Tag Archives: Tomales Bay

Point Reyes

After a couple of weekends doing other things, we were back on the road again. At 5.30 we set off for Point Reyes. No breakfast blog today as we ate at home. I have been making Sleepy Morning Oatmeal and have been having that instead of stopping somewhere.  I got the recipe from Johnsie who runs the Pomaika’i (Lucky) Farm B on the Big Island.”

Tomales Bay and the top of Mt. Tam in the clouds

Tomales Bay and the top of Mt. Tam in the clouds. (Oops, Photon points out that it's not Mt. Tam it's Black's Mtn. Thanks!)

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Since the clocks sprang forward it was really been dark when we set out and the sky did not lighten up until we reached San Francisco. The top of the Golden Gate Bridge was lost in fog and we did wander whether it would be the same on Point Reyes. Over the previous week the weather had been glorious with temperatures up in the 70’s and this weekend promises to be just as warm. We brought jackets, though, just in case.

Driving through Marin the residents were beginning to wake up. A few early morning joggers and dog walkers were out and about. Beyond Lagunitas the first redwoods appeared and then signs for Point Reyes National Seashore. We were almost there.

Another view of Tomales Bay

Another view of Tomales Bay

As we rounded the southern end of Tomales Bay, we noticed that there was far more water around. Obviously the tide was at its highest. We pulled in behind The Inverness Store to take a look at our favorite disintegrating boat. It was impossible to get as close as we did in November last year when we stayed nearby for the weekend. Tom took some photos of the Bay and Mount Tam, with its peak hidden by fog.

Beyond Inverness we turned right, heading towards Tomales point instead of the light house. Soon we were in open countryside, passing the occasional historic ranch. Dairy farming is still very much a going concern judging by the many cows grazing in the fields. Each ranch we passed seemed to be raising a different breed.

Off to our left we caught glimpses of the ocean and all around were flowers in bloom. Wildflowers is one of the reasons for our trip today. After so much rain, we were expecting to see a lot of color. The predominant color though on the road to Tomales Point was the white of the cow parsley. In the past, Tomales Point trail has been a good place to see a vivid display of color.

Once across a big cattle grid, we were on the Tule Elk Reserve and we soon spotted our first group of elk and up on the crest of a hill a magnificent

Tule Elk at the reserve in Point Reyes

Tule Elk at the reserve in Point Reyes

stag was standing in splendid isolation. Tom stopped to get some photos and was soon lost to view. When he returned to the car he said he didn’t see the stag again but had a very nice view of Tomales Bay. He also complained about the number of bugs around. Here in Claifornia we are not used to a lot of bugs but I guess the warm, wet spring has a lot to do with the increase. Note from Tom: Be mindful of the elk pasture patties.  Lots of elk = lots of poop.

Further along the road there was a group of about ten female elk close to the edge of the road. Once again Tom stopped. He was able to get some good shots even though they had moved off a little way as our car approached.

We passed the Pierce Point Ranch and drove to the end of the road which was the car park for the trail down to McLures Beach.  Click here for a link to all of the Point Reyes beaches.  Neither of us has ever been to this beach so we decided to go take a look. The sandy trail descended gradually. Along the way there were many wildflowers – yellow lupin like flowers, orange California poppies, lilac and white stock like flowers, small purple ground cover plants, bright spiky ice plants and purple vetch. The beach was wild and almost deserted. There was a small group of gulls and about a dozen sanderlings. It is amusing to watch the latter as they follow the receding surf and then turn and quickly mince away as the next little wave surges up the beach.

California Golden Poppy

California Golden Poppy

There were two lots of footsteps in the sand heading north. In the distance I could see two fisherman at the edge of the water. I walked back towards the trail and sat on a large weathered piece of driftwood to catch up on my writing.  Tom was busy with his camera and tripod. The sun wasn’t visible at all so it was not very warm plus there was a stiff breeze. At least there is no fog but off in the distance the view is hazy.

I ventured after Tom and discovered some rock pools. Even though I searched, I could not see any fish or even small crabs. There were no sea anemones fastened to the rocks either but it was good fun to clamber over the seaweed covered rocks.

