Thursday, June 2, 2016

Point Reyes National Seashore on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day this year, we did a day-trip over to Point Reyes National Seashore.  It has been on my list of California places to see for years now and it's not even that far away.  The drive was just gorgeous with beautiful trees and fields filled with cows grazing on wildflowers and tall early summer grasses.  We stopped to stretch our legs at Inverness in Tomales Bay when we saw this interesting old boat that had been abandoned on the shore.  Turns out it is a bit of a local landmark that has been around for decades and just this past February somebody set off fireworks in the back of the boat and it caught fire, nearly destroying it.  The front still looks good but the backside is all burnt out now.  The girls enjoyed walking across a "balance beam" (log laid across that little stream in front of the boat) and then searching for tiny hermit crabs in the sand on the other side where the tide was going out.  

As we got closer to the coast, it got overcast and cooler, which was just right for the little hike we wanted to do down to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which operated for 105 years from 1870-ish (I'm just going off what I overheard a ranger mentioning) to 1975 before being replaced by an electric version.  The ranger said that it was always hard to keep lighthouse keepers because of how remote and desolate the area is and how demanding the job was.  They had to crank the operating mechanism on the light every 2 hours to keep it going and in bad weather they had to shovel 140 pounds of coal an hour to keep the foghorn blasting.   The longest they ever kept a lightkeeper was something like 12 years and many people only lasted a week before quitting.  And interestingly, we learned that the lighthouse at Point Reyes has a 5-second flash, which is a signature so that sailors know which lighthouse they are at - the lighthouses above and below along the coast have different flashes like a 3-second flash, etc. 

Clara was picking wildflowers along our way from the car to the lighthouse.  A park ranger ended up confiscating her bouquet, which was very sad.  I mean, I get it that if everybody picked the flowers there wouldn't be any left for others to enjoy and we talk to Clara about that all the time (oh my gosh, seriously enough to drive a parent crazy!) but there is just something about little girls and flower bouquets.  Clara finally understands that at home, she is only allowed to pick dandelions and not our neighbors flowers but out in the wild, it just feels wrong to tell her she's not allowed to touch. 

We went through this tunnel of cyprus trees.  I find cypruses to be absolutely beautiful and fascinating trees, the way they get all bent and curvy to hug the land near the sea from being blown by the ocean winds for their whole lives.

There are something like 300 stairs down to the lighthouse and both girls did them on their own on the way down and back up, even though Rose especially had to be coaxed along on the return portion.  I think during winter you can often spot whales from here so we will have to plan another trip in for January because wouldn't it be just amazing to see a humpback whale spouting just off the coast from this perch?

 After visiting the lighthouse, we stopped at Drakes Beach, which was super overcast and gloomy but still a nice place to have a snack and let the girls play in the sand.  Clara found a bunch of large, smooth rocks and gathered them up, calling them "dinosaur eggs" and burying them in the sand to hatch.

We read about Sir Francis Drake (the first person to sail around the world) and how he made it to the bay here and stopped for over a month to gather supplies and repair their ship.  They had come from England sometime around 1579 and gone all the way around the south tip of South America and then back up the coast, losing 4 other ships along the way and collecting gold and treasures from Spanish ships (Sir Francis Drake was a privateer for Queen Elizabeth I - so basically a pirate sanctioned by the English government).  Their whole trip took them 3 years and the sailors were homesick and thought the cliffs here looked like the white cliffs from their homeland.  The Miwok Native Americans who inhabited the area had never before seen white men.

We put a movie on for the girls on the drive home and Paul and I talked about camping this summer and when and where to go.  It's nuts that it is June now!  April and May feel lost in the abyss of pain and recovery from my surgery but I'm so glad to be better and able to start planning and doing fun things like this again - just in time for summer!


  1. Ryan is getting the camping itch too!

  2. Mr Bossy Pants park ranger must not have any children of his own - how could he be so heartless? I love your blue windbreaker!


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