Freeway Free in California: Exploring Pt. Reyes Seashore (Day 2)
We got the fog we had hoped for on our second day at Point Reyes. Since we had part of the area south of our home base on our first day, we decided to head north from our base at the Cottages along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. We stopped at the first trailhead aiming for Abbotts Lagoon, which the Pt Reyes website trail guide recommends as “an easy stroll with good spring wildflowers and excellent birdwatching in fall and winter.” Since we were visiting in summer, we lowered our expectations, but the “easy stroll” part seemed very attractive.
Near the entrance to the trail, a posted sign advised us that a family of river otters might be seen from the bridge across Abbotts Lagoon. We set off eagerly, as we had not scored any exotic wildlife the previous day. But we were soon distracted from the possibility of otters by the very real abundance of wildflowers. I often count how many different sorts of wildflowers I encounter on a hike, but this time I simply lost track. So many colors and varieties, inhabiting every niche from wetland to sand dune! What must it have been like in spring?
OK, we struck out with the otter family – they must have been fishing up a different creek. But we couldn’t feel deprived.
Back at the car we were beginning to feel a bit peckish, and decided to have our picnic lunch at the Historic Pierce Point Ranch at the end of the road before exploring the Tule Elk Reserve at Tomales Point, the northernmost finger of the National Seashore.
By early afternoon it was quite windy, and there were no visible picnic tables at the Ranch. Fortunately, we had thrown a couple of folding chairs and a small folding table into the trunk. We set up our small feast in the lee of the raised trunk lid, and managed to feast on crackers, cheese, and fruit without seeing our lunch blown away.
Having missed out on sea lions and river otters, we were not sanguine about the prospects of viewing elk at the Tule Elk Reserve. But we set off on the Tomales Point Trail, and almost as soon as we got past the last of the farm’s outbuildings, W pointed out our first elk, a cow moving slowly across the slope ahead. W got out the binoculars and cried “There’s another one, a buck with antlers!” I looked but could see nothing where she pointed but a large sandstone boulder. Then with the binoculars I was able to make out a dark head and antlers attached – the “rock” was the light tan body of a massive stag.
As we continued along the trail, the wind picked up, and the chill factor increased, but every time we thought of turning back, we would come upon another group of elk down in the valley, or trooping across the road ahead. Finally we reached the point where the sign warned us that the trail ahead was “unmaintained.” We took that as a turnaround indicator.
Tired but thrilled by our success at elk viewing, we ended our day at a local eatery touted as having “a beautiful location on Tomales Bay”. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant‘s bayside location was pretty much moot, as the fog was thick and low by dinner time. Still, we enjoyed the :very good food” and “nice casual atmosphere” as a reward for our wind-blown tenacity at the elk reserve.