Walking back up the trail seemed much steeper than the descent but there was much to distract me along the way. I looked more closely at the colorful plants and wished that I could identify them all. I tried to take some close up photos so I could look them up when I got home but they did not turn out too good at all.

We drove out of the car park and back up the road for a quarter of a mile and then turned left into the car park of Pierce Point Ranch. As I got out of the car I saw a photo of a woman posted on a notice board and went to have a closer look. It was a flier about Katherine Truitt, a 37 year old resident of Alameda, who had gone missing on January 8 this year. Her car was discovered in the parking lot at McClures Beach. It is assumed she was struck by a rogue or sneaker wave and swept out to sea. Back home I checked to see whether her body had been recovered but so far it has not. While searching I read that another woman – Silvia Lange, a 77 year former volunteer at Point Reyes National Seashore, also went missing 13 days later but this time further south. There are many warnings posted around at Point Reyes about the dangers of getting too close to the ocean so my guess is these two disappearances, though tragic, are just coincidences.

Pierce Point Ranch is not a working ranch now but not only was it the first ranch to be established on Point Reyes it was also the

Pierce Point Ranch

Pierce Point Ranch

largest. It was built in mid 1800’s and all of the buildings are still standing. There is a self guided tour around the hay barn, one room school house, calving shed, bunk houses and creameries although the only building you can walk through is the hay barn.

I first visited here with Tom about ten years ago and everything looked so much better than it does now. All the buildings need a coat of paint and basic maintenance but I guess the current economic situation has not helped.

There is a trail from here called the Tomales Point Trail and Tom and I have walked it several times. We had every intention of walking it today but the diversion to McClures Beach has not left us enough time. It has been a long time since breakfast and our tummies are growling.

We headed for Point Reyes Station in search of food. On the road between Pierce Point Ranch and Inverness we passed many bikes. The cyclists wore vests which proclaimed they were in training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

In Point Reyes Station we looked around for somewhere to eat. Osteria Stellina opens for lunch at 11.30 so we decided to give them a try. We had dinner here a few months ago and we both really enjoyed it. We had a few minutes to kill before it opened so we went to the bank and on the way back to the restaurant Tom spotted a jacket he quite fancied.

Lunch was great. For starters Tom had asparagus and lemon and I had the beets and greens salad with ricotta cheese. We both had the GBD with aged Gruyere cheese. I did ask what GBD stood for and was told ‘Golden Brown and Delicious’. It certainly lived up to its name and worth all the extra calories. We drove home feeling replete and happy.

Point Reyes – Part 2

Another of that boat. There's something about Point Reyes that's magical.

Part 2 (Saturday Morning)

Tom was up very early.  It was just after 5 and still dark but he was eager to get out and take some photos.  I turned over and went back to sleep.

He returned, very cold, two hours later.  I asked whether he had been able to take any photos in the dark.  He had tried taking some long exposures shots of the stars but he didn’t think they were too successful  When it started to get light he went down to the old wood boat marooned on the mudbank just a few minutes walk from our B&B.  The tide was in and he hoped he had managed to get some good shots of the boat and its reflection in the water.

Coffee is available down in the sitting room from 7.30 but breakfast is not until 8.30.  We went down for coffee – well Tom had coffee and I had tea – and we read the paper.  There were already a few guests there and we chatted sporadically with them.  One couple were from Mountain View, which is quite close to where we live. At breakfast we shared a table with Craig and Jenny who were from Campbell which is only a couple of miles from our home. Breakfast consisted of cereal, fruit, orange juice, yogurt and a cooked dish. It was very tasty.

After breakfast we went out for a short walk. We set out to find a trail but ended up walking up

Tamales Bay

A little windy but still a beautiful day.

