Spring at Point Reyes

Spring brings a riot of wildflowers on the pastoral hillsides of Point Reyes, and this year has been heavenly. Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California is a large peninsular park along the Pacific Coast.

It is a park with a rich and diverse history, picturesque beaches and trails, cliffs and bays, a lighthouse and several other interesting and historic features. We often go to the northern side of the park around Tomales Bay, where all photos here were snapped.

Last week we found wild purple iris in hundreds of spots.

During the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, approximately 300,000 people arrived in California and began settling. That is when dairy farms became a prominent part of Point Reyes. Fresh creamy butter, and later, cheese, became highly regarded.

Back then, Point Reyes farmers packed casks of freshly churned butter and loaded it onto schooners. They shipped it to San Francisco, 30 miles south, where it was distributed.

Today there are still 13 commercial dairies here. Although it is a federally designated recreational preserve, the dairies remain legal via grandfathered laws.

The dairy farms continue to supply millions of households with delicious organic dairy products; and farmers never hassle the daily parade of cars filled with tourists, hikers, and beach-goers driving through.

One of the ranches had this mellow horse near the house.

More info: Point Reyes Wikipedia

Pt. Reyes map, courtesy Wikipedia.

In this area of the park there is also a tule elk preserve.

Cervus canadensis nannodes live only in California, and can be seen here in every season.

Last week we came upon this harem, or herd of females, lazing in the sun.

The Point Reyes elk species was extirpated in the 1800s, but the population was revived in the 1970s with a successful reintroduction project. There are about 300 individual elk here today.

We spotted these three male elk grazing in the distance.

With the proximity of the ocean, fog is a common feature at Point Reyes. Heavy winds too. There have been times when I was hiking on a trail and could hear the elk calling very near, but could not see them, obliterated by the thick fog. A few times when the fog cleared, we would be surprised, humans and elk, at how close together we were.

But this April day we were enjoying clear visibility and mild temperatures.

From the car, Athena photographed the three elk, while I was having a stare-down with this bull.

We regularly hike at Abbott’s Lagoon. It is named after two brothers, 19th-century dairy farmers.

There is a three-mile hike through chaparral and sand dunes to the ocean. No dogs are allowed here, and there are no food establishments within 15 miles. It is simply land and sea and walkers.

Quail, white-crowned sparrows, ravens, and raptors always join us.

Last week the male red-winged blackbirds were displaying for the females.

Mammals greet us too–usually deer, bobcat or coyote. We saw this coyote last week.

There is a patch of bare brown sticks along the trail, it’s taller than all the hikers, and nondescript. In spring the foliage and flowers come alive, revealing it as salmonberry.

When we’re not hiking, we’re driving the roads spotting wildlife. I drive slowly on the windswept hillsides, pulling over to allow fast cars to pass, while Athena’s camera clicks away.

Since the pandemic has curtailed our travel, we’ve been staying local. We visit Point Reyes for a half-day, just an hour or so from home, and it feels like a vacation.

And now I can’t think of a better place to vacation.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

105 thoughts on “Spring at Point Reyes

  1. Such an amazing place, Jet, the yellow flowers are a symphony! We have the California Quail here too, they are so attractive and cute! ❤️

    • Sometimes life gives us a lot of bull to stare down, right Timothy? But I was up for the task. Great fun with your play on words, and many thanks for your visit and warm comment today.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to Point Reyes, Jet. I enjoyed your history notes, along with Athena’s excellent photos. As you know, this was one of my favorite escapes when I lived there. A magnificent natural gem and a photographer’s dream. ❤️

    • I am so very glad I could bring you current scenes of one of your favorite places, Jane. It is always a pleasure to hear from you and in fact, I was thinking of you when I composed this post. Cheers to you, and many thanks.

  3. I think the pandemic has taught us that travel doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane or endless planning of details. What a joy for you to be able to hop in your vehicle and have all of this natural beauty within minutes. I loved traveling along with you and Athena this morning. I smiled at the description of the foggy surprise for you and the elk finding each other so close by.
    Thank you for sharing the wonders of your backyard. All the best to you both.

    • We’ve all learned a lot (hopefully) during this pandemic, as you say, Sue. I know lots of folks are climbing onto planes again, but from all the first-hand accounts I’ve heard, it seems that safety and distancing are not being practiced too much, so I’m probably going to hang around home for a bit longer. I’m glad I could share the beauty of Pt. Reyes with you today, and happy I could bring a smile to your face. My warmest wishes and smiles to you and Dave.

  4. I was just reading about the Tule Elk this morning in the Chron. I guess with the upcoming drought, there’s a big issue with them being allowed to keep reproducing. Hopefully May will bring rain. Lots of rain.

