One of my favorite traditions within The Circle of Trust & Beer is raising a glass to the Rookie hikers at each of our post-hike beerings. With a toast and a tip of the glass, they are Rookies no more.
For it is at that precise moment that first-time hikers with our group become advocates themselves. More than 80 percent sign up for another hike within two months, and as they matriculate from Rookies to One-Hike Wonders to Two-Timers and beyond, they become ambassadors, a few hikers at a time, for the Bay Area's world-class regional and state parks.
As we approach our second anniversary, the time has come for The Circle to share the love with a wider audience.
Saturday on Montara Mountain, we begin filming for Hills & Hops, a show that will introduce a Bay Area TV audience to our brand of fun: thrills in the hills, followed by cheer and beer. Montara just happens to be the spot where my warped 2015 memoir, "Climb. Descend. Repeat." begins and ends. Read the first three chapters here.
In order to acclimate the film crew with the ways of The Circle -- and vice versa -- we'll actually be spending two days on Montara -- this hike and the one that follows eight days later (Aug. 10).
The post-hike watering holes, however, will differ. For this hike, we'll be heading through California's newest engineeringmarvel, the tunnel at Devil's Slide, to party at a place we've never hit: The Surf Spot in Pacifica.
Before RSVPing, please be aware that everyone on filmed hikes will have to sign a release allowing Brirish Productions to use your image in the show. But fear not; this is going to be big fun. After getting acclimated, you won't even know that the cameras are there.
If you find yourself on our Waiting List, read this to pass the time.
LENGTH: 6.8 miles (round trip)
VERTICAL GAIN: 1,774 feet.
TYPE OF HIKE: Out-and-back, the preponderance of the trail on fire roads.
PLANNED STOPS: The camera will introduce a new element to the hike, so we may be stopping to film stand-ups at various locations. But we'll do everything in our power not to slow down the pace. Our planned stop is for a 25-minute lunch near the peak (pictured above from our mid-year 2013 Montara hike).
TIME ESTIMATE (WITH STOPS): 3.75 hours.
From the north: From Highway 280 in San Francisco/Daly City, exit at Highway 1, drive through Pacifica and through the recently opened Devil's Slide Tunnel. The 30-car parking lot will be on the left after emerging from the tunnel:
From the south: From Highway 92 on the Peninsula, turn right at Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay and drive 9 miles - through HMB, El Granada, Moss Beach and Montara. The 30-car parking lot will be on your right. NOTE: This is not Montara State Beach (which you'll pass).
Montara Mountain rises above breathtaking Gray Whale Cove and the dramatic stretch of ocean between Pacifica and Moss Beach. It's just south of California's newest feat of engineering -- the 4,200-foot Devil's Slide Tunnel, which opened in March 2013 after six years of construction.
Our hike climbs steadily above the Pacific, at first on a crumbling, easy-grade ranch road, then, when the mountain reaches its steepest stretch, along a wide fire road that's perfect for walking astride your fellow Trustees. It’s here that you’ll be encountered, up-close and personal, by hawks, seabirds and the occasional condor -- many of them seemingly motionless in Montara's competing crosswinds.
But Montara's trademark is fog, dramatic and swift, moving at speeds that can be disconcerting and exhilarating -- making hikers feel as if they've taken wing. It's entirely possible to start the hike in glistening sun, be overrun by renegade, pea-soup fog in mid-mountain and then be basting in the sun's rays again at the top. It gives Montara a personality unique among Bay Area hikes.
The entire route consists of jaw-dropping ocean views ... although the peak, straddled by a fenced power plant, is a bit anti-climatic. No matter. It'll probably be shrouded in fog.
The Surf Spot in Pacifica is like no other post-hike watering hole we've ever hit; with an outside volleyball court, band stage and a green for bocci ball and the like, it's easy to forget that the whole thing is staged in the parking lot it shares with a bowling alley.
This place is all about celebrating the great outdoors, and the menu is pretty innovative.