An Elk Loses Its Coat, a Coyote Digs Sushi, and a Ranch Is History… The Pt. Reyes Series

This bull elk that came down to see us as we hiked out the Tomales Pt. Trail looked quite elegant until we looked at his back. He was still shedding his winter coat and had yet to grow his summer fur. The deer herd that hangs out on our property goes through the same stage, looking frowzy for a couple of months. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

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.

The Tomales Pt. Trail starts at the Pierce Pt. Ranch passing under tall Cypress trees planted originally by the ranchers as a wind break. Peggy provides perspective.
A few hundred yards brought us to a number of Calla lilies. Peggy and I wondered if a rancher’s wife had planted them to remind her of a home the family had left behind. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Of course, I had to take photos of the lilies as well.
We stopped to admire the scenery looking out toward Tomales Pt. and the Pacific Ocean.
Another view. The Bodega Headlands can be seen in the distance. If you’ve been to Bodega Bay, it’s possible you’ve driven out there. I like to go out on the headlands and look for whales passing by.
Far below us we saw a pair of coyotes working their way along the beach.
Peggy used her telephoto for a closer shot and, much to our surprise, the coyotes were digging in the sand. Whether they were after clams or crabs or some other seafood delicacy, I don’t know. But what was clear was that the coyotes had developed a tase for sushi!
Shortly afterwards we spotted elk on the ridge above us.
And they came down the hill to see us… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Bringing their cows with them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I caught this photo of one of the bulls checking us out. You can see that he is in that ‘awkward’ stage between losing his winter coat and growing his summer one.
This cow elk was also looking a bit bedraggled. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A final shot of the elk browsing. I liked the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
The Pierce Pt. Ranch ceased operation in 1973. Visitors are now invited to walk through the grounds and get a feel for what dairy ranching was like before modern dairy operation took over.
I liked the roofs.
I believe a park ranger lives in the ranch house now. I could live there!
The old dairy barn is humongous.
I took a peek inside. This is only half of the barn.
While Peggy stood at the barn door.
Since I took a photo of Peggy, she insisted on taking one of me. I took advantage of one of the downed Cypress trees. And that’s a wrap for today!

NEXT POST:

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.

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.

NEXT POST:

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…

The Charming Elephant Seals of Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Elephant seals have the look of an animal put together by a committee. It gives them a certain charm. We found this large fellow with his pronounced proboscis at Drake’s Beach. He’d come ashore at Pt. Reyes National Seashore looking for love.

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.

This large bull had crossed through the barriers at Drakes Beach and was pointed toward the snack bar. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

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.

Is this fellow being coy?
Check out the big brown eyes! The size of the eyes helps the elephant seal see in the dark depths of the ocean. The whiskers apparently help as well in the search for food. He had lifted his head to check us out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And then returned to his resting position. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A side glance. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A bit shy, perhaps. Maybe he thought that the log was hiding him.
Size matters. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This was interesting. The skin of the elephant seals is sensitive to the sun. They cope by throwing sand over their bodies with their flippers, as seen in this photo.
Sometimes a little stretch really feels good! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Peggy caught some of the girls sunbathing out near the ocean…
Drake’s Bay was named for Sir Francis Drake who reputedly visited the area in 1759. There’s another bull on the left— looking sluggish.
I’ll conclude today with this elephant seal that was making its way back toward the ocean. I decided he was waving goodbye with his flipper. I’ll return to the tide pools of Harris Beach in Oregon next week. Are you aware that groups of sea anemones go to war with each other?

NEXT POSTS:

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.

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.

Socrates Digs South Beach… Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Photo of Socrates the Basset Hound by Curtis Mekemson

Socrates the Basset Hound fell in love with digging opportunities at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Peggy and I didn’t make it out to North and South Beach this time. Three days were not nearly enough to visit all of my favorite Pt. Reyes sites. I have a few photos from my pre-blogging days, however, so I decided to do a quick post.

