This particular day, the fire department was doing an evacuation drill at 9 AM. We could hear multiple sirens and an announcement -- and we initially thought there must be a fire. We turned to look at the multi-million dollar homes on the hill across the other side of the beach. There were about four "rows" of roads on the side of the hill, each with a fire truck on it with sirens blaring, announcing that it was a drill (you couldn't hear the words at first, so it was scary in the beginning; in fact, some people behind us turned around, and I don't know if it was because they thought it was a real evacuation, or if the uphill intimidated them). It just added to the adventure for us.
The biggest drawback to this hike is that there is almost zero shade. I don't know what I was thinking but I did not put any sunblock on. I am burnt to a crisp today. The morning had a little haze but the sun was blazing by the time we were done. So make sure you have lots of water and plenty of sunblock.
Otherwise, this is a great place to hike. You get gorgeous views during your hike, then you can soak your sore tootsies in the ocean before you head home. Muir Beach does have bathrooms, but no sinks, so bring wipes or sanitizer.
The hike starts with a big uphill, then the trail splits. We chose to continue straight ahead to Pirate's Cove instead of heading up any further. Pirate's Cove has a little climb down to the beach. I've been there when high tide has removed the beach and you can only get to one of the cliffs. I've also been there when its completely out and you can walk out past one of the large rocks. This time was somewhere in the middle. You could climb down to the beach but you couldn't get around the rock from the ocean side. We walked to the other side of the beach and there was this awful smell. I could see large rib bones and vertebrae sticking out of the sand. Then I realize there is essentially a "melted" whale right in front of us. I've never been so close to a dead whale. We took some photos then sat down on the other side of the beach, away from the smell.
A few minutes later, a solo hiker walked up to us and asked if we'd seen the whale. We said we had but got up to chat with her and take photos. It turns out our new friend is visiting from Texas. (We reconnected with her later in the day and I am planning to meet up with her next weekend to hike around the Golden Gate.) So we went back over to see the whale. She is a molecular biologist so she was super interested in the whale's decomposition. We saw that one of the rib bones was up on a cliff. She climbed up so I could take a picture, and at some point, it fell down. Score! We picked it up to take more photos. Two things. First, it was a lot heavier than I expected. Second, it smelled so disgusting. I feel like I couldn't get that smell off me the rest of the day. I thought briefly about bringing it home, but I wasn't sure if it was illegal to take whale bones off a beach. Also, it would have been a rough two miles uphill with a heavy rib bone across my shoulders. And finally, the smell that would have filled my car for the hour and a half drive home may have killed me. As we hiked out, a lot of people were heading down to the beach. Apparently the whale is mentioned multiple times in comments on the AllTrails app, so many people were specifically there to see the rotting whale corpse.
The walk back was fairly uneventful. I would say that we saw a lot more people coming in than I ever had before. Not sure if that was due to the whale report, or the heat drawing more people to the coast. We finished the hike by sticking our toes in the sand down at the beach and chatting with our new friend for awhile before starting the trek home.
The heat in the East Bay is already getting into the 100's, so it seems like the summer hikes may have to be on the coast for the next few months. It was 84 degrees even as I left my house at 7 AM on Saturday. I can't really do many hikes here because most parks don't open until 8 AM and by then, it is already just too hot.
While I don't feel compelled to write here about every hike I go on, I do like to report on some of the more popular hikes that might encourage people to get outside of their comfort zone. If you have any hikes you'd like me to try, let me know in the comments!