Wandering Lizard

An online magazine with information related to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of the Western United States

A Day of Hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore Park

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

When in the Point Reyes area I try to stay at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge. It is a wonderful property located on the very edge of the Point Reyes National Seashore Park. You can literally walk out their back door, cross a tiny creek, climb an old-fashioned stile over a fence, and when you step down on the other side you are in the park. This morning I was on the trail by a little after eight and I had a full day of hiking ahead of me.

My first stop was at the Bear Valley Information Center where I picked up a trail map. They have an excellent collection of displays and some very helpful park rangers located there. I recommend that first time visitors to the park allow enough time for a visit to this center. There is an enormous amount to see and do in this park and it can not all be done in one day. I visit the park regularly and knew just exactly what I wanted to do that day so the trail map was all I needed.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

The first segment of trail that I walked was a short loop through a reconstructed Miwok Native American village near the information center. The Miwok people lived in the Point Reyes area for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Euro-American immigrants. It is believed that Sir Francis Drake met with them when he careened his ship at Drake's Bay for repairs. This village gives one an appreciation of another way of life that can not be gotten from words alone. (The village is used by Native Americans for periodic ceremonies which speaks to the authenticity of the place.)

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

I spent an hour or so in the village and then headed west on the Bear Valley Trail. This trail is a broad dirt road and is used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders. It is one of the main connecting routes to the very extensive network of trails that run north and south through the park. The road gently traverses up a very slight slope and a small creek beside it flows east. It was fall and we had just had our first rains of the season. The delightful babble of the creek was accompanied by the chatter of a wide variety of small birds rustling through the trees and undergrowth for breakfast. Sunshine filtered down through the fall colored leaves and deer were everywhere.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

The Bear Creek Trail crests in a large meadow ringed with conifers where I caught up with a group of six young mothers each carrying a small child ranging in age from four to eight months. They had passed me earlier on the trail and I had enjoyed the way the sound of their voices and laughter blended with the sounds of the forest. I was also impressed with their vitality and obvious good humor. We chatted a few minutes and then I headed off while they considered how much further they would go that day. The melodic sound of their voices followed me to the first bend in the trail and then I was alone again.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

The Bear Valley Trail ends at the junction of two trails. I took the branch to the right and immediately the forest around me changed. I was no longer on a wide road I was now on a wide trail and the creek that followed along was flowing west. The grade was still gentle but the conifers gave way to a variety of broadleaf trees still in their fall coloration. I did not meet another soul on this leg of the hike although there was sign that horses had traveled the trail very recently.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

The trail that I was on ended at the junction of the Coast Trail and the Arch Rock Trail. I took the Arch Rock Trail and the world around me changed yet again. I was obviously entering the coastal zone. Thick forest surrendered to scrub brush and I could smell the salt of the ocean in the onshore breeze. When I broke out onto the coast itself I sat on top of Arch Rock for a few minutes and enjoyed the vistas up and down the coast. To the north I could see Drakes Bay and the beach where, centuries ago, it is believed the Golden Hind was repaired.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

When I continued on I chose a short section of the Coastal Trail and headed north to the access trail up to the Sky Trail. The Coastal Trail is basically level, but the new trail is not. This one has a 45 degree grade. The sun was beating down on me and I shed my wool shirt. It had been perfect while I was under cover of the trees, but now it was definitely time for a T-shirt. There was a lot of evidence of bobcat, coyote and cougar on the trail and at one point it was obvious that a cougar had used the trail very recently.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

The Sky Trail is aptly named in as much as it climbs to the higher elevations of the park and consequently has magnificent vistas. At the top I left the coastal zone behind me and reentered the conifer forest. The trees here are very large and some of them are covered with moss and lichen and look like they had been the inspiration for a fairy tale or two. A short distance after reaching the crest I turned off onto the Old Baldy Trail and headed back down a steep grade to the Bear Valley Trail and then back to the Information Center. Just before I reached the Center I ran into a few of the fallow deer that inhabit the park. (I had forgotten of their existence and at first glance I thought that I was seeing an albino.)

Point Reyes National Seashore Park, Marin, California

Before heading back to the lodge I decided to take in the Earthquake Trail which is another of the small loop trails close to the Center. It has two trail-side exhibits that I like a lot. One is a fence that was broken during the earthquake of 1906 - the quake that caused the destruction of San Francisco. One half of the fence is still in its original location and the other half is twenty or so feet away where the movement of the earth took it during the quake. (I honestly don't know if the fence is original but even if it is not it is the most dramatic visual explanation of the power of an earthquake that I have ever seen.) The other exhibit that I think is very impressive is composed of four large rocks alongside the path demonstrating the movement of tectonic plates.

By the time that I got back to the lodge it was dusk, I had walked about ten miles, and spent the entire day doing it. It was a great day.

Abecedarius, 11/03


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