Going on a -.-. — .– Walk at Pt. Reyes… Plus: Peggy Snuggles up to a Police Horse

The cows had a hungry look in their eyes. We were thankful they were vegetarians.

Peggy and I had decided to revisit an old favorite of ours, the Palomarin Trail that enters Pt. Reyes National Seashore from the south. We had driven down to Bolinas and were on our way out the narrow, pothole-filled road that leads to the trailhead when we saw a series of poles, lined up like they were standing at attention in ranks. I knew immediately what they were. 

The poles were part of the historic Marconi wireless radio station near Bolinas. At one point, they had been connected by wires.

In 1914, decades before the likes of Elon Musk and his techie cohorts started working on worldwide wireless technology, Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless radio, had built a huge, wireless radio station near Bolinas to send Morse Code messages flying across the Pacific Ocean, setting up the first-ever communication system between ships at sea and land. A small parking lot was connected to a walking trail that wound its way past the historic poles and toward the ocean. We were easily diverted from our original intent of hiking the Palomarin Trail.  

The pole-filled field was doing double-duty as a cow pasture and a herd of cattle insisted on checking us out— up close and personal. It was lunch time and they may have thought we were sneaking alfalfa past them. The Morse Code in the title, BTW, spells C -.-. O —, W .–, in case you were wondering. And boy, that takes me back to my Boy Scout days in the 50s when memorizing Morse Code was essential to working your way up through the ranks.

We checked out the poles, talked with the cattle, and had a pleasant walk out to the coast with both Peggy and me taking photos. 

Not quite Mt. Everest, but I was still willing to pose for Peggy. We found large cement blocks throughout the area. At first, I though they might have been part of the coastal fortifications the US built along the Pacific Coast in WW II. Then we decided they were used to anchor the poles and wires. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A whole herd of cattle was lined up along the road. They remained on the road, not budging as we walked by.
I thought this young fellow munching on grass was quite handsome.
Peggy stopped to admire a lone tree on our walk. The brush had a soft, welcoming look to it. But looks can be deceiving!
It was close to impenetrable.
As we approached the coast, the Pacific Ocean stretched off into the distance. The Farallon Islands can be seen as bumps on the horizon. They were once known at ‘The Devil’s Teeth’ for their ability to rip the bottoms out of sailing ships. In the 1800s, millions of birds’ eggs were taken from the islands to feed San Francisco’s growing population. Today the islands are a designated wilderness area and are part of a marine sanctuary. The birds no longer have to worry about their babies being stolen.
Looking north, we saw some of the towering cliffs found along the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Sir Frances Drake, the renowned English hero and buccaneer (fancy name for pirate), apparently admired these cliffs on his visit to the area in 1579. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking south we could see the giant Sutro Tower that dominates the San Francisco skyline. Herb Caen, the well known and beloved columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, once described the tower as a “giant erector” that was stalking and planning to eat the Golden Gate Bridge. I read Caen religiously when I was growing up. It was back when newspapers still had a sense of humor, before they adopted their Doomsday, Penny Henny view of the world. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Afterwards, we stopped off in Bolinas for lunch. It’s another favorite coastal town of mine. One reason is the fact that the locals refuse to have signs leading into the town from Highway 1 for tourists to follow. Whenever Cal Trans puts one up, it’s torn down. I think that Cal Trans has finally given up. At least I didn’t see any signs. It has always been a fun, quirky town with its own unique cast of characters. Last time when Peggy and I visited with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake, we came on a bookstore without staff. A sign said “Take any book you want and leave whatever you think the book is worth to you in the cash box.” It was a very Bolinas type of thing.

While I’m on Bolinas stories, I’ll mention that it was also the site of my first ‘Hippie’ experience. I’d stopped in the town in 1968/69 and decided to do a little sunbathing on its infamous nude beach, which I had read about in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a time before Google listed “The Best Nude Beaches in Marin County,” a time when the Protestant ethic still reigned supreme among America’s middle class. I confess I was a little nervous about getting naked, but it was the sunburn that left a lasting memory!

A sign of the times in Bolinas. As we were walking through the town in search of lunch, we came across a car with a ladder on top that included a sign that set me to laughing. I could identify with it.

Having featured cattle today, it is only right that I should feature a horse as well. It’s a requirement of the Old West. The day after our Bolinas walk found Peggy and I hoofing it along the Bear Valley Trail. It connects the Visitor’s Center with the ocean in an 8-mile round trip. We were feeling our oats, so to speak, when we came across a pair of real hoofers, i.e. horses. A woman was walking one and stopped to chat. As it turns out the horses were part of ‘San Francisco’s Finest.’ It was a police horse, a proud member of the mounted patrol that can often be found patrolling Golden Gate Park. They’ve been at it continuously since 1864. The horses were out for a play day on the Bear Valley Trail. 

