Nude Awakening

Starfish at Alamere Falls


8-May 2004: At about 11:30am, we were past the overgrowth and back on the main trail. At that point, we started to notice some other hikers going in the opposite direction as us.

As we had gotten closer to the lakes and ponds section of the trail, Julie and I started to notice that some of the hikers weren't wearing clothes!

We had never shared a trail with nude hikers and we had to admit that it was kind of an uncomfortable feeling trying not to look and stare at the unusual scene. I'm sure had these folks been young and attractive (especially of the opposite sex), Julie might have forced me to keep moving.

But this first guy we encountered looked to be pretty old and wrinkly and probably into his 50s or older, and I didn't need to be forced to keep moving.

We politely said hello to him as we passed each other, but I had to stare forward and try not to make things any weirder than they already were...





Despite a pretty late check-in at our accommodation in Olema last night, we got up pretty early at around 6am. We had driven all the way up here after leaving from work after lunch yesterday, and it was quite a drive to get all the way up here. So when we were packed up and ready to leave, there really wasn't a whole lot of the town we got to enjoy. It was probably a shame because I'm sure we could've spent some time at least checking out the ocean views or trying to experience some of the beach town charm or other parts of Point Reyes National Seashore that was on offer here.

I guess it was just one of those things we'd look back upon as youthful ignorance at not slowing things down and perhaps being too narrow-minded in our pursuit of a particular goal.

That goal, by the way was Alamere Falls. We had been to Big Sur at least three times by now, and we had already seen McWay Falls each time. However, after seeing that there was another waterfall that spilled into a beach in our waterfalls guidebook, we had to experience it for ourselves, and that pretty much was the motivation for us to go all the way out here.

At the trailhead When we got into our car (we drove in my old trusty Acura Legend), we could see that it was foggy this morning. The fog seemed to dampen our moods a little bit in that we would wonder how much scenery we would be able to see.

Julie on the trail We arrived at the Palomarin Trailhead at around 7am. It was a very large car park but it didn't seem like there were that many cars. Clearly we were one of the first people (if not the first) starting off on the reported 8-mile round trip trail.

With the fog, it was a little chilly, but we were quite prepared with hiking attire and a light jacket, knowing that the long sleeves might prove useful when doing the last bit of scramble through poison oak overgrowth at the end of the hike (which we had read about in our guidebook).

So for much of the hike, it was pretty much just Julie and I as we meandered through a bunch of coastal Going through a grove of gum trees it appeared trees. I don't remember what kind of conversation we engaged in at the time, but clearly the presence of fog kind of limited our attention to just the trees and the trail.

It seemed like the sun was trying to burn through the fog at this time of day, but the blanket of fog was persistent.

A scenic part of the hike except the fog covered the ocean side About 15 minutes from the trailhead, we got to a part of the trail where we were past the initial grove of trees and the trail hugged what appeared to be coastal cliffs. We were at the top of the cliffs, and if it wasn't for the fog, it would've been a very scenic part of the hike, I thought.

Our conversation kind of shifted to how we imagined what it would've been like if it wasn't for the fog. Julie even mentioned to me that perhaps we came at the wrong time of the year or at least the wrong part of the day. And she was probably right.

One of the lakes encountered on the trail Well, whatever the case, we had to keep pushing forward since we were already here. We still had a waterfall to pursue regardless of the bad timing.

At around 8am or so, the trail had left the coastal bluffs and turned inland back towards some lush and green forest again. By now the sun was still doing its best to clear things up and we managed to pass by a series of ponds or lakes that kind of took our mind off the apparent monotony of seeing trees and fog for most of the first hour.

The overgrown part of the trail So with the little bit of diversity of scenery on the trail, time passed quickly again and it didn't seem long before we started to see signs again. This time, we saw a spur sign that pointed the way to the Alamere Falls Trail. And we could see immediately that it was going through a pretty overgrown and narrow patch.

Within the thin and narrow and overgrown part of the trail The follow-up sign before said, "Unmaintained Trail," so we figured this must be the poison oak part of the trail that Ann Marie Brown warned us about in her book.

So we dutifully donned our long sleeved jackets and proceeded onwards through this little grove of coastal overgrowth. We honestly couldn't tell what poison oak looked like, but we weren't going to take any chances so even though our own generated body heat was making us uncomfortably warm, we still kept our jackets on.

Julie descending to go further on the trail By the time we got to the end of the overgrown section about 15 minutes later, it looked like we had to do some fairy steep and rough scrambling to continue. Julie and I didn't think much of these obstacles. Perhaps what was more on our minds was that we could hear running water. Indeed, the waterfall must be near!

Julie continuing the descent with Alamere Creek below The scene also remained foggy so even though we could tantalizingly see beaches down below, we couldn't see much beyond the shoreline. We openly wondered how much more pretty the scene here would've been under brighter and clearer conditions.

The upper tiers of Alamere Falls When we got down to the end of the initial part of the descent, we were right by Alamere Creek. While we were on this bluff, we could see that Alamere Falls had some upper tiers along with wildflowers blooming along the banks of the creek.

Looking up Alamere Creek from further downstream While we continued exploring this bluff area, we could see that we were on top of the main tier of the waterfall dropping down to the beach. And that was when it dawned on us that this waterfall really was set in a very picturesque setting.