Inverness Way and around a few blocks and then alongside the bay before making our way back to the B&B to change into our walking shoes. Then we set off in the car, driving north along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. It was only 10.30 so once again had time to kill. We parked on a gravel pull-in by Chicken Ranch Beach and took a walk along the beach. The tide was ebbing but it was still pretty high. Last time we came here we were able to walk north along the beach and under the numerous piers that have been built into Tomales Bay. Today we had to content ourselves by walking south. There were several fishermen along the edge of the water and though we didn’t see anybody catch anything, we noticed the tail of a fish sticking out of a bag. It looked like a tiger shark. Near three fishermen was a very wet black lab with a tennis ball in its mouth. He came up to me and dropped the ball at my feet. I asked if it was OK to throw the ball and one replied that it wasn’t their dog, it had just appeared. So I threw the ball a couple of times to please him. At one point he was stood on a slope and when he dropped the ball, it rolled into the water. When he looked down and saw the ball had gone he looked at me as much as to say, “well, how did you manage to throw the ball without me seeing you?” It didn’t take him long to find it again.

At 11 we returned to the car and set off for our first studio of the day. This was at the home of Philip Loring Greene and his wife. His speciality is Ilfochrome photography. Egrets and herons are his passion and he has some stunning photos of them. There were a couple of other people there and while his wife – who plays the harpsichord by the way – served us hot apple cider, Philip demonstrated how he developed his photos. It sounded very long and tedious and one has to admire his patience. It can take two weeks to produce one print.

The next studio we missed altogether, though not intentionally. It was difficult to find. I should have looked at the brochure more carefully because it said that access was through the Inverness Valley Inn.

We drove on to the next studio which belonged to Molly Prier. She makes functional ceramics and Pueblo style vessels. Molly’s studio is not very large and only half a dozen people could fit in at any one time. Her burnished bowls were very beautiful and felt smooth to the touch. She fires them by digging a trench and covering them with cow dung. When the fire dies down, the pit is covered with soil. It takes a long time to finish the pots. Though we were tempted to buy one, we didn’t succumb. Just down the road was the joint studio of Shari Miler, who makes creative jewelry – which we were not interested in – and Peter Sheremeta, who makes stoneware pottery and garden vessels. Outside were some of his garden pots. They were round and the bottom is shaped into three legs. The legs are open at the bottom to allow water to drain away – what a novel idea. Inside were the studios were his bowls. They were mostly round and in vibrant colors. Tom fell in love with one so he bought it. It is a Christmas present for his daughter. Peter demonstrated it’s perfect construction by tapping it and it gave the sound of a bell being struck. He showed us one which didn’t make that sound and he said it must have a crack in it but it didn’t now where it was.

A winding road through the woods to another studio.

A winding road through the woods to another studio.

The next studio on the list belonged to the wood sculptor, Bruce Mitchell but we missed the turning, so we carried on to the next one. We turned up Drakes View. It is a private road but as the sign definitely pointed that way, we carried on. The road climbed up and up and there were some really sharp horseshoe bends. We really thought we had taken the wrong road but then we saw a sign for the studio, so we knew we were headed in the right direction. On and up we climbed, passing some really nice houses. The Richard Blair and Kathleen Goodwin studio is right at the top of a hill and it was one that was badly damage by the 1995 Bolines Range fire. In fact Richard and Kathleen only had a cabin then and it burned down. Now they have built a lovely home which is also their studio. They are both photographers b ut Kathleen also does paintings and Richard produces books. I particularly liked some of Kathleen’s photos. One was of the raft moored offshore at Shell Beach and the other of a group of men in a bus shelter in Alysham.

We walked out of the studio, crossed the road and walked down a short track between some trees to look at the fabulous view down over Tomales Bay. It was a lovely sunny day but there was a chill in the air and the wind could be heard soughing through the trees. Tom pointed out how far the fire had travelled down the hill. You did distinctly see the break between the old and new growth of trees.

We returned to the car and drove down the hill again but turned on onto Upper Robert Drive where we visited the studio of Ed Stetson. This was the only place we stopped at where we were the only visitors. The studio was in the beautiful home of Ed and his wife with a commanding view of Tomales Bay. Ed is a photographer and uses a digital camera to shoot wildlife. He has captured some amazing shots – one of a Marsh Hawk carrying a vole in its talons; one of what he calls ‘sand trees’ taken on Limator Beach and one of a pelican trying to get friendly with a wooden statue of a pelican. Tom and Ed had a long conversation about printing techniques, Photoshop and matting. It is interesting to pick up hints and tips from other photographers.

