The next day of our trip was devoted to Point Reyes National Seashore. Jon had visited Point Reyes Station (the town nearest to the park) when he lived in California, and was so struck by the little town that he wanted to visit again. Of course, when he first told me, I thought he meant he had actually visited the National Seashore and not just the town, but that’s neither here nor there. I was interested in seeing the National Seashore, so onto the itinerary it went.
Point Reyes National Seashore is one of ten National Seashores in the National Park System. It was authorized in 1962 by John F. Kennedy, who sadly didn’t live to visit it. Californians were concerned about protecting their coastline as early as the late 1920s, and encouraged the federal government to take steps to create a park, but the Great Depression got in the way. So a private group began buying the land and deeding it to Marin County. This private protection of pieces of the land continued until the late 1950s, when legislation was finally proposed federally to create a National Seashore at Point Reyes. This park does not disappoint.
We drove from Petaluma on a scenic two lane highway – it was a gorgeous sunny day, so we followed several convertibles with their tops down. There are also a million bicyclists on the roadway, so if you go when the weather is nice, watch out! And try to be more patient than Jon about bicycles… Once we got there, we stopped in at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center and got a map and figured out where we would be headed. There were a million school kids there, but they largely disappeared once we were actually in the park.
Outside the Visitor’s Center, I got my first wildlife photos of the day – a blue heron was hanging out in the field outside the Visitor’s Center. I watched him for a little while, and then noticed a quail couple making their way across the field. I love quail! I was able to get several good photos of the pair, and was so pleased to have seen them.
First, we made our way to the McClure’s Beach Trailhead, and the Tule Elk Reserve. We had spotted some elk in the Redwood National Forest, but we were zipping along on the highway and I didn’t have a chance to get a picture. Also, the elk in Point Reyes National Seashore are Tule Elk, where the elk in Redwood National Park are Roosevelt Elk – Tule Elk are smaller and lighter in color. Along the way to the elk reserve, we passed several dairy farms, which seems unusual, until you know the story.
Back in the mid 1800s, an attorney owned most of the land on which Point Reyes National Seashore now sits. He divided the land into 26 tracts, named them with each of the letters of the alphabet, and rented them out to tenant farmers from all over the world, including farmers from Switzerland, Portugal and Ireland. The farms are still there, passed down from generation to generation and all are marked with their original letter name and the year that they were established. We saw farms that dated anywhere from 1852 to 1869.
Near the McClure’s Beach trailhead, we found the elk that we were looking for, and watched them for a little while, and got some photos.
The elk were cool, but once we started to head back down the road we got the surprise of a lifetime. Jon spotted a bobcat! He was walking across the field, away from us. I was really surprised, because I didn’t think that bobcats were active during the day, but there he was, just minding his own business! The photos aren’t great, but I did manage to get a picture of him. He was so neat! That was the first time I have ever seen a bobcat in the wild.
After seeing the bobcat, we continued our drive to the other side of the park to visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. I’ll tell you about that next!