The pace of my journey has changed since I got a job as a tour guide with a double-decker bus company in San Francisco. I spend four days a week riding in continuous loops around the city, standing in front of bus full of people with a microphone, trying to educate them about the city and entertain them at the same time.
This leaves me with less time for personal exploration, although I have learned a whole lot about San Francisco.
I don’t want to work five days a week. I don’t need to — I’m not paying rent. My schedule is such that my “weekend” lands on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
This week, I dedicated my “weekend” to Point Reyes National Seashore. A friend had introduced me to the place previously, and I decided to go back and explore more. I was absolutely intrigued on my first visit, and I knew I had only seen a glimpse of the place.
Point Reyes rests over top of the San Andreas fault line, and it has noticeably split from the mainland over time. It’s actually moved north because of fault line activity. After the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco, it moved 21 feet north!
The whole park is a triangle, the three corners being Point Reyes, Tomales Point, and Bolinas Point. Having already seen Point Reyes and the beautiful lighthouse there, I went to check out the coast in between Reyes and Bolinas as well as Tomales Point.
Just driving through the park is a trip and half. The winding, misty roads take you up and down through the hills, catching glimpses of ample coastline, the Pacific Ocean, and the rugged land in between. The landscape is dotted with historic cattle ranches and dairy farms that predated the founding of the park.
There is enough beach for everyone at Point Reyes. Chances are you’ll easily be able to find a nice little slice of sand all to yourself, maybe without any other humans in sight. In recent years, Point Reyes has seen about 2.5 million visitors annually.
For my first evening in Point Reyes, I drove to Limantour Beach, which was a little more populated. Along the road on the way to the beach, you can find the only hostel in the park, which charges $35/night for a room. I saw harbor seals swimming just off the coast, crabs scuttling in the sand, and pelicans, cormorants, and snowy plovers fishing in the water. In the distance, whales sent up puffs of mist through their blowholes. I cooked dinner for myself in my van. It was so nice to open up the doors all the way and play music at a decent volume — I don’t get to do that a lot on the streets of Berkeley. Wouldn’t want to upset my middle class neighbors, now.
Like most national parks, the rangers don’t really like people sleeping in their parking lots and on the sides of the road. When they patrol, they will ask you to move. Fortunately, the town of Inverness is situated along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in between different sections of the park. I found a pull over in Inverness and slept there, and then re-entered the park in the morning.
On my way to Tomales Point, I stopped to see Kehoe Beach, intending only to stay for a half hour or so. I walked all the way to the end of the beach, listening to the waves crashing ashore and even watching a couple of deer scramble their way down to the beach from the nearby cliffs. At the end of the beach, I found a little corner to myself and curled up in the warm sunshine for a nap. I woke a couple hours later to see a two fisherman casting their lines nearby. As I explored the rocks more, I found all sorts of interesting sea life, including purple and green crabs, anemones, and a few different kinds of mollusks.
To complete my day, I drove until the road ended, parked at a historical ranch, and went on a long hike to Tomales Point. The trail to Tomales Point is 4.7 miles long one way, a near 10-mile round trip. The trail, which is incredibly scenic, also runs through the Tule Elk Reserve, and I came incredibly close to large herds of elk roaming in the tall grasses through the hills.
The last mile or so of the trail is a steep slog on a sandy trail, where you go a half step back for every step you take. But the view at the end of the trail is absolutely worth it. You pass Bird Rock out to the left in the ocean, so named because of the large flocks of marine birds that nest there, turning the rock white with their droppings. And then, at the very end, you are rewarded with stunning, dizzying views down the sides of sheer cliffs and out into the endless Pacific. To do this hike, you’ll definitely need a lot of water and a handful of snacks. 10 miles is a distance to take seriously in terms of preparation.
As I was walking, I encountered and Englishman who has lived in the United States for most of his life taking photos of the elk. We ended up keeping each other company to the end of the trail and then the whole way back to the parking lot, for a total about six or seven miles. He kindly took this photo of me at Tomales Point:
I returned to Berkeley after my little mini-vacation feeling refreshed and ready for the work week. Point Reyes is such a beautiful California gem, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the states.
I hope to spend more of my “weekends” on little camping trips like this one! I’m looking forward to filling you in on my next adventures. Let me know if you have any recommendations for places within reasonable driving distance from the Bay Area!