Enjoying one more day! Wednesday, 2/25/15

The weather was a bit changed this morning ... fog shrouded the trees and campers when I looked out the window at 7 am.  Temp was warmer, too.  But, by 9 am, after our coffee, breakfast, and internet stuff, the sun was shining again and the day was warming.  We debated about how to spend today and decided to drive down the Point Reyes peninsula to the small town of Bolinas.

As we approached the mud flats, we could see the tide was going out, with low tide around 11 am, and many shore birds were working the shallows.  These look like Willets in this picture, and we saw a bunch of them (tho "bunch" might not be the correct word for a whole lotta birds!).  

After a bit of maneuvering, we finally found Agate Beach at low tide.  I don't know what to call this rocky stuff -- dark, with red beneath the black.  It was hard.  We didn't find any agates, but enjoyed examining the tide pools, looking for sea glass and shells.  The usual stuff we like doing.  Just being present at the seashore.

Didn't expect to see Chitons clamped onto the rocks, as we usually don't.  Today we saw quite a few.

While I was ambling along, looking down lest I slip and fall into the ocean or break a hip, I nearly bumped into the above fisherman.  Fishing is important.  Being polite, I said, "excuse me," and gave it a wide berth.  My reward for courtesy was being able to catch the above shot.  Good catch!

When we'd explored all we wanted on Agate Beach, we walked back up the hill.  Since we'd forgotten our map (sigh ...), we were traveling by the seat of our pants, so to speak.  Nonetheless, somehow we manage to find all kinds of neat things while we're Out and About in Smartie.

This is one of those neat things!  Jimmy is standing in front of the wonderful Art Deco RCA Communications Building.  The really fascinating thing about it is Guglielmo Marconi sited and commissioned the building of this wireless telegraphy transmitting station in Bolinas (and the receiving station in Marshall, on Tomales Bay), in 1913-1914.  And we were invited inside!  The building houses a nonprofit organization now, with a bird art exhibit upstairs.  Way cool!   

From there, we continued up Mesa Road (on the peninsula's west side) to Point Reyes Bird Observatory (field station).  A sign out front said, "Visitors Welcome."  I don't know what we expected, but we didn't see anyone around, and no feeder stations.  Another sign pointed us to a half-mile Nature Trail.  We shrugged and said, "OK, why not?"  These pictures are from the nature trail, which carried us down to the Arroyo Hondo stream and back up again.  Very strange trees, and what kind of stout, almost decorative, vine is Jimmy clasping above?

Fern-lined Arroyo Hondo stream.

And what the heck is with these tree trunks?

We called these "stick trees."

Jimmy was leading the way on the nature trail as we started up the other side of the Arroyo Hondo.  As he began to take his next step, something didn't look right about the stick lying on the path.  He turned to me and said, "that looked like a snake."  Pause.  "It IS a snake!"  By gum, he was right.  Thing didn't move, but then it stuck out its tongue.  Obviously not poisonous, I reached down and touched it's smooth, soft skin.  Still no movement.  Only when I put my foot next to it (above), did it slowly slither off the path.

Back at the Field Station, I found a young lady to ask about the snake and those stick trees.  She thought the trees were a California Bay.  The snake is a completely docile Rubber Boa.  I wear a size 7 shoe, so we're estimating the sneaky snake at 18".  This fella is crepuscular and not easily seen, so we count ourselves lucky  to have run across it.  Well, not literally, of course!

It was mid-afternoon by the time we left and made our way to Tergel, and after tidying up a bit, we drove to Point Reyes Station (town) to look for dinner.  (No cooking for me this nite!)  We settled on Cafe Reyes and some of the tastiest pizzas we've ever had.  Excellent choice.

Tomorrow morning we'll pack up and pull out, and head on home.  Since we live so close, we won't be in any hurry.  Surely have enjoyed our visit to outstanding Point Reyes National Seashore.  We will be back.


Another stellar day at Point Reyes, Tuesday, 2/24

After another cold nite (28 degrees ... brrrr), sunshine smiled on us again from dawn to dusk -- hooray!  Neither Jimmy nor I wanted any long or strenuous hikes today, so we selected Abbotts Lagoon, a fairly flat, three-mile trail thru open grasslands and coastal scrub, which ultimately ended at Great Beach.  We met very few other hikers; instead we were treated to plenty of wildlife viewing.

Black-tailed deer browsing the pastureland.

California Quails stood on fence posts, calling to each other.  They're cute, with their plume, or as I call it, their "do."  And pudgy, like round soccer balls, but they can fly!  We eyed a pair of hawks on a ridge above us as they flew alternately from the ground to a pole on the ridge ... not sure what was going on with them.  Fox sparrows and Le Conte sparrows were scattered around as we hiked.

