We were off to enjoy a weekend in Point Reyes. Our plan was to take our time getting there because we wanted to explore a few places which we not visited before, like Muir and Stinson beaches in Marin. There was no rush to get to Point Reyes as we couldn’t check into our lodging until 3 in the afternoon.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
As usual, we were on the road before daybreak, which meant we were enjoying our early morning coffee on Geary in the city before 7 o’clock. We usually stop at Peet’s but today, for a change, we tried out a coffee shop one block down on the corner of Geary and 17th called Royal Ground Coffee. It was certainly different from Peet’s – larger, less modern, quieter and funky. We were served straight away. Tom had a medium black coffee for $1.65 and I had a medium cafe latte for $2.65. A large choice of cookies, pastries and bagels tempted us but we resisted because we plan to stop in Stinson Beach for breakfast. We sat right in the window and had a good view of Geary waking up as it became lighter. Must comment on the murals in the coffee house as they were large and added to the general funkiness of the place. One mural depicted San Francisco streets and the other a Mediterranean village.
Half an hour later we were driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. At this time of year the bridge is more often than not shrouded in fog but that was not the case on this occasion. A few hardy tourists were walking over the bridge but there were more joggers and cyclists around.
We decided to take the scenic route north by turning off 101 onto Highway One towards Stinson Beach and along the coast. The drive towards the ocean twists and turns with alternating views inland of the Marin headlands and glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. We turned left when we reached the Pelican Inn and took the road to Muir Beach.
I had never been to Muir Beach before so this was a new experience for me. The road to the beach is short but full of potholes. The area is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area so there was no charge to park the car. At that time of the morning there were only a couple of cars in the car park. When we got out of the car the temperature was 57 degrees but there was a chilly wind. My first stop had to be the notice board and was interested to read that river otters had been spotted very recently. The route towards the beach crossed a footbridge over the Redwood Creek and I stopped to see if I could spot any otters. It was an idyllic scene and appeared to be a perfect location for river otters but, alas, I was to be disappointed.
Once over the bridge we turned right on a trail which took us to the beach and/or an overlook. We could have turned left onto another trail which led uphill. Muir Beach is a pretty little beach and at that time of the morning the only people on it were a couple walking their dog. It seems an ideal beach for families because not only is it sheltered but there was nice sand to play on and rocks to the south where I am sure there are rock pools at low tide. We stayed on the trail which led uphill to the overlook. On the ridge to the north the homes of Muir Beach clung to the hillside. The higher up the hill the larger the homes became. All of them had spectacular views over the beach and to the south.
Up on the bluff the wind blew straight through us so we didn’t stay long, even though there was a convenient bench to sit on. We made our way back to the bridge to head to Stinson Beach where we planned to stop for breakfast. When we reached the junction with Highway One we noticed a line of mail boxes opposite and Tom couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo. I had never seen so many mail boxes in one place and had to count them – there were 95 of them. And what a collection – old; new; large; small; shiny; rusty; plain; decorated and painted.
The stretch of Highway One between the Pelican Inn and Stinson Beach is really scenic. There were many ‘Wow’ moments. The view over Stinson Beach as we rounded the last headland was like looking at a picture postcard. We saw a very long, sandy beach, cabins almost on the beach, a life guard stand and, in the distance, another ridge with houses dotted along it.
For breakfast we stopped at The Breakers Cafe on the main street. We have eaten here before and enjoyed it so we were keen to see if there had been any changes. On my last visit I had the oatmeal and remembered it had been really good so went for it again. It comes with walnuts, dates and cranberries. On the last occasion in January 2011 it cost $7.95 (but without dates) and this time it was $8.95. Tom ordered something different – Rockys Omelet ($11.95) with chicken, corn and cheese. The coffee was $2.50 and I had orange juice ($3). The food remained as enjoyable as before.
Last time I remarked that there was a nautical theme about the decoration but I wasn’t so conscious of it this time. The paintings of the old woodies and the black and white photos of local scenes (plus the scantily dressed man and the policemen) are still there. There was a large colorful Mexican hat on the wall and I’m not sure if that was there last time. One thing was missing, however, and that was the collage made up of white plastic rubbish and the mermaid, which is a shame. The restroom hadn’t changed a bit.
After breakfast we made our way to the beach. Here we found a large car park. There were already quite a few cars there but room for many more. One van caught my attention as it had a had a mermaid and an octopus painted on it. On the way to the beach we passed two surfers, still dripping wet, on the way back to their car.
The long sandy beach stretched north in front of us. Although there were lots of people and activity going on, it was by no means crowded. There were lots of people just walking along the beach, quite a few with dogs; families sitting on the beach; fishermen standing up to their knees in the water and surfers further out in Bolinas Bay. Happy children were building sandcastles and there was one young chap and his Dad having a whale of a time using toy dumper trucks and wheelbarrows to help them move the sand.
Tom took his time stopping to take photographs so I happily wandered along the hard packed sand drinking in the moment. The weather was absolutely perfect and one would think it was summertime. My sweatshirt came off and even then I was hot and thinking I should have put sun block on. There were cabins and houses, some of them on stilts, built right on the beach and a lot of them had occupants. I could see people sitting on patio chairs enjoying coffee and the view. At one point I spotted a tsunami siren set back between the buildings. The scene was idyllic but I guess they get bad weather in the winter if the number of sandbags around is anything to go by. Further along the beach sand dunes fringed the beach and the roofs of cabins could be seen behind the dunes.
It was a blissful morning listening to the muted sounds of conversation now and then from fellow walkers and the mesmerizing music of the surf lapping the shore. A group of sandpipers were busy probing the sand for their lunch. I noticed there were lots of different colored pebbles on the beach but the ones that really caught my attention were a striking black and white with swirly lines. Tom joined me and we wandered a bit further northwards. My aim had been to walk right to the end of the beach, where the small town of Bolinas is situated less than a quarter of a mile away across the narrow entrance to the Bolinas Lagoon, but we decided to turn back because it was getting too hot and we didn’t have any water with us.
There were more people now on the beach and I was sure by lunchtime it would be crowded. At the northern end of the beach, dogs are allowed to run free and there were lots of dogs having the time of their lives. Groups of dog owners were chatting together as their dogs frolicked in and out of the water and chased each other around. When a ball was thrown they all raced madly after it. There was one dog who ran faster and jumped higher than all the others and caught the ball before it landed either on the sand or in the water. It was amusing to see them all play so happily together.
Back in the car, we continued our journey to Point Reyes. We drove along the scenic shore of the Bolinas Lagoon. The tide was out and there were huge stretches of mud flats where there were an array of wading birds taking advantage of the easy pickings. We drove though Dogtown -blink and you’ll miss it -and saw the first sign for Point Reyes National Seashore and then one for Olema Valley. This is a favorite route for cyclists, and the going was very slow for a couple of miles as a horse box in front of us was unwilling to overtake the cyclists. We still were not in any hurry so we just enjoyed the drive and the scenery. Before long we arrived in Olema, where we will be staying for a couple of nights.