Week 14: Cataract Falls-Potrero Meadows Loop

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This was one of our favorite hikes in 2013 and we bookmarked it to return in the Spring for the wildflowers. The drive up was breathtaking as usual (views of the city, Sutro Tower, the Bay/East Bay, and the Pacific Ocean), and the hike was just as diverse as we recalled. But the recent rains, which meant gushing streams and waterfalls throughout the hike, weren’t enough for the wildflowers in the Meadow and it was just as brown as the last time we visited. Regardless, it was still a good 8 miles through many types of vegetation.

The hike starts easily, through a very lush and green shaded portion of the trail. You walk alongside a creek, which was flowing nicely after the past few weeks of rain.

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After a little bit, we found ourselves at Cataract Falls, which were barely a trickle 6 months ago. The “running” theme of this hike was the amount of running water – there were streams, falls and creeks along most of the trail.

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After the falls, the trail cleared of people. We let Lina off her leash and she was surprisingly well-behaved, though a little impatient at our slow pace. One man noted “that little dog has 4-wheel drive!” She’d walk ahead, turn around and give us a look of incredulity that we were so far behind, wait for us to catch up, then scurry up the trail.

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After a mile or two of shaded trail, you emerge onto the side of the hill and follow a narrow trail carved out of the grasses and ferns. The views are stunning and taunt you with a sliver of the Pacific Ocean and Alpine Lake in the distance (at least I think that’s what they are).

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The trail winds through Manzanita thickets that provide some shade,

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and Manzanita bushes that are fully exposed to the sun. Most of these Manzanitas were in bloom and the air was full of buzzing as the bees pollinated.

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Despite the lack of wildflowers on the hike (though we noticed as we left that the hillside was covered in California poppies that opened between our arriving and departure), there was plenty of other new growth.

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The flowing water made it all feel wonderfully alive, though it wasn’t exactly Lina’s favorite part. Here, she waits for us to assure her that crossing the water is necessary to continue on the trail.

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