There was no doubt our bed at the National Seashore Lodge was comfortable but the room became really hot during the night. We woke at 7, at which time Tom got up, had a shower, got dressed and went out to take some photographs. I set about seeing if I could turn down the heat, which I did. I also managed to open the windows on either side of the door. At least we would be a bit cooler on our second night.
When Tom returned I was up and dressed and then we went to have breakfast. The Lodge does provide a continental breakfast and we sat and chatted with a young couple who were in Point Reyes to attend a wedding.
We left just after 8.30 and turned left onto Bear Valley Road, drove past the Visitors Center and then left again onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The temperature was a chilly 46 when we left but the sun was up and shining and there was no fog. We were heading towards the northern end of Point Reyes to hike the Tomales Point Trail, so were pleased it looked like it would be a good day.
Our journey took us through Inverness. We saw the old boat stuck in the mud just offshore which was slowly becoming more decrepit but we didn’t stop. Tomales Bay looked fantastic. The tide was in and the water glistened in the sun. There were lots of ducks and other wading birds out on the water plus a couple of egrets patiently waiting to catch their breakfast. Tom did stop just past Inverness to take some photos.
Pierce Point Ranch
Not too far from Inverness, we turned right on Pierce Point Road. Almost immediately, off to our left, we had a marvelous view of the blue ocean. The grass and hills were a brilliant green but in a couple of months they will be brown. It is just over 11 miles from Inverness to Pierce Point Ranch and the ride is very scenic with glimpses of Tomales Bay off to the right, the rolling green hills on either side of the road and the occasional historic ranches. No wonder it is called the Pastoral Zone. Early American settlers started dairy farming in Point Reyes in the 1850s and towards the end of that century the production of butter and cheese was a huge business. Now there are still a few dairy ranches operating from several of the historic ranches and even more ranches where beef cattle is raised. The only people living in this vast area are the folks working on the farms and there are certainly more cattle than people. Twice on our journey we saw two cows, in two different locations, which had escaped and were happily grazing alongside the road.
We crossed a cattle grid and entered the Tule Elk Reserve. When dairy farms were first established in the 1800s tule elk were abundant and roamed freely in California but extensive hunting and the introduction of cattle nearly wiped them out. Tule Elk were thought to be extinct but a small herd of 30 were discovered in Southern California in the 1870s. This small heard were preserved and, from that small number, tulle elk have been reintroduced to many areas in California, including Point Reyes. Not long after entering the reserve we spotted our first group of elk off to the left. We considered ourselves fortunate as sometimes we don’t see any at all.
Pierce Point Ranch appeared as we cornered a bend. With the huge Monterey Cypresses in the background, the white painted buildings stood out. It looked as if they had been given a lick of paint since our last visit but it was an illusion.
There is a small car park at the ranch which appeared full but we found a space. It also serves as the car park for the Tomales Point Trail and we knew most of the occupants of the cars would be hiking. We rarely see many people visiting the ranch itself and today was no exception. The buildings are surrounded by a wooden, grey weathered fence with a grassed area in the middle. The farmhouse is off right at the back.
The first building to catch your attention is the barn. It is possible to investigate the dark interior because plenty of light comes in through the door and between the cracks. It isn’t possible to go inside any of the other buildings but you can peep through the windows. There is a bunkhouse, milking parlor, calf shed, school room and a machine shop. Farm equipment is quietly rusting away and adorned with creeping weeds.
Tom was busy taking photos so I sat on the (very uncomfortable) steps of the bunkhouse, took out my iPad and started writing.
Tomales Point Trail
The trail is 4.7 miles long and ends at the very end of the peninsula. Then, of course, it is a 4.7 mile walk back to the beginning. As I was busy tapping away, Tom started off on the trail before me. When I caught up with him he was just off the trail photographing calla lilies. We chatted a bit but I then decided to carry on walking because I knew he would want to stop every so often to take photos. My plan was to walk until I came to a bench. I would then sit down, do some writing and wait for Tom to catch up with me.
I know this trail is ablaze with wildflowers in the late spring but spring is just around the corner and although there were a few wildflowers here and there they could not be described as a ‘blaze of color’. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the views were outstanding. At this early stage of the walk the views were all of the ocean, where sparkling white caps where sprinkled on the bright blue water. McClure Beach, with it’s sandy beach, shimmered to the south and beyond that Point Reyes Bay curved all the way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. From the trail though I could not see the lighthouse but I it knew it was there.
