Point Reyes Retreat

Christmas was an opportunity to gather together as family. We had our two kids, their spouses, two grandkids and two dogs. On Christmas day we opened gifts and feasted on turkey and roast beef. After spending a day exploring local attractions including the Oakland Zoo, we piled into two cars and drove to Inverness, a 45-mile drive, where we had reserved a vacation rental for the better part of the week.

One morning I got up early to go photograph the tree tunnel. This is a feature that has been on my list to explore for some time. Not your typical tourist attraction, it’s simply a road lined with Monterey cypress trees planted in the 1930s. It caught my attention after seeing photos posted on Instagram.

It was a foggy morning, and I was hoping that the fog would create a sense of mystery. My plan was to arrive during the blue hour and to be done when the sun came up. The foggy mood I was anticipating didn’t happen but getting an early start did pay off. When the sun came up the light added drama that I was not anticipating. It turns out the tunnel is oriented almost east-west, so the morning sun creates an interesting effect. This image is available as a fine art photo in my art store at store.treve.com.

No visit to Tomales Bay is complete without a visit to the Bovine Bakery, a favorite haunt for pastries and coffee. Then we had a day with a break in the rainy weather and we headed to Limatour Beach, one of the few beaches in the Point Reyes National Recreation Area that is dog friendly.

And no family adventure is complete without grandma reading stories in front of a warm fire. On our last morning together, we piled into two cars to brave the fog and stormy weather to drive out to the lighthouse. You can see the car ahead with half of our crew is nearly lost in the fog. It was a blustery walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform. The lighthouse was lost in the fog, so we created our own Point Reyes Light with an iPhone. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Don’t Walk the Boat

Drakes Estero is one of my favorite places to paddle. It’s an estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore and designated as part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness. A beautiful spot to paddle with lots to see. It’s closed March 1st to June 30th when harbor seals are birthing and, given the shallow water in some places, you want to pick a time when you’ll have enough water to paddle over the sandbars. This past week, on October 28, the timing seemed promising.

The first challenge was getting to our launch site. It’s 54 miles from my house to the launch site. During the morning rush hour it can be a challenge. I left my house at 7:40 and arrived at our launch site two hours later. Traffic was backed up crossing the San Rafael Bridge due to fog. As you can see, once we were on the water the fog had cleared and we had flat calm.

I’m including a screen shot of the tide graph, since we were hoping for a enough water to keep from walking our boats across a sandbar. High tide was 7:03 at 4.28 ft. Low tide was 11:17 at 3.71 ft.

We found the sandbar shortly before 11:00. If we hadn’t been distracted watching birds, we could have avoided the walk by skirting west around the bar. Approaching the beach, we began to feel the wave action from the ocean as waves entered the mouth of the estuary; we paddled through kelp beds and clear water feeling the gentle action of the dissipating offshore swell. Offshore a good swell was pounding the beach with rows of breaking waves.

Once across the bar, we climbed back in our boats and paddled to Sunshine Beach were we had a leisurely lunch. You can see the beach in the distance beyond the Janie’s wooden boat.

After lunch we paddled over to the inside of the Drakes Beach spit where one of our group had split off to admire the surf.

It is unusual to be on a paddle with three wooden boats, all built by their owners. Then it was back on the water for a pleasant paddle back to our launch site. As usual, what started as a calm day ended up with some wind, but not enough to hinder our progress. Over the course of the day we logged 8.3 miles and we saw dozens of harbor seals, pelicans, shore birds and even a couple of leopard sharks. You can take a closer look at our track here or below. If you click on the map, a satellite view shows the sandbars and channels in more detail. You can also view more photos here.

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