Earthquake Swallows Cow… Pt. Reyes National Seashore: Part 1

Sanderlings take flight at Pt. Reyes National Seashore on Limantour Beach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Pt. Reyes National Seashore is an American Treasure. In this photo, Sanderlings take flight on Limantour Beach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of bull elk at Pt. Reyes National Seashore by Curtis Mekemson.

A bull elk is outlined against the sky at the Pierce Ranch.

My legs were not working and I was laughing. I had just completed one of Pt. Reyes’ easiest walks from the park headquarters out to the beach and back via Bear Valley. At the end of the 10 mile round trip, I had gratefully fallen into my car and driven to Bodega Bay. It was 1969 and the pre-Yuppified Inn-at-the-Tides consisted of motel cabins going for $15 as opposed to rooms starting at $200. My legs had gone on strike when I stepped out of the car to register.

I had just completed a year of recruiting for Peace Corps in the Southern United States where exercise had consisted of traveling between airports, motels and college campuses from Texas to Washington DC.  Adding injury to insult, I had eaten most of my meals at Southern restaurants serving large helpings of Southern food. Curt had become a little chubby. The legs were not happy. Fortunately, a half-pint of whiskey and a full night’s sleep ended their rebellion. The next morning I returned to my exploration of Pt. Reyes and the beginning of a life-long love affair with the North Coast of California.

Peggy and I returned to the area last week for three days and stayed at Olema Campground in the small town of the same name. It’s always been my campground of choice and has changed little over the decades. Even the restrooms have remained the same. I’ve used the campground as my jump off point for exploring Pt. Reyes, as a writing retreat, and as a campsite for the 500 mile-bike treks and 7 day walking tours I led on the North Coast during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Photo of Olema Campground next to Pt. Reyes National Seashore by Curtis Mekemson.

One of my favorite campsites at Olema Campground backs up to a small stream and looks out on Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Obviously, we were celebrating Halloween.

Pumpkin carving photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy and I join my Sister Nancy and her husband Jim each year for a pumpkin carving contest. We brought ours to Pt. Reyes. This witch was my entry in the contest.

Peggy's pumpkin. (She won the contest. Our grandkids voted without knowing who had carved the pumpkins.)

Peggy’s pumpkin. (She won the contest. Our grandkids voted without knowing who had carved the pumpkins.)

Our friends Ken and Leslie Lake joined us at the campground, arriving just in time to eat lunch in Pt. Reyes Station and to visit the Bovine Bakery and Pt. Reyes Books. The bookstore is a jewel and the bakery has buttermilk scones to die for. They, along with the Station House Café, are required stops on my trips to Pt. Reyes.

 Photo of Point Reyes Books and Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station by Curtis Mekemson.

Two of my favorite stops at Pt. Reyes Station. For a small, locally owned bookstore, Point Reyes Books has a great selection. And I’ve never met a pastry at the Bovine Bakery I didn’t like. More often than not, people are lined up out the door.

Afterwards we visited the park’s information center in Bear Valley and did a short walk around the Earthquake Trail. The Olema Campground is located a quarter of mile from the park headquarters and the infamous San Andreas Fault. Sitting in camp we could look across the fault at the peripatetic park. It had begun life some 300 miles to the south and is still working its way north. Normally its progress is measured in inches over decades. In 1906 it jumped 20 feet in the earthquake that was responsible for the destruction of San Francisco. Local legend is the earth cracked open, swallowed an Olema cow, and closed, leaving only the tail showing.

Pt. Reyes National Seashore photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A view along the Earthquake Trail. One of the things I like about Pt. Reyes National Seashore is the diversity of environments…

Photo by Curtis Mekemson of how far the San Andreas Fault slipped near Olema, California in 1906.

Leslie and Peggy stand on the San Andreas Fault and demonstrate how far the fault slipped in 1906.

This old black and white photo included by the park service along the EarthQuake Trail shows the actual slippage created by the 1906 earthquake.

This old black and white photo included by the park service along the Earthquake Trail shows the actual slippage created by the 1906 earthquake. You can see the actual crack in the ground.

And this photo from the Earthquake Trail shows the result of the 1906 earthquake on San Francisco.

And this photo from the Earthquake Trail shows the impact of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

NEXT BLOG: We will visit Limantour Beach and go for a beach walk.

19 thoughts on “Earthquake Swallows Cow… Pt. Reyes National Seashore: Part 1

  1. I have to admit, walking on something called “Earthquake Trail” might make me a tad nervous. 😉

    Those pumpkins are terrific. If I tried that, I’d probably slice off a finger!

    • The San Andreas Fault is probably the world’s most famous fault and the park has done a great job of featuring it. Lots of geology students head for Pt. Reyes.

      As for the pumpkins, thanks Carrie. Modern pumpkin carving tools help eliminate the finger slicing experience. Now it would be more like a finger sawing experience. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Finally, our paths cross somewhere other than Liberia! When I was in Berkeley, Pt. Reyes was a favorite destination. There’s a photo around here somewhere of me standing next to an interpretive sign that was there. I think what I most loved about California was the possibility of having nearly any environment you wanted: mountains, coast, the valley and vineyards, the Redwoods, and so on.

    Speaking of eating establishments, have you ever made it to the Lighthouse Café in Sausalito? Those pancakes are a marvel. When they say large, they mean BIG – easily 10″. Even that looks a little skimpy – they could have been 12″. But they’re light, tending toward the crepe-like, and absolutely delicious. I went back there once, just for the pancakes.

    I experienced three earthquakes in California. Two were shakers, but one was a roller, and I had the pleasure of watching the wave pass under a tile floor. So amazing to see it rising and falling just like waves in the ocean. A bit disorienting, too.

    • With all of our wandering, fun to see our paths have crossed. Don’t forget Turkey Texas, however. 🙂 Not many people have been there. Don’t know if I’ve been to the Lighthouse Cafe. I’ve been to Sausalito a number of times, but not for several years.

      As for earthquakes, I’ve experienced many but not been caught in a bad one. The scariest was when I was staying at a friend’s cabin at Donner Summit where I-80 crosses the Sierras. It was like a freight train going over the roof. –Curt

  3. What a gorgeous seashore! When we lived in Newport, Oregon we too fell in love with the northern California coast. I remember visiting Bodega Bay because of the filming of The Birds and The Fog (two cult classics that still intrigue me on so many levels), but now we regret not making it to Pt. Reyes. Definitely our loss – I guess we’ll just have to go back. ~Terri

  4. I took that earthquake trail hike as part of a scool camping trip. I recall seeing just such a whimsical display of a cow burried half way with only the hind legs and tail showing. This was back in the mid 70s and I suppose it has been long ago taken down.

    • I would have hiked the trail in the 70s as well, Brian. Pt. Reyes was one of my go-to places when I was escaping Sacramento. The trail is a great example of just how powerful the earthquake was. Thanks for commenting. –Curt

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