These two beaches are actually one. If you enjoy crashing waves and long, lonely beach walks, this is the place to go. I still remember my first hike along the shoreline. My companion at the time was a long-eared, short-legged basset hound named Socrates.  It was before leash laws were established so the dog ran free over the sand. Sort of– Basset hounds aren’t noted for their long, graceful gaits.

For example, Soc loved to chase jackrabbits. The only time I ever saw him catch one was when the rabbit was rolling on the ground and laughing so hard he couldn’t escape. (Kidding.)

But there was another reason for our slow progress down the beach. Soc had a passion for digging. He could move more dirt in an hour than a bulldozer could in a day. (Slight exaggeration.) Given what he could do with dirt, you can imagine what he did with the sand. I was hoping for a high tide to hide his destruction.

When I urged the Soc to stop hassling whatever poor creature he was after, he whined and start digging harder. I was in danger of being buried under an avalanche of sand. The dog had Zen-like focus; it didn’t matter that he never caught anything. I’d get him away from one hole and he would start another 50 feet down the beach. Our slow progress made for a long walk but it was totally worth it for the joy the dog found in digging holes and the pleasure I took in watching him and, of course, the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Waves at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Waves come crashing in at South Beach.

Years later I discovered that North Beach was a great place for writing. I would park facing the ocean, get out my laptop, and start typing. The rolling ocean, an occasional whale, diving pelicans and raucous gulls served as my muses.

Photo of waves at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another thunderous wave.

Ice plant at South Beach, Pt, Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This ice plant formed the border between the parking lot and the beach.

Close up of ice plant at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

It demanded I take a close up.

Raindrops captured by lupine leaves at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

These lupine leaves displayed captured rain drops.

Iris growing near South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

I also found this iris quite attractive.

The winds at North and South beach provide excellent loft for kite flying. I enjoyed the dragon but it distracted me from my writing.

The winds at North and South beach provide excellent wind for kite flying. I enjoyed this dragon but it distracted me from my writing. I wonder what the gulls thought about it?

Tules near North Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

I discovered these tules on Bull Point trail near North Beach. Miwok Indians used these plants in making baskets.

NEXT BLOG: The hippie town that tries to hide: Bolinas. Here’s a final photo of South Beach.

Waves pound the beach at South Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

 

 

 

 

 

The Historic Pierce Ranch and a Herd of Tule Elk… Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Lichens found on a fence on Pierce Ranch at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Lichens, adorning a fence on the historic Pierce Ranch at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, remind visitors that it has been 46 years since the last cow mooed.

Marin County land speculators, real estate firms, and local governments had a dream in the 1950’s. They were going to turn Pt. Reyes into one vast housing tract. Mouth-watering profits were to be made. Local tax dollars would increase proportionately. Everyone would gain.

Well, not quite.

Local ranchers saw a life style they had loved for over a century disappearing. The Sierra Club saw one of the world’s richest natural environments falling under the blades of bulldozers. The National Park Service saw it’s dream of opening the beautiful coast and forests of the area to the public being replaced by a forest of no trespassing signs.

An alliance was formed. Environmentalists and ranchers joined together with visionary local and national leaders to devise a plan that would protect the environment, allow ranchers to continue ranching, and give the National Park Service the opportunity to create one of America’s premier parks, a gift to America and the world that would last for generations. In 1962, John Kennedy signed the legislation that would create the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

The Pierce Ranch, located out on Tomales Point, ceased operation in 1973. Three years later it became part of the park as a historic representative of the dairy ranches at Pt. Reyes that had been milking cows and shipping butter to the Bay Area since 1866.

In 1978 a herd of Tule Elk was reintroduced to the area as part of the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve. Native to California, Tule Elk had once roamed throughout the state in substantial numbers. By 1900 they were close to extinction. Saved by a Bakersfield rancher, over 20 protected herds are now located in California.

Photo of a lichen covered fence at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Another photo of the lichen covered fence. It’s like a strange forest.

Photo of cypress tree wind break on Pierce Ranch inPt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Possibly the mother of all cypress tree windbreaks stands above Pierce Ranch.

