Going on a Cow Walk… The Pt. Reyes Series

Cow conflict resolution

I’m returning to Pt. Reyes National Seashore and the surrounding area today. As you may recall, Peggy and I drove down to this beautiful park north of San Francisco in early March to celebrate my birthday. At the time, I did a post on the big nosed elephant seals that have adopted the park as a great place to breed and have babies as their population increases.

Like whales, they had been hunted close to extinction for the oil their body produces. Fortunately, enough people had become concerned in the early 20th Century to stop the slaughter and save the species. My elephant seal post would have been perfect for yesterday: Earth Day. The message about these unique animals is that If we care enough, we can make a difference. Working together, we can help save the earth and its bio-diversity. Nature has wonderfully recuperative powers— given a chance. The planet will work with us, if we stop working against it. But enough on the that for now. Today’s post is about cows and a short walk in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

There is no danger of cows going extinct. They have the advantage/disadvantage of being useful to us. As of 2021 there are over a billion on earth. The Pt. Reyes area has its share. It was recognized as ideal for raising dairy cattle in the 1850s as the burgeoning population of San Francisco provided a ready market for dairy products. When the National Seashore was created in the 1970s and 80s, the ranches were grandfathered into the land that was set aside and are an integral part of today’s Pt. Reyes’ experience.

I didn’t set out to do a post on cows when Peggy and I decided to incorporate a short walk along the Bolinas Ridge Trail. It’s actually a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area but is administered by Pt. Reyes NS. As you can see by the maps below, it is just east of the small town of Olema which includes the campground I have been staying at forever, or at least back to the 1970s. The trail is part of a system being developed that will eventually allow hikers to do a 500 mile hike around the complete Bay Area. We did four. Two out and two back.

The Bolinas Ridge Trail starts just east of the small town of Olema on the Sir Frances Drake Blvd. It’s the dotted line. Our campground sits in the grey area just above Olema. The National Seashore Visitors’ Center and Headquarters is the light area behind the campground. Our go-to town for eating out and shopping is Pt. Reyes Station to the north.
This map provides perspective on where Bolinas and Pt. Reyes Station are located in relation to San Francisco. The green area next to the coast makes up Pt. Reyes and the Golden Gate Recreation Area stretching from the end of Tomales Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. Highway 1 is the yellow line running along the coast, more or less separating the two parks. It also follows the infamous San Andreas Earthquake Fault. Pt. Reyes was once located near LA as part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It has been on its journey north for some 30 million years.
Just for fun, this map shows the Bay Area Trail system with its completed and uncompleted sections.
Official cow. The cows became part of our walk. This is the official cow portrait taken by Peggy. Number 1913, otherwise known to us as Bossy, didn’t want to interrupt her eating for the photo. The cows chomping grass made a distinctive, loud noise. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Let it be known, there was much more to the walk than cattle. The beautiful green of the Coastal Range was offset by dark forests. Spring flowers were beginning to pop up. Individual rocks with definite personalities stood proudly along the way and demanded to be photographed.

The striking green grass of the Coast Range was offset by dark groves of trees. Individual rocks added to the scene.
Peggy hoofing it along the trail, which is actually a gravel road at this point. Turn her loose on a flat stretch and away she goes. I can hardly keep up. At 70 she can still whip out four miles an hour. Fortunately, she is easily distracted.
“Do you see the lizard, Curt,” she proclaimed and immediately stopped to photograph a rock that looked like a lizard head to her. You can see the squinty lizard looking eye toward the top center of the rock. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Cow itch. Cattle had a way of stealing the show.
But back to rocks. This one looked like it was long overdue for a haircut. You might say it had Covid hair.
Lichens added a touch of color to this rock. I decided if Peggy could have her lizard rock, I could have a frog rock. What do they have in common other that a vivid imagination to see them? They both eat flies. That’s a good thing.
No imagination required here. This was a bird’s rock, be it ever so temporary.
Cowlick. Peggy insisted on catching the cowlick seen on the head of Number 1903 (Ferdinand), seen earlier scratching an itch. She said it reminded her of me. Thanks. My hair can be rather untamable at times. A cowlick, BTW, is different than a cow kiss, which is the generous application of one’s tongue on someone’s face, usually followed by an “Eeww!”
I didn’t know the name of this striking early bloomer, but fortunately Peggy and I had just loaded iNaturalist on our iPhone. I took a photo from my screen and voila! it’s Footsteps of Spring (Sanicula arctopoides). I absolutely love the new app.
Another flower I had to lookup on our new app, Suncup Primrose (Taraxia ovata).
This beauty was another one that our new iNaturalist app identified. Unfortunately, it’s an invasive species, Rosy Sand Crocus (Romula rose).
And then we found an old friend, a solitary California poppy growing in the rocks along the trail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Cow sentry. If we didn’t have the feeling we were constantly being watched, we should have.
I wanted to capture a photo of Peggy on a flat hilltop that was surrounded by rocks that struck me as a great place for a full moon Wiccan ceremony. I’m not sure how Peggy’s pose fit in, but then I hadn’t told her to look like a witch. The poppy shown above was growing in these rocks. An old fence was nearby…
Tha ancient barbed wire and lichens spoke to a bygone era of ranching in the Pt. Reyes area. We were glad that the cattle were still there.
Another shot of the fence.
The tail-end of a cow tale. “I’m out of here” Ferdinand grumpily stated after one too many photos. Look at his face! I get the same feeling at family photo sessions. On next Friday’s Pt. Reyes travel blog, Peggy and I are off to visit an elk herd that roars down to see us. And, we watch a pair coyotes eating sushi.


