“Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.” From the Pt. Reyes National Seashore website.
For as much as I enjoy Pt. Reyes National Seashore, I studiously avoid it in the summer. One reason is the fog. That’s true for much of the Pacific Coast. The other is tourists, gazillions of them. Traffic slows to a turtle’s pace along Highway 1, campgrounds are full, and popular sites such as the lighthouse are packed. I have a limited sense of humor about any of the above, especially given that I can visit during the late fall, winter, and early spring when few tourists are out and about and days are often crystal clear. Or, if I am particularly lucky, a raging storm will send huge waves crashing ashore producing spectacular views. I love both.
It was mainly sunshine when Peggy and I visited the National Seashore in early March to celebrate my birthday. The lighthouse was closed due to Covid, but I have visited it before. This time, we admired it from above.
The lighthouse served its purpose for over 100 years, finally shutting down in 1975 when the US Coast Guard replaced it with an automated light found just below the historic lighthouse. Up until then it was tended by a lighthouse keeper whose responsibility was to keep the light burning. In addition to warning mariners off of the treacherous rocks, the lighthouse served as a navigational aid. Each lighthouse along the coast has a different frequency of light that ship pilots recognize. At Pt. Reyes, the light flashed once every five seconds.
Peggy and I parked Quivera and followed the trail that led out to the lighthouse. Along the way, we found trees that showed the effects of the high winds that frequent the headlands.
NEXT FRIDAY’S TRAVEL BLOG: I’ll wrap up my Pt. Reyes series with a pleasant walk out to Abbot’s Lagoon and a visit to the colorful town of Pt. Reyes Station.
Any trip to Pt. Reyes National Seashore should include a drive out to the historic Pierce Pt. Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve. The ranch will introduce you to an important piece of Pt. Reyes history. A hike out the Tomales Pt. Trail from the ranch will take you through some impressive scenery and likely give you a view of tule elk and other wildlife. Ever since the elk were reintroduced to the area in 1978, the herd has thrived. Our photos today start with our hike and end back at the ranch.
Monday’s Blog-A-Book from It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me: I leave the Graveyard behind and journey off to the Pond where bullfrogs and catfish rule and pirates lurk.
Wednesday’s Blog-A-Book from my lead-up to joining the Peace Corps: I help corral a police car at Berkeley and the rallying cry of ‘Never trust anyone over the age of 30‘ is born.
Pt. Reyes National Seashore is located some 30 miles north of San Francisco. Peggy and I went there last week to celebrate my birthday. It’s been a go-to place for me since the 60s. In addition to spectacular scenery, great hikes, yummy food, and one of the best small bookstores I’ve ever been in, we were entertained by the wildlife: tule elk, a pair of sushi eating coyotes, and elephant seals (plus some cows). Today, I want to do a teaser on our trip by featuring the elephant seals. I’ll get back to the rest after I finish my Harris Beach series.
Elephant seals are amazing creatures that spend up to 80% of their lives at sea— 90 % of it underwater! If that doesn’t seem remarkable enough, consider this: their normal dives for food range between 1000 and 2000 feet deep (305 to 610 meters). They can dive for up to an hour and a half before returning to the surface for three to five minutes of breathing. Semi-annual feeding binges take the males on a 13,000-mile roundtrip journey to the Aleutian Islands and females on a 11,000-mile roundtrip into the North Pacific.
They were absent from Pt. Reyes for 150 years. In fact, they were close to absent forever. Like whales, they came close to being hunted to extinction for their oil. Processing the blubber from one bull can produce up to 25 gallons. They were saved because the Mexico and the US banned hunting them in the 1920s. Gradually, they have returned to their old breeding grounds. When I first started visiting Pt. Reyes in the 60s, they were unheard of in the area. Today there are over 3000 that return annually to breed.
The Park Service had set up a barrier to separate the seals from the people who had come to admire them at Drake’s Beach. Those closest to the barrier were bulls. You can tell by their size and uniquely shaped noses. One had crossed the barrier and was worrying the rangers. “He’s escaping from the other bulls,” a ranger explained. Maybe.
A little girl next to me exclaimed, “I think he is heading to the snack bar to get fish sticks!”
“I’d bet on ice cream,” I responded. “Look at how big he is.” The girl looked at me dubiously. “Fish sticks” she insisted.