Photo of barn at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore.  Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A number of buildings make up the ranch, including this old barn.

Photo of one-room school house at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore including Leslie Lake and Peggy Mekemson. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Isolated out on Tomales Point, Pierce Ranch formed a small community that included a store and this school-house. Since our friend Leslie Lake spent many years as a third grade teacher and Peggy worked as an elementary school principal, I’ve included them in the photo.

Looking inside school at Pierce Ranch on Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Once filled with laughing children learning their abc’s, the school is now vacant and the windows are covered with cobwebs– ghostly reminders of the past.

Old cattle pen at Pierce Ranch at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Once upon a time cattle would have been penned up within these fences, ready to be loaded on to trucks using the blocked ramp at the top of the photo.

Aging fence at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up of the fence.

Bunk house at Pierce Ranch on Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This small bunk house would have accommodated ranch hands. Up to 20 were employed at the height of milking season.

Photo of dairy house at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore by Curtis Mekemson.

This dairy house was where butter was prepared to be shipped off to San Francisco in large kegs. Butter from Pt. Reyes was considered to be very high quality and was sold in gourmet shops and used in the best restaurants.

Old farming equipment at Pierce Ranch on Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

What’s a farm without equipment? This piece had morphed into a planter.

Close up of old farm equipment at Pierce Ranch on Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up.

Old soil tiller at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This tiller also caught my attention.

Rusted gear and chain on soil tiller at Pierce Ranch, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Rusted gear teeth and chain on tiller.

Tule Elk grazing on a hill at the Tule Elk Preserve at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Having toured Pierce Ranch we climbed the hill next to the ranch in search of Tule Elk. We found them a long ways off. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of bull Tule Elk at Pt. Reyes National Seashore Tule Elk Reserve. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Here’s how one looked a little closer.

NEXT BLOG: North and South Beach where the Pacific Ocean crashes ashore. Here’s a final shot of the Tule Elk. One of the big guys had obviously taken an interest in me. I was hoping it wasn’t personal. –Curt

A pair of Tule Elk at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Limantour Beach: A Wild World… Pt. Reyes National Seashore

Shore, sea and sanderlings meet on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. (photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Shore, sea and Sanderlings meet on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A steep ridge runs most of the length of Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The road to Limantour Beach is all business as it climbs up and over. Who needs switchbacks? A sign tells trailers to stay off. Our van Quivera has made the journey several times but always complains. Our friend Ken Lake’s truck laughed at the challenge.

The journey across provides an introduction to most of Pt. Reyes’ ecological zones.  Seeing a Kodak moment, I asked Ken to stop up on top. Fog and sun were battling with each over who would rule the day. Grass, brush, trees and canyons joined the drama. I searched the canyon for wildlife to add to my photo. Tule Elk and Black Tail Deer are commonly seen during the day, as are hawks and omnipresent buzzards. Nothing presented itself. All I found was some aging, hair-filled bobcat scat (poop) with a pile of fresh raccoon scat on top. I figured the raccoon was making a statement. I also figured that the scat didn’t need to be part of my photo. (“Good decision,” Peggy adds.)

Pt. Reyes photo along Limantour Road at Pt. Reyes national Seashore by Curtis Mekemson.

Sun and fog were part of the landscape in this photo I took from Limantour Road.

Pt. Reyes Natioanl Seashore photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking south from Limantour Road at where the deer and elk roam.

The road down to Limantour Beach is almost as steep as the road up and one section would scare a roller-coaster. Topping the last hill provides a broad view of Drake’s Bay, Limantour Beach and the Limantour Estero. A long narrow spit separates the Bay from the Estero. I suspect the view isn’t tremendously different from what Sir Francis Drake would have found when he sailed into the Bay in 1579, the first European to visit the area. Miwok Indians, who had called the region home for thousands of years, greeted the British explorer/noble/naval hero/pirate.

We parked the truck, crossed a walking bridge over the Limantour Estero, hiked down to the beach and walked north along the shore. Sea gulls, Sanderlings, crab shells, driftwood, animal tracks, sunning buzzards, gentle waves and distant vistas entertained us.