It wasn't cold, but it was windy at Abbotts Lagoon.

Great Blue Heron, looking for a meal, as usual.

Visibility has been excellent.  Yesterday we could see from Point Reyes Lighthouse all the way to Point Arena (not sure the distance, but it's a "fur piece."  I look kinda lost on this beach.  Jimmy and I walked alone on the sand as the surf roared ashore.  The tide was on the rise.


I borrowed this photo of a male Surf Scoter from All About Birds.  We watched a couple of dozen of these seaducks bobbing in the waves, but no picture of mine was worth posting.  They were too far for my point 'n shoot and waves are so uncooperative!  We thought they were goofy-looking, yet we stood for quite a while looking at them as they bobbled about in the waves.

We've seen lots of bird life here on the ocean and lagoons and marshes -- seaducks, shore birds, ducks, and mergansers. Yesterday we saw Pigeon guillemots, unmistakable with their bright red feet, Common Murres, Brandt's Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, ubiquitous Western Gulls, and more, all off the coast in the water or on sea stacks.  Point Reyes offers some of the finest bird watching in the US.

When we were finished checking out the scoters and ready to leave the beach, we turned around, returning the way we came, to Smartie.  Lunch time!

* * * * *

After eating our sandwiches, we continued on Pierce Point Road to the end of the line and parked.  Jimmy and I were amazed at the extensive Point Reyes peninsula dairy history, which began around 1857.  On our travels the past couple of days, we've seen quite a few historical farms ... most dating from the 1850's, with exotic names like "Historical Farm A and Historical Farm B, and so on.  Cows are everywhere!  The good news is that they're not cooped up in pens.  They roam the lovely green hillsides.  Anyway, Pierce Point Ranch is now under Nat'l Park Service management and open to the public.  We toured the grounds around the ranch, and then commenced hiking the Tule Elk Reserve.

Oh, darn!  Sorry, Matt, no antlers for you!

Stalking the wild elk....

This clump of Calla lilies just off the trail was a surprise.  I believe the lilies were planted by the original ranchers.

No elk here, just another gorgeous vista.

We watched this Red-tailed hawk riding the air currents off the water as they blew up the cliffs.  It was lower than we were and seemed to stand still in mid-air for long minutes at a time ... crazy!  Then it would fly a little way along the cliff and ride in that spot for more minutes, and repeat the process further along the cliff.  Only cliffs, rocks and water were below it, so it wasn't hunting.  Perhaps it was drawn to the coast, just like people are.  Regardless, it was apparently enjoying the day!  Never saw this before.

As you can see, we were several hundred feet above the Pacific.

OK, now, we found the Tule Elks.  Honest, up at the rock pile, on the right is a herd of elks.  We were satisfied, and did NOT have to walk up a steep path to get up close and personal.  They must have been very close to Tomales Point.  Jimmy and I turned around.

Ranchers planted Monterey Cypress and Blue Gum Eucalyptus to provide shelter from the harsh coastal weather and extreme winds.  The above tree is over 100 years old and probably nearing the end of its life.  The Park Service is restoring the historic windbreaks around Pierce Point Ranch core, and the seedlings they're planting will provide continue to provide shelter for another 100 years.  Cool beans.

Now we were ready to go home to Tergel.  We put over six-and-a-half miles on the feet again on this very full -- and outstanding! -- day and it was time to quit.  Oh wait, but first ...

Here's dumb and dumber saying goodbye for now!


A Whale of an Afternoon! Monday (Con'td), 2/23/15

After our morning at Point Reyes Lighthouse (post here), we drove a short distance east to the Chimney Rock area of the peninsula.  On the way, I saw a sign that said Sea Lion Overlook.  I parked and walked down a set of stairs, peered over the fence, and spotted a couple of hundred sea lions all splayed out on the rocks far below! The photo shows only a small slice of the overall number.  They must have been sleeping, 'cause I heard no barking.  They blend in well, don't they?  Oh, and you can see a token sea gull in their midst.

Wildflowers are beginning to bloom on the coastal bluffs.  This eye-popper is Douglas Iris, which usually blooms April to June (well, it IS almost March).  It's fairly common here, grows in clumps, and hugs the ground in windy spots.

After parking the car and eating lunch, we hiked to the Elephant Seal Overlook!  Winter is prime time to see these huge sea creatures near Chimney Rock, above beautiful Drakes Bay, and it is a sight to behold!  This is a breeding colony of seals ... males are the first to arrive here, in December to stake out a claim on the beach.  Then pregnant females begin to arrive and soon give birth to a single pup.  Again, the above pic is only one section of the elephant seal beach.  Imagine -- adult males weigh 4400-6000 pounds and are 12-18 ft long!!!