Peggy and I spent an hour watching these wonderful creations of nature who are so competent at sea and ungainly on land. They move like an inchworm, using their dorsal flippers to pull their front half forward and then using their rear flippers to push the rest of their body along like a rolling wave. Imagine moving several tons of fat. The ones we watched would make two or three of these moves and then collapse to rest.
Given their trunk-like noses and appealing eyes, Peggy and I were particularly attracted to the looks on their faces.
Monday’s Blog-a-Book… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me”: I move outside in the summer to enjoy nature but hire the family’s dogs and cats to protect me from the ghosts.
Wednesday’s Blog-a-Book… “The Bush Devil Ate Sam”: Held at gunpoint, I consider the odds of running over the gunman versus getting shot.
It’s Christmas Eve, a perfect time for more photos from the two calendars that Peggy and I put together for our family that feature National Parks of the Southwestern US. It’s hard to imagine a finer gift to the people of America and other countries than these special places that have been set aside in the US and around the world for now and future generations. Unless, of course, we are talking about world peace. (Grin.) As I mentioned previously, these are parks that Peggy and I visited in 2019/20. Some before Covid and some during the pandemic. In the latter we dutifully social distanced and wore our face masks whenever around people. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have seen these photos before. Enjoy. Be safe and Happy Holidays.
Tuesday: Welcome to the first day of the Sierra Trek! Those first 24 hours were a doozy! You won’t want to miss this chapter from my book! I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. 🙂
On Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll finish up our calendar photos.
Not knowing exactly where or when we will be this holiday season— it’s the Age of Covid— I decided to simplify my blogging life over the next two weeks by posting National Park and Monument photos Peggy and I used in two family calendars we designed for this year. (And likely used in blogs. Grin.) The pictures come from trips we took in 2019-20. Plus, I’ll slip in the slightly PG rated Christmas Card we sent out this week featuring the Corral, Chorale, Choir. I designed and drew the card several years ago but decided we needed a sense of humor more than anything else at this point in time, so I reproduced it. I will continue with my Blog-a-Book Tuesdays with stories I’m putting together for It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me.
With out further ado: Calendar photos, starting with Crater Lake featured above. I’ll be posting six or seven photos with each blog.
That’s it for today. Next Tuesday it’s back to blogging my book. On Wednesday, it’s time for the Christmas Card featuring Cow Girls. Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting more National Park calendar photos.
Beneath Scotts Bluff, Nebraska: We are camped at the base of a towering bluff that once stood as a major landmark to pioneers traveling west in wagon trains. My great, great grandmother would have passed this way and stared up at it in awe with the welcome knowledge that she had left the Great Plains behind. And, indeed, we too are breathing a huge sigh of relief, glad to be back in our much loved west. The bluff was named after an employee of a fur trading company who had the misfortune to die not far from where we are camped. He likely would have been glad to live on and leave the bluff with someone else’s name. I, for one, prefer the Native American name, Me-a-pa-te, which translates ‘hill that is hard to go around.’
It has been an interesting couple of weeks as we have made our way west from Virginia. This past week we kept ahead of a major storm that whipped through the Midwest with winds up to 100 MPH. We also avoided numerous motorcyclists— most with a similar look and without helmets— as they dashed around us on their way to Sturgis, South Dakota and whatever fate awaited them.
Yesterday was particularly interesting. We started our day at Buffalo Bill’s historic ranch camped out on the North Platte River and then hopped on one of America’s most historic backroads, US 30, otherwise know as the Lincoln Highway. It was America’s first cross-country road. But that’s only a small part of its history. For thousands of years it served as a major route for Native Americans. In the 1850s it was part of the Oregon Trail. Pony Express riders used it on their two year ride to glory and the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was built beside it. In 1908 it became part of the greatest road trip/road race ever, the New York to Paris Road Race, which will be the subject of my next blog.
But today, it’s time to say goodby to Arches National Park.
NEXT POST: What better place to start posts from our present journey around the US than what I consider to be one of the greatest road trip/races of all-time: The 1908 race around the world from New York to Paris. I’ve been meaning to do this blog ever since I came across the winner of the race at the National Auto Museum this time last summer. It’s epic!
