-loaded their supplies (packed in barrels that would float, in case they fell into the water) into small rowboats.   The boats pulled near the platform and attached the barrels to a long arm which swung out over the sea.  The barrels would be lifted to the platform, loaded on the tram car, and shuttled to the road. Needless to say, getting supplies to Point Sur was an arduous task.  

As our group continues up the road, someone calls out “Spout!” The Gray whales have begun to show themselves.  “Typically,” our guide explained, “when Gray whales come up for air, they blow out water and get in fresh air.  They do this three to five times in a pattern for about a minute then you will see the fluke before they begin their dive.”  More spouts would be spotted, and one fluke, as we made the accent to the lightstation.

Our next stop was to view a memorial plaque for the USS Macon which crashed in the waters off Point Sur in 1935. 

This brought history home for me.  Living in the Palo Alto/Mountain View for 51 years Moffett Field was literally in my backyard.   I was fascinated to learn that the Hanger One I passed on a regular basis was built for the USS Macon.   

In 1935, during a cross country trip, the USS Macon damaged all four of its tailfins.  Two were repaired before the ship returned safely to Mountain View. 

On February 12 while returning to Mountain View from fleet maneuvers, (the other two tailfins had yet to be repaired) the Macon ran into a storm off Point Sur. Wind shear would cause structural failure to the unrepaired tailfins.

Knowing they would have to ditch in the ocean, the Macon rose to an altitude where it could release helium to allow the craft to descend gently into the sea.  The Macon sank off Point Sur. On June 24, 1990, the wreckage of the USS Macon was located off Point Sur by the U.S. Navy submersible Sea Cliff.  

Our guide John informs us that besides the USS Macon there have been a number of shipwrecks off Point Sur, enough to earn this point the title “Graveyard of the Pacific,” and that “once we turn the next corner we will have left civilization behind, just whales, the bark of sea lions and sometimes a sighting of a porpoise or killer whale.”


In the distance (above) we finally spot the lighthouse (far left), carpenter/blacksmith shop (second from right) and barn. The picture below shows same the location c. 1929 with the original narrow roads.

We continue our hike to the lighthouse and pass below the water tower, assistant keepers quarters, and head keepers quarters.

At the fork our hike will continue along the lower road which has been blocked to cars and trucks.

It is clear that there is not much flora on Point Sur, yet John is quick to point out Point Sur’s forest, one lone Monterey Cypress.  “It is a very harsh environment for plants.  When you get up to the top you will notice most of the plants are very low to the ground, that is because the wind here averages 25 miles an hour 24 hours every day.  So on a day like today when we have almost no wind and perfect viability, we are going to have a day with 60 mile an hour winds to balance it out. And that will keep the plants down.  It is what we call wind pruning.”  

Next we pass the oil house built around 1907.  Prior to that time the kerosene was stored in the lighthouse. Once the oil house was built, the kerosene was piped into the oil house through a pipe in the roof from a landing almost 1,000 feet away.

The light keeper would gather the kerosene in a brass pitcher and take it up to the lighthouse to light the station.   

Just a few hundred yards and we will be at the lighthouse. The aerial photograph* below shows clearly the path for our hike. On our accent we took the lower road on the far west side of Point Sur. After viewing the light house we will climb two sets of steep stairways then further ascend about 1/4 mile to the blacksmith/carpenters.  You may view a Google Maps of our hike here.

Point Sur Lightstation Walking Tour Part II


All Photos by L. A. Momboisse except photos listed below
-Black and white watercolor picture of Point Sur by Lieutenant Alden, U.S. Navy, labeled “El Sur, Cali, June 14, 1859. (1:00pm.), East.” This is one of two images showing Point Sur before top of rock was removed. (Images of America Point Sur, Carol O’Neil, Arcadia Publishing, 2003, p10)
-Black and white photograph of hoist railway around 1889. (ibid, p10)
-Black and white photograph dirt road (ibid, p23)
-Black and white photograph of finished landing with hydraulic hoist by U.S. Coast Guard. (ibid, p27)
-Black and white photograph of Macon in Hanger I at Moffett Field – Moffett Field Image Gallery 

*Aerial taken in 2008 by John L. Wiley found on Wikipedia – credited as requested by John L. Wiley. 
Garland Park, Garzas Canyon, Hike,, Let's Go Outdoors, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Walking Tour Carmel

Garzas Canyon – Focus on Wildflowers Hike – Let’s Go Outdoors

One of the best kept secrets for getting outdoors is the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park Districts Let’s Go Outdoors! hikes.  I say it is one of the best kept secrets because the usual cast of characters shows up for each hike.  Not that I don’t enjoy their company, we have developed quite a nice camaraderie, but I also think it is nice to share.  

The Garzas Canyon Focus on Flowers would be my fifth Let’s Go Outdoors activity since moving to the area in June of 2012.

To reach our starting point, coming from Carmel on Carmel Valley Road, pass the main entrance and Visitor Center for Garland Park, turn right onto Boronda Road.  This cuts through a lovely grove of eucalyptus trees  (shown in the picture at the top) and over a one lane bridge.  Turn left onto East Garzas Road.