The racket at this colony could be heard a mile away -- snorting, honking, barking, huffing, and high-pitched wails (prob from pups being weened).  These guys are noisy!  You couldn't help but smile, it was so rowdy-sounding!  

Ranger Eric said the count was down from the 2/13 date, to a little less than a thousand.  Another fun fact about elephant seals -- their average dive is 2,000 ft and can last over a half hour (but they can dive to a maximum depth of 5500 ft).  Hoy!

Walking back toward the Historic Lifeboat Station, along Drakes Bay.  

We parked at the red arrow and "did it all."

Point Reyes National Seashore has so much to offer.  Miles of hiking trails and beaches, acres of wilderness -- this is a wonderful place to experience nature at it's finest (especially in good weather like we're enjoying!).  We saw many Black-tailed deer grazing the lush grass throughout the park.  

On our way to Chimney Rock, we paused to take in another breathtaking sight.

Looking back at the lifeboat station and the elephant seal colony along the far shoreline.

Jimmy gazing down at Chimney Rock and out to sea, one of his favorite things to do.

Checkerbloom posies are coming up now, too.

Looking down from Chimney Rock Overlook at the surf and the seabirds and this arch eroded by eons of pounding waves.  You can see two Brown pelicans atop the arch.  We saw quite a variety of sea birds on (or in the water near) Chimney Rock, as in lots!  Watching the wave action, hearing the ocean, breathing in the salt air, feeling the warm sun on our faces ... makes us feel peaceful and happy, and very grateful to be alive and well.

Coastal Wallflower beginning to blossom.

A sign posted nearby says, "The heyday of life-saving at Point Reyes is over, but 1927 station still stands alive with a history nearly lost along our coasts.  The station preserves the last intact marine railway on the Pacific Coast." Very cool to see.

And that pretty much sums up our afternoon.  We put many miles on the ol' feet today, up and down, and enjoyed every moment.  We were tired by the time we settled in Tergel's comfy confines!  We hit the sack embarrassingly early, and slept soundly (like dead people).  What a truly wonderful day!

What we gonna do tomorrow?


A Whale of a Day! Monday morning, 2/23/15

During our four-day stay at Point Reyes Nat'l Seashore, the only day the Lighthouse would be open was today, Monday, so we hauled out of bed early to be there by 10 am (it's a 45-min drive from the c/g). We were surprised at how cold the nite was (icy 27.7° low temp!), and appreciated having hookups -- our little heaters kept us warm.  The c/g has many large, mature trees, and we were "serenaded" by owls talking half the nite ... whoo, whooo.  Kinda neat.  It may have been a cold morning, but the sun was shining brightly, so off we went.

The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse began operating in 1870 and remained in operation till it was decommissioned in 1975.  Point Reyes is one of the windiest and foggiest places on the Pacific Coast. Throw in treacherous currents and offshore rocks, and many ships foundered before the lighthouse was built.

Built on a headland jutting into the Pacific, the tower didn't need to be built high, like many you see.  You drive to the top of the headland and walk down to the lighthouse.  308 steps down.  Concrete steps, not a spiral staircase. We weren't sure if Jimmy's "bum" knee would tolerate this activity, but he said, "Let's do it!"  The steps were well made, inasmuch as the risers were short and the tread was wide, so we both did all right.  The views were outstanding!  Even with all these steps down, the lighthouse is 300 ft above the ocean.  Jimmy is heading down to it in the picture below.

Below the lighthouse is the foghorn building, which is closed, but it can be viewed from where Jimmy is standing. The new operational fog signal is located on the ocean-side of the building.

So, those 308 steps down?  There is no elevator!  Climb 'em back to the top.  Jimmy and I are waving to the camera (a kind gent offered to take our picture) and we're not even close to the midway point!  See us?

These two were funny.  We had a lot of photo ops with them ... they seemed to follow us about!

Luckily not today!

Looking at the Monterey Cypress trees on the path back to the car from the lighthouse, can you tell the direction of the prevailing wind?   Makes me wonder how they stay anchored in the soil.  Well, we did it, made it 308 steps up to the top.  No harm done!  With the morning gone, it was time to think about eating our sandwiches, but we wanted to save lunch for our next destination.  

We saw no whales today; northern migration season hasn't quite begun yet and southern migration is finished. Not to worry, tho, we saw plenty of critters today.  I'll tell about Monday afternoon's activities in my next post ....