More to follow…..

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse is 50 miles north of San Francisco in the Point Reyes NationalShell Beach on Tomales Bay Seashore. This is a protected area covering approximately 71,000 acres and is a wonderful area to explore. There is only one, very small town in the whole area and that is Inverness. Most of the area is uninhabited but there are quite a few historic dairy farms which are still in operation so there are lots of cows.

Point Reyes itself is a curiosity as it is moving north at a rate of 2 inches a year. The rocks and vegetation are completely different here than on the opposite side of Tomales Bay.

There are a number of interesting places to visit. North of Inverness there are three, small secluded beaches on the Tomales Bay side – Shell Beach, Hearts Desire Beach and Marshall Beach. They are hard to find and not signposted at all from the road. At the northern end of Point Reyes there are free roaming Tule Elk and they are a wonderful sight. Also in the same area is the Historic Pierce Point Ranch with a self guided tour around the complex. Running past the ranch is the lovely Tomales Point Trail.

Point ReyesToday though we are headed for the lighthouse. This involves a drive of 20 miles from the entrance of the National Seashore, passing a few of the dairy farms. At weekends and holidays during the whale watching season, no cars are allowed to drive to the lighthouse and there is a bus shuttle instead. At this time of the year we can drive all the way to the small car park at the end.

As we got out of the car we had a marvelous view of the Farallon Islands. There is a 0.4 mile walk with some breathtaking views to get to the beginning of the lighthouse complex. There is a small visitors center before you get to the top of the steps leading down to the lighthouse.

As we approached the steps, we met a lady who was waiting for her son to return from his trip down to the lighthouse. We had a fascinating conversation with her. What an interesting life she had led. In the ten minutes or so we were talking to her we almost had her life story. The highlight was her telling us that for a few years she had been a hooker in Berkeley. I won’t give any more information in case anybody who reads this knows her!

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Point Reyes – Tomales Bay

Nick's Cove fishing shack

We left home well before daybreak. It was dark when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge; it was dark driving through San Anselmo; it was still dark driving through Point Reyes Station. It was just getting light when we reached our first destination – Nicks Cove and Miller’s Landing on the eastern side of Tomales Bay.

[Click on the image for a larger version]

When we were last here in March 2005, there was a dilapidated and abandoned restaurant here which was a well known seafood restaurant back in the 1990s. Signs were posted saying it was going to be renovated. recently we read that the work was finished and the restaurant had been reopened. So we have come to check it out.

There was a boat launch here as well but it is closed at the moment because that is now being renovated.

Tom got out and took a few photos but I sat in the car as it was very cold outside. I started writing but at first I could barely see the lines on the page. Gradually it grew lighter and I was able to see what I was writing.

Opposite the restaurant are some cabins. Back in 2005 there were cabins here but they were boarded up and ramshackle. They have been rebuilt as well and are very smart but they are very expensive to hire. There are smaller cabins alongside the restaurant and built over the bay on stilts. There are eleven cabins altogether ranging from $300 – $965 per night – I told you they were expensive!

I watched as someone from the restaurant cross the road and delivered newspapers to the cabins.

Guess I had better get out and take a look though I am very reluctant to do so as it’s very chilly out there. It was 63 degrees when we left San Jose and it is 20 degrees colder here. We are promised a warm day today though. As it is still only 7 in the morning I cannot expect too much heat just yet.

It was too cold to stay outside long and Tom was already making his way back to the car so I took a quick look at the restaurant. It certainly looks much better than last time. They serve seafood and cocktails and they are great views of the bay. It wasn’t open so I couldn’t go inside. There was a lot of activity so I guess they will be open for breakfast later.

We decided to head back to Point Reyes Station for breakfast. Just after we left Nicks Cove there was a wild turkey in the middle of the road. We need a turkey for Thanksgiving but Tom refused to run it down!

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