“But where are the arches?” my brother-in-law John asked Peggy about my series on Arches National Park. “There is more to Arches than arches,” Peggy had responded. John readily agreed but there was still a plaintive ‘where are the arches’ tone to his voice. This post is for you, John— and for all of our other followers who have been wondering about how anyone could do a series on Arches National Park without arches.
They aren’t hard to find. There are over 2000 in the park, the highest concentration of any place in the world. Of course you would need a month to find them all plus put in a lot of miles hiking. We only had a day and the 100 degree F heat (37.7 C) discouraged much roaming in the time we had. Not to worry. The road plus a little walking took us to some of the most famous in the Park. So without further ado, I’ll start with the arch I featured at the top of the post, Turret Arch, named for its resemblance to turrets on castles.
A walk up to the Turret Arch easily includes two of the Park’s other Arches, North and South Windows.
No trip to Arches is complete without a trip to see the Delicate Arch, which many consider to be the National Park’s most scenic arch. Rather than make the gentle three mile round trip at 3 P.M. when we were both hot and tired, we took an alternative one mile trip straight up a steep slope for an overlook. Hmmm.
NEXT POST: As we drove out of Arches, I took several photos from our van that will serve as a closure to this series.
Purcellville, Virginia— outside of Washington DC: We are at our daughter’s home where she lives with her husband, Clay and her kids, Ethan and Cody. They are renting an old home that was built in 1880. The main house next door once was part of the Underground Railway for slaves escaping from the South. I’ll do a post on the houses later.
Our visit to Arches National Park today takes us back to the end of the paved road and the beginning of the Devil’s Garden trail. We hiked a way on the trail but the 100 (37.7C) degree heat encouraged us to make it a short. We then doubled back where we checked out the historic Wolfe ranch and some interesting Ute petroglyphs.
Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina: Peggy and I have now moved on from our large beach house on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina where we were entertained by our kids and grandkids for a week. Peggy was treated royally in honor of her 70th Birthday. (Okay, I was spoiled too.) Eventually, I’ll do a post on OBX. Presently we are in an RV campground in Roanoke Rapids, not far from the Virginia border on an unexpected layover day.
When we arrived here yesterday, I noticed that we could get a mobile RV service to come by and fix the water line running to our pump from our fresh water tank. It hasn’t worked since shortly after we left home. Given that most RV repair shops are booked solid for weeks during the summer, we hadn’t had an opportunity to repair it.
Rufus and Cleve arrived at five in Rufus’s brand new ‘shop,’ a 2020 Hemi. It would be hard to find two guys more country— from their looks to their accents. But they were genuine, fun and knowledgeable. Eventually, they found the problem. The plastic water tube buried beneath the water pump in an extremely difficult place to get at was twisted and frayed. Cleve returned this morning with new tubing to finish the job.
Today, I am continuing my series on Arches National Park. So far I have done posts on Balanced Rock and the road into Arches. In this post, I will start just beyond Balanced Rock at the Garden of Eden and follow the main road on to the the Fiery Furnace and beyond.
A final view before heading on to the Fiery Furnace.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I drive to the end of the road and go for a walk along the Devil’s Garden trail.
Outer Banks, North Carolina: We have been on the road for a month now— zig zagging across the country— climbing over mountains, crossing rivers, traveling through deserts and forests, zipping through urban areas and moving more slowly through rural. We’ve traveled from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and driven through 13 states so far.
Let me report: It’s strange out there when it comes to the pandemic. Some states are doing everything possible to reduce the the number of people catching Covid-19 and the resultant deaths. Others are like, whatever. Or they feel that restarting the economy takes precedence. Sadly, had they aggressively fought the pandemic to start with, we would now be in a much better position to get people back to work.
We drove through Atlanta a few days ago where the governor of the state was suing the mayor of the city because she wanted to implement a city-wide mask ordinance. Thankfully, more and more people are voluntarily wearing face coverings. Even the President is declaring it patriotic. My sense is if wearing a mask can save just one life, it’s worth it.
It isn’t strange, however, that Arches National Park has a lot more than arches to ooh and aww over. In fact, I find the fins and pinnacles located throughout the park equally awe-inspiring. I’ll provide some of my favorite examples over the next two to three posts. My last post on the park will be dedicated to arches.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I travel farther into Arches.