We spent most of the day at Point Reyes, visiting the lighthouse, sea lions, sea elephants and spectacular, rugged coast.
03.15.2008 - 03.15.2008 60 °F
How did I fall so far behind on the Blog! It's mind boggling, I thought I was working on it almost every night? Anyway, back in the last century when we visited Point Reyes, CA...
Before we left Samual P. Taylor State Park, I figured I'd better take at least one shot of the redwoods. They were all over, quite tall, and stradled the road out from our campground.
I was going to just drive past Point Reyes National Seashore today and try to make some progress, but the visitors center was only 1/2 mile from Hwy 1 - so thought I'd at least stop by there. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera into the visitors center however - there was so much information and so many displays my brain quickly overloaded. One thing we did learn is that we were visiting during the peak of the grey whale migration season. It seems we've been pacing them as we've driven up the coast - have yet to spot one however.
Of course, after checking it out, the place looked just too interesting to skip, so we spent most of the day there... The place is too big to see it all in one day, so I prioritized. We headed to the Lighthouse first, then would decide what else to visit depending on how much time was left. The Lighthouse is a long drive from the visitors center. When we got there, the Park Ranger saw Mom's handicapped hanger and opened the gate for us so we could drive up almost to the top (most folks have to walk that last 1/2 mile or so). Even so, Mom decided not to get out of the RV, so I backed it up so she would have a nice view of the beach below while I walked around. This is the view she had, so don't feel too sorry for her.
As I walked on up the hill, I passed a small block of apartments for the Park Rangers, which were rather normal looking. However, I wouldn't mind living there for this view!
From there, it was an easy walk around the rocks to the top viewing platform. Because of the whale migration, volunteers were on hand to assist visitors. However they said it was too windy to spot whales today, so they would be leaving shortly (24 had been seen the previous day). It is always windy here, in fact Point Reyes is considered the foggiest and windest point in the United States (good arguement for needing a lighthouse). Today the winds were only about 30 - 35 mph, but they average between 25 and 40 (or more), so this was just business as usual for Point Reyes. We didn't see any whales while I was there (or we did see them, but couldn't tell the difference between whale spout and white caps because of the wind). We were probably 'in the presence of whales' as another tourist mused.
Anyway, the lighthouse is below the viewing platform. There are 308 steps to get to it and two fairly long, steep ramps (not counted in the steps). The sign at the top warns that it is the equivalent to climbing a 30 story building and not to attempt it if you're not up to the climb! Of course, I couldn't resist the challenge -
Although I'm not sure the climb was as challenging as the view - parts of the climb were straight down on both sides! At the bottom was just rocks and surf - no soft sand to cushion your fall here...
The wind was something else. I'd be climbing by a rock bank, then suddenly come out from it's protection to an unprotected stretch and just about be blown off the steps! It shapes the rocks more than any other force here. In fact, the unusual rock formations have helped scientists conclude that Point Reyes actually belongs to Los Angeles - not northern California. It has broken off the continent and moved north (over the last 20 million or so years along the San Andreas fault! The ranger suggested if I wanted a job there (so I could live in the apartments), just wait another 20 million years or so and it would be in Washington.
The wind is so bad at the point itself that very few plants will grow. One lighthouse keeper's wife tried to grow a garden, but as soon as her carrots started to sprout - the wind blew them away. One of the things that does grow is the red alga, called "rock violets". I saw it in several places. (Yes, this is considered a plant.)
But all this is just to get to the Lighthouse, so down the steps I went.
This was built in 1870 and remained in service until 1975. It has a first order Fresnel Lens with 1,032 pieces of hand cut crystal that weights 6,000 pounds. The light tower isn't very tall because it sits on a cliff well above the sea level (a recurring theme in west coast lighthouses, I'm finding).
It was quite cold and windy, but I spent as much time there as I could taking in the dramatic coastline, looking for whales (fruitlessly), and taking yet more pictures of waves and rocks.
Fearing Mom would think I'd fallen into that surf if I didn't return, I finally headed back up. Couldn't resist one more shot of the wind blown tree's along the approach. I'm not the only one, just about everybody seemed to take pictures of this one.
From here, we drove back down the main road until we saw the turnoff for Drakes Bay. This was named for Sir Francis Drake, who spent five weeks in this area exploring it and repairing his ship, the Golden Hind, in 1579. The cliffs lining Drakes Bay are quite dramatic.
On the drive out to the bay, we passed a beach that is favored by California Sea Lions:
At the end of the road is another beach (inside Drakes Bay this time) that is favored by Elephant Seals. The adults have all returned to sea now so only the pups remain. They will have to teach themselves to swim and to feed before they head out to sea themselves.
By this point, I figured we'd really better get moving if we were going to make it to Bodega Bay tonight (there is no RV camping in Point Reyes unfortunately). On our way back up the main Hwy 1, we passed Tomalas Bay, which is formed by the San Andres Fault - making it a long, skinny and relatively straight line.
Interesting weather today - it did rain last night (as forecast I think). But when we got to Point Reyes, it was sunny - although quite windy. After we left Point Reyes and drove up Hwy 1 along Tomales Bay, we had clear, blue sky & sunshine on our left (west), and a nasty looking very dark sky on the right (east). When Hwy 1 left the coast for a bit at the north end of the bay, we drove into a rain storm. Then we got hail. This lasted a few minutes, it continued raining through the town of Tomales (mom lived their briefly as a teenager). But by the time we got to Bodega Bay and turned back west (just a bit) to the campground, we were back in the sun.
We stopped for the night at Doran Beach, a Sonoma County Park. Bodega Bay is on one side of the isthmas, Bodega Harbor on the other. Tyler, a really nice kid working the campground gate, used a free pass he had available to get us in (I didn't have correct change without digging into our laundry quarters). Turns out he's attending Santa Rosa Junior College, Mom's old alma matter!
It was getting pretty late, but I had time to get a couple shots of the beach at Bodega Bay and the Jetty (pretty rough surf out there!)
Miles Driven - 81 (about half RT), Cumulative - 18,466
Camped at Sonoma County Campground at Bodega Bay (full hookup, hot showers, beaches on both sides - what's not to like?)
Provisions Obtained - none, other then postcards and souveniers at Point Reyes gift shops...