April 21, 2018


Point Reyes National Seashore

Carol writes:  We left the San Francisco Bay Area with the conviction that in terms of shear beauty and ambience, the “Golden Gate City” had endured as one of our favorites.  

Nevertheless, after a plentiful overdose of city crowds and notorious Bay Area traffic, we were eager for a more natural setting.  We discovered that we could find no backdrop more dazzling and gratifying than Point Reyes National Seashore!

Prior to entering California, we had seen very little rain during nearly 3 years on the road, but that was about to change in northern California where  Pacific rain events tend to roll in with early  springtime regularity.  When we checked in at our campground in tiny Olema, California, smack dab along the San Andreas Fault, 

we were quite shocked to hear from the owner that, except for ours, all of her reservations for the next few days had been cancelled due to a possible historic rainfall that was predicted to be 4-8 inches!  She assured us our site would “probably” be safe from campground flooding but that she would knock on our door during the night if the creek that bordered the campground really busted its banks, as it did 3 weeks ago…

That left us about 36 hours for some lookin’ around before hunkering down…

What struck us the most about our new camping “home” was just how much the surrounding countryside resurrected memories of our days in Scotland.  The springtime rolling green hills, barren of trees but well populated with contented grazing animals, must have also reminded early settlers of the resemblance to Scotland, for close-by villages reflected their Scottish heritage in their town names (Inverness) and street names (Argyle).

In addition to tourism, the local economy also seemed to be dominated by the dairy industry.  Supremely contented cows by the hundreds of thousands were frequent occupants of the rolling hills.

It stands to reason that happy cows would make delicious cheese, and we found that to be the case when we tasted the soft and mild Marin French Cheese, made by “the oldest continuously operating cheese manufacturer in the United States,” as cited in Wikipedia.

At Point Reyes National Seashore, we started with the “Earthquake Trail” near the Visitors Center.  The historic San Francisco earthquake of 1906 displaced the ground by 16-20 feet of movement along the San Andreas fault, which was dramatically indicated along the trail.

Hmmmm…. for the next two weeks we are camping right on the San Andreas fault; I think I will put that fact deep into my bag of Things to Worry About.  Meanwhile, right on schedule the next night, the so-called “atmospheric river” rain event dumped on our campground.  

Thankfully, we had nowhere near 8 inches of rain, but sadly, almost all campground business was put on hold until the flooding receded…  However, as promised, we stayed “high and dry.”

When flooding along Highway 1 had abated and it was safe for cars to navigate once again, we took a trip to an old Nike missile site like the one Al’s Dad worked at when he lived in Wilmington, Ohio, as a young teenager.  It was a Saturday and the old-timers were on site to offer fascinating commentary about their working years at this site on the Marin headlands.  Displays for the visitors included:

historic launch trailers,


and a real working unarmed Nike-Hercules missile 

that was dramatically raised to launch position 

from its underground bunker.

From the docents, we heard accounts about how during WW II the city of San Francisco was heavily fortified against feared, but never materialized, enemy attacks.  Concrete bunkers from that era, just like the German ones we saw above the beaches of Normandy, still dotted the hillsides.

When blue skies moved in, we hit the trails of Point Reyes National Seashore with “serious intentions,” and we were certainly well rewarded!

Tomales Point Trail, at the most northern tip of the Seashore, soon ranked as one of the most superlative shoreline trails we have ever hiked.  

Starting at the historic Lower Pierce Point Ranch,

within minutes, the trail was engulfed with spring wildflowers. 

Just a few hundred yards more, we had our first inkling of how thrilling the scenery would be.

A puzzling, nearly straight line of clearly human-positioned rocks offered us a grand lunch spot for some crackers and French bread topped with some of that soft Marin French Cheese.

This sighting of a small herd of rare tule elk, which have been reintroduced successfully at Point Reyes, was the exclamation point on this most remarkable hike.

This 5-mile roundtrip hike toward the scenic point of Tamales Bay definitely hit the all-time Top Ten in our book…

We discovered that with blue skies and cloudless sunny days, almost any hike at the ‘Seashore’ was memorable.  And so it was on the Chimney Rock Trail at the opposite end of the Point Reyes peninsula above Drakes Bay, named in honor of explorer Sir Francis Drake.

A short word about Sir Francis Drake and his connection to this area… As one of the most famous navigators of his day and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, for better or for worse, waged ruthless sea battles to award England supremacy on the seas.  He had earned notoriety as the first English captain to successfully navigate the globe.  Commentary in the museum mentioned that it was most likely at Drakes Bay (and not San Francisco Bay) where Sir Francis Drake prepared his ship, the Golden Hind, for the voyage back to England.

To our delight, it was along this trail above a bay with fascinating connections in history 

that we succumbed to wildflower pics overload!  We sure tested our camera skills and steady hands using the ‘macro’ setting for taking wildflower close-ups.  

My Wildflowers folder acquired many entries from Point Reyes.  I have led off with a favorite of many hikers—the California Poppy, especially the ones with orange centers surrounded by yellow petals…

My personal new favorites were the scarlet pimpernel,

along with Douglas iris, checkerbloom, and delicate pussy ears.

For good measure, the Chimney Rock area had a small beach covered with resting elephant seal pups.

The treacherous waters surrounding Point Reyes certainly justified the need for a lighthouse, and there has been one here for well over a hundred years.  The hike toward the lighthouse viewpoint provided the must-have photograph at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The lighthouse itself was at the bottom of more than 400 stairs, so we decided that the view from above was far better than the one from below…

Surely, this was solitary duty only a lighthouse keeper would love.

The Coast Trail is one I will remember for two reasons.  For starters, due to a momentary lack of attention, I slipped in the mud at a very treacherous spot on the trail where I was distracted by a black-tailed deer that Al had spotted.

Fortunately, I had no lingering medical issues with landing forcefully on my lower back, but the camera in my fanny pack wasn’t so lucky.   I was mindful that my previous experience with “lens errors” didn’t end well.

On the bright spot, we had a perfect lunch spot all to ourselves right above the beach,

with a couple of snake sightings on the hike back to keep it interesting.

We didn’t think Point Reyes National Seashore could have been holding back too many more extraordinary hikes, so we were happily surprised on the trail to Abbotts Lagoon.

We passed through a wild dune-like setting,

then spied a dramatic abandoned lunch spot on a deserted beach with an untarnished setting...

Before we moved on to our next “home for half a month” at Bodega Bay, we made a quick trip back toward San Francisco to visit Muir Woods, a place that held fond memories for Al during his early Navy days.

Despite the odious requirement of having to reserve a parking space online in order to visit, we were happy we made the effort to see one of the few remaining uncut stands of giant redwood trees so loved by Congressman William Kent and conservationist John Muir, whom I have quoted often in my blogs. 

William Kent & John Muir

As a member of Congress, William Kent was responsible for introducing legislation that created the National Park Service.  Along with his wife, he purchased the land at Muir Woods and named it in honor of John Muir, then donated the land to the federal government in order to ensure permanent protection for the old-growth redwood trees.

Incredibly, these towering redwoods managed to retain their natural majesty along a tasteful walking trail 

that did not seem to detract from a most peaceful setting.

And so, my closing meme is a nod to the sorrel undergrowth that thrives in the moist conditions under the towering redwood canopy at Muir Woods.

Redwood Sorrel

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