Point Reyes - Oct 27-28
Oct 28, 2011
|October 27, 2011
Leaving Monterey this morning, we headed out north, continuing up the west coast towards San Francisco. Along the way we decided to stop at Safeway to stock up on food and drinks and thanks to the helpful checkout assistant we were able to save almost $20 by joining the Safeway Club! The first proper stop for the day though was at the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. When we had been to San Francisco previously Elizabeth had never been able to completely walk across it so today she decided she was going to. We were short on quarters for the parking meter so she had to rush. Whilst I sauntered to the midpoint of the bridge and got some pictures, Elizabeth made her way almost to the far end where the path stopped. She caught me up as I began to walk back and I showed her some of the dolphins I had seen in the water in the Bay. It was a glorious day which was quite surprising as it was overcast and horrible when we’d left Monterey and we’d expected SF to be similar. Once back at the car park I bought Elizabeth a magnet which said that she’d crossed the bridge!
From there we drove over the bridge and north into the John Muir Woods National Park. There was a loop close to the main car park that went around some of the larger trees in the forest and although the far end of this was closed for renovation we decided to do a loop around. The largest trees here are actually the tallest trees in the world, known as coastal redwoods which are related to sequoias. The redwoods are nowhere near as thick around the trunk as sequoias but walking in their shadow and gazing up at them was amazing. These trees tower over everything in the forest and even with hillsides around us there was little that was above these trees. There was a tree here which had been cut down and there were markings on it to show how old the tree was. One of the areas here is called Cathedral Grove and it was here that the first members of the UN met for the very first time. This is where the oldest trees in the park are and some of them are over 600 years old. Many of them showed signs of fire damage but we learned that the park rangers allow this as the trees actually survive better with some kind of “natural selection”. In the past the fires have been stopped completely and it was noted that the trees didn’t grow as quickly. Now the fires are controlled and the growth rate of the trees is what it was previously. We decided to take the high path back to the car park rather than just turn around and after a short climb we were rewarded with a quieter trail and some great views of the trees a little higher up their trunks, but still nowhere near the top. Despite the loop being partially closed, the walk was great and you could see why this area was protected. In fact, it was John Muir who was one of the first people to suggest protecting many of America’s wonderful sights into national parks and it was fitting such a place was named after him.
After the national park, we doubled back and drove back into SF to visit Hard Rock and Pier 39. There used to be hundreds of seals at Pier 39 but most of these have now gone but the ones that are still there are pretty smelly! Elizabeth was annoyed with me as I wanted to walk around the shops at Pier 39 but she didn’t as she wanted to go the Golden Gate Bridge northern viewing point as she thought there was a visitor center there. So, we went back to the car and for the third time today we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at the northern viewpoint for a quick picture op before carrying on to Point Reyes. Unfortunately, the building she’d seen there was just a toilet block and some offices for administration staff of the area so she was a little apologetic for rushing me!
Point Reyes National Seashore is another of the national parks in California and we were staying in the youth hostel within the park itself. We were staying in dorm rooms and unbeknown to us we were going to be in separate rooms as they only had male only and female only dorms. The guy who checked us in was really friendly but a bit weird and was certainly thorough with his instructions and directions, even so far as how to wash dishes! There were also some loud children there but thankfully they weren’t too annoying and were in bed early enough for us to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet. We’d bought some tinned chilli at the supermarket earlier and as it was cold we decided to try it and we were both surprised how good it was; the perfect warmer-upper for a cold night! My dorm was empty but for one other person. He’d checked in just as we’d arrived and he seemed like a bit of a weirdo and my first impressions appeared correct. He was involved in some sort of farming and had a fixation with mushrooms. I overheard him telling a girl that he followed the seasons around to find the best mushrooms he could and he even had a big book describing them all! Thankfully, I managed to avoid talking to him too much and just lay in bed and watched some CSI on the laptop! Sometimes I’m really thankful for my headphones!
October 28, 2011
Today we drove around the Point Reyes area. There were a number of hikes we could have done but we wanted to see a few different areas of the park and the only way to do this was in the car. The first stop was the lighthouse. We headed out early and there was hardly anyone around when we stopped there but by the time we’d taken some pictures of a group of black tip deer a few other cars had arrived. The lighthouse was built after a number of marine disasters off the coast here and is situated way out on a peninsula poking out into the Pacific. From the car park, we walked down the 300+ steps to the lighthouse and had a look around. The views were lovely and the lighthouse was quaint if nothing else. We saw a number of black and white birds called murres which were perched along the cliff edge but we couldn’t delay the inevitable walk back up those 300+ steps! It didn’t seem that many and having the steps numbered certainly helped but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t out of breath by the end of it all!
Our next stop was at the opposite end of the park by an old ranch called Pierce Point. Along the way I caught sight of something in the field alongside us and I quickly stopped to take some pictures. It was really hard to tell what it was as from the pictures it looked just like a regular domestic cat. However, it was about 3 times the size of what you’d expect so we thought it could be a bobcat. It definitely had the facial features of a bobcat but as it walked away we noticed it had a long tail, something bobcats don’t have. This led us to think it might have been a juvenile mountain lion but the more I look at the picture the more I think it was just an overgrown house cat! As we sat in the car park near Pierce Point Ranch I noticed some movement on the hill behind us and there was a large group of elk way up on the hillside. Even with my large zoom camera it was difficult to get many decent pictures but as we started to head back away from the ranch, the group had moved closer to the road and we were able to see them from there. The large males with their impressive antlers were clearly visible now.
We continued onwards to the visitor centre at Bear Valley and decided to do one of the hikes they recommended. The walk was a couple of miles each way and ended up at Divide Meadow. The path was used by horses as well as walkers so it was great fun avoiding all the crap. The majority of the walk was amongst lush trees though and was nice to get some fresh air. Divide Meadow itself was an open area surrounded by the same trees and was nothing much other than a large field. Still, it was good to get some exercise. On the way back we saw some ugly looking slugs curling up and crawling along the pathway but other than that we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife!
Our final stop in the national park was at the top of Mount Vision. The drive to the top was along a narrow, winding road and some of the views over the park were amazing. As we arrived at the top of the mountain we saw a bobcat run across in front of the car – this time we were certain it was a bobcat and not just a moggy! We’d seen a lot of the park today and it had been really pretty and picturesque but having seen so much we were ready for some rest and dinner. We stopped in the nearby town of Inverness for some groceries before heading back to the hostel and having a very healthy helping of tortilla chips and a couple of different dips for dinner!