A Day at Point Reyes National Seashore
POINT REYES, CA- This past weekend, Matt, Rachel, and I visited Point Reyes, a National Seashore just north of San Francisco. Jutting out into the Pacific, it is often cloudy, windy, and cold since there is no protection from the oceanic elements. However, Saturday was one of the most beautiful days imagineable, with not a cloud in the sky, the sun shining brightly down, a cool breeze, and visibility as far as the eye could see.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse is on the northern tip of the peninsula and on a day like this, we could see the Farallon Islands offshore, normally obscured, and could even spot the Golden Gate Bridge far off in the distance. Oil tankers dotted the horizon, and in front of one of them, humpback whales blew spouts and breached the clear blue water. It was a good day to have a powerful pair of binoculars.
Point Reyes is also known for having a large population of Tule Elk, a sub-species found only in California and with a small habitat right here next to the ocean. We passed a group of three or four males grouped together, broing out hard and fawning in the sun. It would be another few miles before we came across the rest of the gang—females clustered together near the shade of a nearby mountain; far more of them than the males. Less majestic, but so it goes with any species of ungulate when you compare the antlered males to the un-antlered females.
We had the good fortune to see a number of other animals during this jaunt to the National Seashore, my favorite being a coyote sighting (which was a first for me). Point Reyes is filled with deer, so when I saw the tail flicking off in the distance, head buried in the bush, I figured it was one of them and didn’t get too excited. But then I realized how thick and bushy the tail looked, and it dawned on me that this was more like a dog…yes, a coyote! With its head stuck deep in a bunch of roots, pawing at some prey or another. Pulling off the side of the road, we were once again fortunate to have binoculars with us as we watched the coyote jump around and hunt for a few minutes.
The southern tip of Point Reyes is also known for its large population of elephant seals. They can be found basking in the sun, lazily flapping about and from time to time issuing exhortations of deep record. There are hundreds of them on the beach, and none in the water. Apparently they quite enjoy lounging about, and though there are a few babies that are half-heartedly inching their way to the shoreline, I don’t think they will be swimming unsupervised anywhere soon.
Point Reyes proved to be a stunning place to visit, if for no other reason that it is just a few miles from San Francisco. A quick jaunt out of the big city, and you find yourself standing atop a towering cliff at the edge of the ocean, watching the waves crash onto the rocks below. Whales swim off in the distance, elk graze behind you, and deer, coyotes, and maybe even a mountain lion roam the terrain off in the distance. Nature is alive and well at this National Seashore.