The time was just 10 o’clock and there was just one couple ahead of me. It was nice to know that there were other people around just in case a mountain lion appeared (an information board at the start of the trail said that mountain lions have been spotted in the area). It would be thrilling to see one but not when I’m walking on my own. I was on the lookout for more elk.
I really enjoyed striding out there on my own and got a bit carried away. When I looked at my watch I realized that it had been an hour since I had last seen Tom. At that point I was climbing up probably the steepest part of the trail. I kept looking back to see if I could see him in the distance. As I was quite high, I could see a fair way back on the trail. At the top of the hill I found a convenient rock to sit on – amazingly there had not been one bench on the trail at all. From my vantage point, and with the aid of my binoculars, I scrutinized the trail. There were quite a few people on their way but I couldn’t Tom. I expected him to be easy to spot because he would be on his own and carrying his tripod, but he did not appear. Every so often I would check out to sea just in case I could spot any water spouts from whales. I also passed the time by greeting folks as they passed. After half an hour there was still no sign of Tom. Every now and again I would ask someone whether they had passed a lone photographer with a tripod. Most people had but then the answers started to be ‘no’.
Maybe he had gone back to the car. It was no use trying to phone him because I had no signal on my phone which, of course meant he could not ring me either. It was time to walk back to find out where he was. After less than half a mile I spotted him climbing uphill and was mighty glad to see him. The reason folks had been saying they hadn’t seen him was because he had gone off the trail for a while. He had spotted what he thought might be an elk and went to investigate. Sure enough, he discovered a whole herd of them. They were some distance away and when they became aware off him he backed off. The big stag guarding his harem kept his beady eyes on him.
We carried on walking together, stopping every now and than to admire the view when we found a handy rock to sit on. From our lofty position we could see not only the ocean off to our left but the whole panorama of Tomales Bay to our right. Several little boats were out on the water and we could even see the traffic on the far side of the bay.
We didn’t make it to the end of the trail but estimated we had walked at least half of the 4.7 miles when we decided to turn back. At the point we decided it was time to turn back, we could see the end of the point, the entrance to Tomales Bay and Dillion Beach over to the right.
We had amazing luck just after we started our return journey as we spotted a group of tule elk not far away off to our right. Just after we passed them we had stopped to admire the view once again. When we glanced back the elk were crossing the trail. It was a large group of elk and most of them moved fairly quickly. Some of them lagged behind a little, or maybe they were just stopping to admire the view as well. Eventually they had all crossed and had regrouped. That was the highlight of our day.
The one thing we both commented on as we made our way back to the start that were now far more people on the trail. It was almost a constant stream. Who can blame them though. On such a beautiful day, what better place to be than walking on Point Reyes.
The car park was really full when we finally got back to it. Cars were parked along the road for as far as we could see. As soon as we pulled out of our parking space, another car was waiting to grab it.
Before returning to the Lodge, we stopped off in Inverness for a drink and a late lunch. We had the choice of getting something at the deli; the Blackbird Coffee Shop or Vladimir’s Czech restaurant. We chose the latter. Inside it was cool and dark and we sat at the bar. Tonight we are going out for a meal so we didn’t want a big meal. We were satisfied with a drink of beer and a sample plate of kielbasa sausage, toast, sauerkraut, cucumber, celery and cheese.
After returning to the Lodge for a rest, we finished off the day by driving to Point Reyes Station for a meal at Stellina. As we arrived a little early, we wandered around Tomales Bay Foods and bought a wedge of Wagon Wheel cheese. This was one of the cheeses we had last night and we both liked it.
Stellina Restaurant is the best restaurant in town and it was crowded. Thank goodness we had made a reservation yesterday. While we were waiting for our table, Tom recognized a couple who had already started a meal. It was his cousin Judy and her husband John from Nevada City. What a coincidence, as Nevada City is a long way away in the Gold Country. We had a quick chat with them before we were called to our table. The tables there are pretty close together and we got chatting to the couple at the next table and, guess what, another coincidence, I recognized passing one of the ladies on our hike that morning.
Tom and I enjoy coming to Stellina as the food is really good. For starters we both had the chicory salad with goat cheese. Tom ordered the goat with polenta and braised greens for his main course and I had the grilled sea bass with heirloom cauliflower and golden raisins. Tom commented that he was disappointed with the goat as it was a bit dry whilst my sea bass, on the other hand, was delicious. To finish Tom had two scoops of ice cream and I had their cheese plate. MmmMmm.