Monday’s Blog-A-Book Post from It’s 4 AM and a Bear is Standing on Top of Me: Have you ever raced to the top of a 70-foot tree? In the middle of a graveyard? It was an important part of our entertainment when we were growing up. Join me on Monday as I race to the top and my brother tries to build a treehouse 60 feet up…

32 thoughts on “Going on a Cow Walk… The Pt. Reyes Series

  1. Many years ago when we were living in Novato we attended a presentation of “The Fugitive Kind” in a tiny theater in Point Reyes. It was one of my all time favorite performances. The woman was go good I assumed she was a retired professional actress- no, she was the waitress at the local cafe.

      • That’s wonderful Curt. I’ve been following Jet for years. She too has written some books so you may have a great deal in common. We had the pleasure of meeting Jet in person and she gave us a personal tour of San Francisco. Just have to love this blog world and the connections.

      • I can already tell, I am going to like Jet, Sue. It seems to me that the blogging world is so much more conducive to forming friendships than other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. –Curt

  2. Oh I love this post Curt. So beautiful with you’re usual twiost of a chuckle and humor. Great line here:
    “Nature has wonderfully recuperative powers— given a chance. The planet will work with us, if we stop working against it”. Yes, power to the planet and getting everyone on board!
    So photogenic and cute that 1903 Mr. Ferdinand is!!! The lichen and glowers, and especially that crazy haircut “Sanicula arctopoides” is spectacular. What a great application to have. What camera are you using? Do they have places to camp with campers there?
    P.S. Thinking as a surprise for my son’s b.d. and his G.f. can take him.
    Lovely walk and visit… thanks friend.
    Peggy hardly looks like a witch but clearly having the best time. Can barely see her lizard.💖❤️👏👏👏👏

    • Thanks, Cindy. Appreciated. Peggy and I really enjoyed our hike and I had fun with the post. The lizard did require a bit of imagination. 🙂 The two most convenient campgrounds are the Olema Campground in Olema and Samuel P Taylor State Park. Olema is a private combined RV/campsite campground. Advanced reservations are essential for both at this time of year and on into the summer. Their proximity to the Bay Area makes them quite popular. –Curt

  3. A cow here and a cow there, and pretty soon you have a whole herd! What a great post. Point Reyes is beautiful for its landscapes, but stir in a cow or a hundred, and you’ve really got something. I especially liked the lichen and old barbed wire on the fence, and of course that lone California poppy caught my eye. That’s my favorite California flower, and one that I was aware of when I lived there, even before I turned into Nature Girl!

  4. I’ve never thought of Point Reyes in terms of cows and meadows. My dim memory of the place is of the lighthouse – probably much like the majority that pass through.

    When I saw your opening shot I was thinking, “meeting of the minds.” But then I realized, much like their “higher” relatives, it was just a couple of blockheads wanting their own way.

    • I’ll get to the lighthouse, Dave. It is closed because of Covid but still beautiful.
      Cows are an integral part of the National Seashore, especially on the road out to the lighthouse and the road out to Tomales Pt. with a number of historic ranches still functioning. You should visit the National Seashore again and make their acquaintance. Grin.
      Yep, they were butting heads. But unlike their human counterparts, they had the good sense to know when to stop and not hold a grudge! –Curt

  5. Hi Curt, how uncanny that you and I both wrote Pt. Reyes posts on the same day. I usually write about undomesticated wildlife but had decided to include the dairy cows because they’re a part of Pt. Reyes, too. I’m glad Sue connected us, and I enjoyed your trip to Pt. Reyes post very much. Wonderful photos and narrative, and a fun adventure. Thanks very much.

    • Thanks Jet. I already thanked Sue for the introduction. Cows aren’t normally blog material for me either. 🙂 My post on Friday focuses in on the tule elk losing their winter coats and a pair of coyotes digging up sushi on the beach at Tomales Point.
      On another note, I was just typing a response to your fun comment on the Great Tree Race and I started typing outside the box, god forbid. WordPress promptly disappeared your comment and wouldn’t let me retrieve it. I’m sure it is floating around out there in the Internet ether. Anyway, thanks.
      Interruption… a bald eagle was just flying above our sunroom. A pair is nesting about a quarter of a mile away. Some fun. That’s it for now. –Curt

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