Bags provided for picking up trash on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson

A great idea: The National Park Service provided bags so people could pick up trash as they walked along the beach. Ken immediately grabbed one and we all helped fill it. Note: Ken never lets anyone doubt his team loyalty.

Estero de Limantour at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A bridge provided a view up the Limantour Estero or estuary. Estuaries are where fresh and ocean water mix, creating a rich environment for fish and birds. The Pt. Reyes headlands in the distance offers a great vantage point for whale watching. It is also home to Pt. Reyes’ Elephant Seal population.

Elephant seal photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I love elephant seals. These magnificent creatures spend the majority of their lives at sea and 90% of that time under water. They travel thousands of miles annually and can dive up to 2000 feet deep. This photo came from a blog I did about the Elephant Seals of Piedras Blancas.

Photo of the Estero de Limantour at Pt. Reyes taken by Curtis Mekemson.

Another view of the Limantour Estero, this one from the spit that separates the Estero from Drake’s Bay.

Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Looking north up Limantour Beach across Drakes Bay. Sir Francis Drake named the area Nova Albion, New England, probably because the sandstone cliffs reminded him of the Cliffs of Dover. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) The small mounds or sand dunes are created by plant matter.

Looking south on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A lone person walks south on Limantour Beach.

Sea gulls on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Sea gulls tend to walk away when you get near them. I was encouraging these guys to fly. The one nearest appeared ready to leap into action.

Sea gulls in flight on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I finally succeeded.  I like the way this photo captures the different wing action of gulls in flight.

Sanderlings on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes national Seashore.

Meanwhile, Peggy was off checking out the seemingly endless flock of Sanderlings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Flock of flying Sanderlings at Limantour Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Who also decided to fly. How do they avoid winging each other? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Buzzards drying out wings on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

“Check out the buzzards,” Ken urged. A pair were perched on top of a pine tree drying out their wings from the morning’s fog in preparation for flight.

Buzzards dry wings at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Using her telephoto lens Peggy got up close. Note their heads. They are naked so buzzards can dip into dead treats without getting their feathers involved. Isn’t evolution grand? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Buzzards feathers gor awry on Limantour Beach.

As we approached one got excitable. I think you might say he was having a bad feather day. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Raccoons leave tracks on Limantour Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While animals were hiding out for the day, their tracks were abundant. Here, a family of raccoons made their way back to their home on the spit. Peggy and Leslie followed the tracks to what they decided was their home hidden in the brush.

Crab claw showing teeth on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

It’s possible that crab was on the menu that night for the raccoons. We found numerous empty shells along the beach. I liked the teeth in this claw.

Empty crab shell found on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

Empty crab shell. Many other birds and animals join raccoons in feasting on the oceans offerings. I also found a set of fox tracks leading down to the beach.

These tracks represent a virtual freeway into the grass on the spit.

These tracks represent a virtual animal freeway between the sand of the shore and the protective grass and brush of the spit.

Photo by Curtis Mekemson of driftwood on Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore

The grain of the wood exposed by the relentless pounding of the ocean is what attracts me to driftwood. We found a prime example on the upper beach at Limantour. A tree had been driven upside-down into the ground and was showing off its roots. I was curious about whether man or nature had been responsible for the upending.

Close up photo of driftwood on Limantour Beach taken by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up of the driftwood with its marvelous twists and turns plus two peek-a-boo holes.

Photo of spit on Limantour Beach by Curtis Mekemson.

We walked back to the parking lot following a trail along the spit.

Photo of grass on Limantour Spit taken by Curtis Mekemson.

Much of the trail made its way through the thick golden grass that dominates the spit and provides a home for Limantour Beach’s wild world.

NEXT BLOG: It’s off to the historic Pierce Ranch and a search for Pt. Reyes’ magnificent Tule Elk. I’ll conclude today’s blog with a black and white photo of gentle waves lapping up on the Limantour Beach.

Gentle waves visit Limantour Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.