There is ample parking on the outside of the trail.  The trail map above shows our hike outlined in yellow. And just as a side note, there are over 50 miles of trails in Garland Park and we are only walking 3 1/2 miles of them. 

Our hike was to have been led by Michael Mitchell, a MPRPD volunteer naturalist and co-author with Rod M. Yeager, MD of Wildflowers of Garland Ranch – a field Guide.   Apparently this was prerequisite reading, because many of my fellow hikers showed up with this text already in hand. Not to worry, I still have time to catch up for next time – I purchased my text on the way home at Griggs Nursery.  Anyway back to the hike…

At the last minute Mr. Mitchell was unable to join us so our hike was led by Gordon, with assists from
Paulette and Rick.  Paulette is very knowledgeable about the trails of Garland Park and quite good at flower identification.  Rick is very knowledgeable about birds (he can speak their language) local history, and  entertains us with his captivating stories of local flora and fauna.  He also can mimic a mountain lion which got all of our hearts pounding. 

Gordon, who is quite young at 88, amazed us all, not only with his ability to identify even the tiniest of wildflowers, but with his amazing stamina on a clearly strenuous (at least I thought it was) 3 1/2 mile hike with a number of steep climbs both up and down. 

Off we set on an early Saturday morning in late March. Before getting behind the fence to begin our hike, I had to ask the identity of a vine which I had spend the majority of the previous day removing from my garden.  It had appeared almost overnight and invaded our yard so thoroughly it was even reaching up and pulling the Acacia limbs down to the ground. 
The answer, an aggressive vine called Wild Cucumber, or Man-root because the roots of this plant can become almost as large as a man.  Looks like I will be pulling this out of our yard next year.

Next Gordon pointed out Poison Oak cautioning us not to touch this because 95% of the population is allergic to the oils on this plant (even when green).  Gordon, assuring us that he is one of the 5%, gently plucked a leaf from the plant and popped it into his mouth.  When asked what it tasted like, he deadpanned, “poison oak.” And with that we were off on our hike.
In the open field Gordon points out
the tiny white Popcorn Flower
(which I was never able to find),
purple Sky Lupine 
and Meconella the petals of which
alternate in color, cream and yellow.
We leave the open field and the habitat
quickly changes as we begin
our assent through the oaks. 
Gordon leads the way, naming plants
that prior to today, I am sorry to admit,
 I considered nothing more than weeds.
Take this patch for instance
after an hour on the trail I am actually
able to spot the
Padre Shooting Star
(upper left, mid right)
and Parry’s Larkspur (dark blue one
next to the purple one).  A flower that ends
in “spur” means that it has petals that
grow together and form a long
 “spur” (point) at the end.
  Gordon  navigates our hike by using the
carefully placed trail markers.

We continue on Garzas Canyon Trail
looking for the gate to Terrace Trail.
No horses on this trail, but dogs are allowed.
Terrace Trail crosses East Ridge and we stop (finally)
for a water break at the top of Redwood Canyon.
Rick, our bird docent, points out two
 Red-tailed Hawks
soaring effortlessly high above us engaging
in what apparently is a courtship dance.
 But no time to lollygag Gordon gets
 us back on our feet.
 We are on our way to find
 the fields of Indian Warrior.

Not to be confused with
Indian Paintbrush which we saw earlier.
 Our hike continues, at a rather rapid steep decent,
 into Redwood Canyon as
 we follow the Las Garzas Creek,
traversing back and forth over four
seasonally available wooden foot bridges.
We will follow the
tranquil Las Garzas Creek
 to the gate connecting to Garzas Canyon Trail,
and through the open field (where we began).
With my new found
ability to identify wildflowers I spy 
California Goldenfields, I think.
As a novice, I am open to correction.

I never did see the elusive Popcorn Flower
(thank goodness for Wikipedia).
I highly recommend Let’s Go Outdoors! Unless the popularity would mean that I am unable to join in the fun. Or maybe the popularity will lead to more hikes and more adventures. 

I have put together a pdf list of the wildflowers we saw on our hike and when possible have matched the name with a photo.  This exercise has encouraged me to take off on my own…stay tuned for there is so much of God’s Green Earth to discover.   Pax.

Photos – L.A. Momboisse 2013

Carmel Meadows, Carmel River State Beach, Crespi Cross, Hike,

Hike to the Portola Crespi Cross

The Portola Crespi Cross can be reached by two different hikes; one from the Carmel River State Beach at the intersection of Scenic and Carmelo in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the other by following Highway 1 south to Ribera Road in Carmel Meadows.


In order to understand the signifcance of this cross we have to go back to 1796 when Jose de Galvez, Visitador-General of New Spain selected a fourfold expedition to travel by land and sea from La Paz to Monterey.  

As the ships, the San Carlos and San Antonio prepared to sail, the land divisions set out.  The first in late March of 1769 under Captain Rivera y Moncada and Fr. Juan Crespi. The second on May 15 under the command of Captain Gasper de Portola and Fr. Junipero Serra.