We could see Alamere Creek down below weaving its way through sand as it quickly joined the ocean down below. Meanwhile, there were what looked to be untouched and pretty pristine beach looking in both directions up and down the coastline.

Julie down at the beach already It was a shame that it was foggy when we were here, and we took a mental note to come back one of these days when the fog would be less present.

Looking down at the steep scramble to get down to the beach Anyways, Julie made the first move to start looking for a way down to the bottom.

It turned out that the descent to the bottom was past the creek crossing as it went down a pretty steep and rocky scramble down to the beach. The path looked a bit weather-worn, but the grip on our hiking boots to these apparently shale-like rock formations helped us a bit with our sit and scoot maneuvers to get over the mental hurdle of falling from heights.

At the beach Once I got down to the bottom and rejoined Julie at the beach, we spent some time just enjoying the muted beauty of the foggy beach. There were some stray logs here that seemed to serve as nice and moody photo subjects, which I took some time trying to exploit for some artsy photos.

A starfish Meanwhile, Julie noticed some starfish that managed to be stranded here by the tides. They felt rather hard and it made us wonder if they were dead or not because they were pretty much like a rock.

Looking back at Alamere Falls We took our time trying to look at and photo Alamere Falls from various angles. We could see that as the sun was trying to burn through the haze of fog, it was positioned against the falls. Clearly, morning wasn't the best time to come here, I thought.

Now on the other side of the creek looking back at the falls We then crossed the creek cutting through the coarse sand and took a few more photos of the segmented waterfall from the other side for another different perspective.

Looking back at the interplay of fog and the beach Looking back at the falls and what we were able to see along the coastline was certainly made moody by the fog. In fact, it was kind of interesting to see the interplay of the movement of the fog as the boundary between what could be seen and what was blanketed was constantly changing.

Last look at Alamere Falls In any case, it was about 11am when we finally decided to leave this place. We knew we would be back at some point in the future.

Another look back up the Alamere Creek towards the upper tiers of Alamere Falls The way back up the cliffside scramble didn't seem nearly as psychologically intimidating as on the way down. Before we knew it, we were back up to the bluff trying to capture more glimpses of the Alamere Falls' upper tiers as well as the top of its lower tier.

Our last look at Alamere Falls over what appeared to be ice plants Indeed, we knew it was time to leave since we were headed home after this hike, but we found it was a bit difficult to leave.

At about 11:30am, we were past the overgrowth and back on the main trail. At that point, we started to notice some other hikers going in the opposite direction as us.

As we had gotten closer to the lakes and ponds section of the trail, Julie and I started to notice that some of the hikers weren't wearing clothes!

Back on the main part of the trail We had never shared a trail with nude hikers and we had to admit that it was kind of an uncomfortable feeling trying not to look and stare at the unusual scene. I'm sure had these folks been young and attractive (especially of the opposite sex), Julie might have forced me to keep moving.

But this first guy we encountered looked to be pretty old and wrinkly and probably into his 50s or older, and I didn't need to be forced to keep moving.

We politely said hello to him as we passed each other, but I had to stare forward and try not to make things any weirder than they already were.

As Julie and I turned to each other and made some banter about nude hikers (long after the guy was further down the trail, of course), we then spotted another couple approaching us with another old guy in the nude but the woman was fully clothed.

So once again, we had to try to be on our best unweirded out behavior while being cordial at the same time. Clearly we weren't prepared for this, and I'd have to say that this was going to be one of those stories that no one would believe us because we didn't take photos (I don't think they would've appreciated it either).

Even though public nudity on a trail was weird to us, we thought it was also weird that the fog kind of kept temperatures in the 50s and 60s. We thought these folks must be freezing, but they didn't seem to be the least bit fazed by the weather.

We also wondered if they might have been from Berkeley or something since I recalled seeing a nude student while touring that campus when I was trying to figure out which university I was going to attend. We thought there must be something about Berkeley and nudity. So we openly speculated whether they came down here from there.

Part of me was kind of smiling inwardly because I thought of this song by the B-52's called "Theme for a Nude Beach." And I thought, how appropriate!

Still foggy along the coast as we got closer to the trailhead Still, the notion of being totally free (and I guess clothing was in some way a type of social pressure) did kind of make us confront what it meant to truly be free. I guess these elder folk were totally comfortable in their own skin and had enough self belief to not care what others would think. Or then again, maybe they thought there was a secluded beach out here and the number of people hiking here would be minimal, and hence the free expression.

So it wasn't until about 12:45pm when we finally made it back to the Palomarin Trailhead. Even though the blanket of fog was still thick, when we started driving south towards San Francisco, we could see that it was actually turning out to be a pretty nice and sunny day.

Most of the drive southwards through the city by the bay involved following a long caravan of slow moving cars, but when we got to Mountain View, we met up with Julie's good friend from her USC days. They moved up here a couple years ago and they were still doing renovations to their new home.

We'd eventually have a late lunch together and that was when we relayed to them the nude awakening we were exposed to on the hike out. That got the husband a bit PO'ed saying there was no place for that, but I guess since he was kind of an interesting mix of atheism and conservativism (he was totally from the right), I could understand his strong reaction to our story.

Anyways, it was good seeing Julie's friends, but next, we had to make the long drive home. We debated whether to do the scenic route along Big Sur, but we eventually decided to just take the I-5 all the way home as we still wanted to sleep at a reasonable hour...



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