Peggy, who likes horses, insisted on snuggling up to it and I dutifully snapped a photo on our iPhone. I, on the other hand, am not a horse person. It isn’t their size, their looks, or their personality, all of which I find pleasing. It’s their smell, and the fact that they often leave prodigious piles of poop along hiking trails. Have you ever seen a sign that says “Clean up after your horse?” I’m not sure what it is about their smell, but it clings to you. I wonder if cowgirls and cowboys think of it as perfume? 

Peggy snuggles up with the horse along the Bear Valley trail.

That does it for today. I’ll wrap up our recent visit to Pt. Reyes in my next post. Then it will be off to Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

Bolinas: A Recluse Kind of Town… Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Mural of early Bolinas, California. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

A mural depicting how Bolinas would have looked in the 50s. Not much has changed. The artist added a touch of humor with the blue surfboard the man in the brown sports coat is carrying.

Marin County had a problem. Its highway department would put up a sign on Highway 1 pointing west toward the town of Bolinas and the residents of the small coastal community would tear it down. Again and again. Located 30 miles north of San Francisco and just south of Pt. Reyes National Seashore, the town didn’t want anyone to know where it was; the town was a recluse.

Finally, out of frustration, Marin County held a vote: Did or did not the townspeople want the signs? They voted no. Today, nothing points toward the community. But a map or GPS will get you there.

I first made my way to Bolinas in the early 70s. Surfers, hippies, commune members, artists, writers and other alternative types called it home. I was running an environmental center in Sacramento at the time. Being ex-Berkeley and ex-Peace Corps, I more or less fit in. “I could live here,” I thought to myself.

The town was also known for its nude beach. I won’t incriminate myself other than to note that there are some places on the body it’s best not to get sunburned.

Ken, Leslie, Peggy and I made our way to Bolinas after we left Pierce Ranch. Other than a new park in the middle of town, I was happy to find that the community had changed little. The park, I was proudly informed by a shop owner, had been donated by one of the town’s billionaires. Big money had found its way to this small community, which is pretty much the story of Marin County. Extreme wealth and a laid back lifestyle go hand in hand. In Bolinas, VW Vans and BMW’s seemed to happily co-exist.

We wandered through town poking our heads in various shops and looking for a bookstore. It’s become a tradition whenever we travel. We love books and we like to support local bookstores. We found one on the edge of town next to the post office. It was quite unique; the owner was elsewhere and shoppers were invited to price their own selections. Seven suggested categories ranged from “unbelievably really great” for $20 to “ordinary” for a buck. It was possible (though not likely) that Peggy’s really great might be my ordinary. A small, metal box with a slot on top was set up for payment. A statue of the Virgin Mary fronted the box. I wasn’t sure whether she was there to say thank you or to haunt our conscience if we paid five bucks for a book we believed was worth ten.

Bolinas, California unique book pricing recommendations. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A sign with suggested prices for books in Bolinas, California that depended on your assessment of the book.

Bolinas Book Store photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Ken deposits $5 for a “great book” in the Virgin Mary box while Peggy, reflected in a mirror, looks on.

Bolinas, California  book store photo by  Curtis Mekemson.

I assume this was the missing owner’s office. I believe he painted the pictures.

Leslie, Ken and Peggy stand in front of the Bolinas Bookstore named Books.

Leslie, Ken and Peggy stand in front of the Bolinas Bookstore named Books.

Our visit also included stopping off at a stuffed-to-the-ceiling antique store, admiring quaint houses that had been around since day one, taking photos of murals and visiting a small shop featuring incense, eastern music, and a Humpty-Dumpty Buddha.

Photo of Bolinas California taken by Curtis Mekemson.

Bolinas today, which I did in black and white to give it a 70’s feeling. Take away the cars and the billboard building and you’ll find the Bolinas featured in the mural at the top of the post.

The Grand Hotel Shop and Gallery in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The Grand Hotel Shop and Gallery was stuffed top to bottom with antiques.

Mannequin in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I was intrigued with this aging mannequin I found looking out the window of the shop.

A home in the town of Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The old homes in town have aged well.

Back in a hot-flash sign in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Incense, Eastern music, and this sign pulled us into a shop.

Eclectic Bolinas, California shop. Photo be Curtis Mekemson.

The laughing Buddha face on the upper left shelf made me think of Humpty Dumpty. The items in the shop were, um, eclectic…

Inside of shop in Bolinas California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Very eclectic.

Bolinas Shrine. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We found a shrine next door that the community had put up after 9/11.

Surf shop ad in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A Bolinas surf shop advertised using broken surf boards featuring Native American/First Nation art.

Halloween pumpkin in Bolinas California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This pumpkin reminded me that Halloween had just passed…

2013 gas prices in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And this sign reminded me that we would be buying our gas elsewhere. This station matched what I was paying in the Yukon territory this summer.

NEXT POST: Peggy and I heading off to Mexico for three weeks. To fill in, I’ve decided to put up photos that Peggy and I have taken in America’s National Parks. We’ve made a point of visiting close to all of them. I’ll close out my Pt. Reyes’ series with a Bolinas mural that I think reflects the area: ocean, wilderness, and a touch of magic.

Mural of mountain lion and mermaid in Bolinas, California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.