On July 1, 1769, the last of the four expeditions, Portola and Fr. Serra arrived in San Diego.  They found a camp of scurvy-ridden men from the San Carlos and San Antonio.  This discovery necessitated a change in plans. Those who were well enough to stand and board the San Antonio would sail back to La Paz and Fr. Serra and the expedition’s surgeon, Pedro Prat, would stay in San Diego to care for the gravely ill. The remaining 64 would continue overland on July 14th with Portola and Fr. Crespi.
By October the overland expedition had passed unknowingly by Monterey Bay failing to recognize the area as described by Vizcaino in 1602.  They continued all the way to San Francisco Bay before turning south and retracing their steps to two small bays withing five miles of each other.  In December 1769, they erected two wooden signal crosses, one by each bay.  Buried underneath was an account of the expedition in case someone came upon the crosses.

Portola and Fr. Crespi returned to San Diego by January 24, 1770, finding the settlement in a far worse condition then when they had left six months earlier.  But now they were convinced that where they had left the two wooden signal crosses was indeed Monterey Bay described by Viscano.

On March 19th,  the final day of a Novena to Saint Joseph, the San Antonio arrived in San Diego with the provisions necessary for Fr. Serra and Portola to make their way back to Monterey.  

On Easter Sunday 1770, the San Antonio set sail for Monterey with Fr. Serra and Miguel Constanso.  Portola and Fr. Crespi went overland 460 miles and arrived at the bay of Carmel River ahead of the San Antonio.  It is here that Fr. Crespi found the cross he had erected near the bay on the bluff above the river.  Surrounding the cross were gifts of food and arrows. 

Fr. Crespi recorded in his diary of this occasion:  “When the neophytes spoke Spanish well enough to be understood, they on various occasions explained that the first time they saw our men they noticed that every one wore on his breast a small glittering cross; that when the Spaniards had gone away and left this large cross on the shore, they dreaded to approach the sacred sign because at night they would see it surrounded by brilliant rays which would even dispel the darkness; that the cross appeared to grow larger so as to reach the skies; that in the daytime, when it stood in its natural size without the rays, they would approach it and offer meat, fishes and mussels in order to enlist its favor, lest it should harm them, and that, when to their amazement they saw that the cross did not consume those things, they would offer their plumes and arrows in token of their desire to be at peace with the people who planted it there.” (1)

Hike from Parking Lot of Carmel River State Beach

This hike, about one mile round trip, is fairly level except for a small climb to reach the actual cross.  During this winter and early spring when the mouth of the Carmel River connects with the salt waters of Carmel Bay this trail is not recommended. 

The rip-tides on the beach side are very dangerous.  When the water covers the sand bar use the hike from Carmel Meadows described later. 

Before leaving the parking lot, stop to read the information boards on the Carmel River Lagoon, wetlands, and wildlife.  Pay special attention to the caution regarding staying in the “safety zone” and away from the “danger zone,” the steep beach face and dangerous rip-tides. 
Look across the sand and river where it reaches for the sea, in the distance on top of the bluff is your destination, the Portola-Crespi Cross.

Depending on the time of year this view will be different. In the winter and early spring, the Carmel River flows through the sand to the bay (see picture above).  From the late spring to fall a sandbar interrupts the river’s flow to the Carmel Bay (see picture below).
To reach the cross from the Carmel State Beach side you have the added attraction of the Wetlands Natural Preserve, a protected sanctuary for migrating birds, shorebirds and ducks such as the dabbling Mallard and his mate, 
 the American Coot which nests in this freshwater habitat,

the striking Snowy Egret and possibly a Willet,  
bathing Brown Pelicans amongst Heermann’s and Western Gulls,

and the tiny but swift moving Snowy Plover.

Walk across the sand of the Carmel River State Beach the estuary (seasonal lagoon) to your left,
with the marsh beyond and the waves of Carmel Bay to your right – careful not to upset the gulls…

…too late

At the southern end of the Carmel River State Beach stairs ascend to the top of the bluff. 

Here you will find a dirt path that cuts through the coastal sage scrub, mixed with poison oak, to the Portola-Crespi Cross.
 Hike from Carmel Meadows
When the Carmel River makes it difficult to cross from the beach side, you may reach the Cross from Carmel Meadows. Head south on Highway 1 toward Big Sur.  In less than a mile turn right onto Ribera Road in Carmel Meadows.  Then in half a mile turn right onto Calla La Cruz which dead ends.  Park here and look for the entrance to a paved path that leads past a hillside of highly invasive and heavily packed ice plant intermixed with poison oak. 
The trail will wrap to the left and come to an “intersection” where continuing straight will take you to the rocks over Middle Beach. 
Or turn right at the rock marker and continue on up the hill to the cross.  
Whichever way you arrive at the end of this hike, before returning from whence you came, take in your surroundings at the top of this bluff. You are standing at the sight of the signal cross placed in 1769 by Captain Portola and Father Crespi.

Look north to the white sand of Carmel River State Beach…

…and south to the jagged rocky shore of Point Lobos.

(1) The Carmel Mission by Sydney Temple, page 11-12