    • I am glad you have had the opportunity to live in Calif. and have memories of the poppy fields and beauty, M.B. What a pleasure to bring a bit of it back to you today. Thanks so much.

    • Thank you, Craig, I like both those bull photos too. The bull elk were really far away, and they were on domestic dairy property, somehow they got out of their preserve. We were thrilled to have found them there. And that dairy bull. If you can believe it, I didn’t notice him at first, because we were so enthralled with the bull elk. then I just turned to the left and he was staring at me. Great fun, and wonderful to have you along. Many thanks.

  5. What a fantastic day you had out there. I loved seeing the birds, critters, and flowers you saw.

    The hillsides of wild radish bring back memories of the coastline there and to the south a bit. They’re gorgeous.

    • I like the fields of wild radish too, Deborah. And it’s been a good year for it. I’m happy it brought back memories of the coastline and hillsides for you. Lovely to have you stop by.

  6. I know what you mean – even a day away seems like a long holiday! It looks like a beautiful place to go hiking, with such a variety of animals, birds and flowers. I’m not surprised it’s a favourite spot to go a-wandering!

  7. It looks so beautiful and serene in that area, you must have had a wonderful day under the sun and the breeze of the Pacific Ocean. Nice post, my friend. 🙂

    • It is vast open skies that fill me with peace, and Pt. Reyes has plenty of that. I’m glad I could share the beauty and serenity with you today, HJ, thanks so very much.

    • I am really glad I could share the beauty of the Calif. coast with you here today, Lisa, and I’m glad you have experienced the coast with fondness. Happy weekend to you, too. Many thanks.

  8. There’s so much more to Point Reyes than I ever realized when I lived there and visited. Of course, those were the years when I was more interested in ‘scenery’ than in nature, so there’s that. I think the quail are unbelievably cute, and I can’t help wondering: do you “stamp” white horses? When I was a kid, I learned to lick my thumb, put its print into the opposite palm, and then “stamp” it with my fist. This was said to bring great good luck — and yes, I still do it. It can’t hurt!

    • I am fortunate to have had 30 years exploring Pt. Reyes, so I’m glad I could share it Linda. I still feel like there’s so much I don’t know and could stand to learn about it, so it’s no wonder that you feel there’s more here than you discovered while living here. I never heard of stamping white horses. See what I mean? Always something to learn. Thanks so much.

  9. A riot of colour and life, and only a short journey from your door – what a relief to have places like these, particularly during the current situation. Really enjoyed your mini-break to Point Reyes, and isn’t salmonberry such a wonderful surprise?!
    Thanks, Jet!

    • It’s wonderful to hear from a PNWer about salmonberry. We don’t have it down here as much as you do in the wetter territory, pc. And yes, I do find it a truly wonderful surprise. I’ve hiked past that same patch of it for decades, and it was always a mass of weeds until this spring when we found dainty pink flowers. Then we started spotting patches of it down the road, too. I’m glad to hear you enjoy it too, pc. Hey my friend, thanks so much for joining us on our day at Point Reyes — what a blast.

    • I like hearing that you enjoy my Pt. Reyes posts, Donna. It is such a marvelous place, and a great thrill to share it with you. Thanks so much for your lovely visit here.

    • Hi Eilene, yes isn’t that a spectacular photo Athena snapped of the Calif. Quail? You wouldn’t know it but that quail was calling as she was snapping the photo. We were so surprised because his mouth was closed the entire time. He made his call without opening his mouth. Many thanks for stopping by, and I hope you get a chance to see the Gamble quail sometime soon. I’ve only seen the Gamble one or two times, while traveling.

  10. Thank you for the little tour, I love spring so much, when everything comes back to life!! We’ve had great weather in general, here, just the last couple of days were cold. But the promising weather is yet to come, I can’t wait to go exploring again😊 Take care, Christie

    • How wonderful! I didn’t know that. And I just looked it up, Bill, and you’re entirely right. While I will not fight the bull for it, I will give it a try. Many thanks for your visit and fact, much appreciated.

  11. I love Pt; Reyes and used to visit it several times a year. We had a tradition of going with another family on New Year’s Day every year and walking one of the small beaches (with our dogs, allowed in winter). Oh, Jet, you’ve given me another reason I want to move back to CA. Pt. Reyes is a magnificent place, and Athena’s photos show it off so well. Worried about the fire season now, as I’m sure you are. Thinking of moving to the Sonoma area – maybe?? – and I believe you’d give the area a thumbs up. xo

    • I am so very glad you enjoyed this visit to Pt. Reyes today, Pam. I used to go regularly on Christmas Day for awhile there, and I liked hearing you went regularly on New Years. Yes, already worrying about the fire season, you’re right. It’s been a short rainy season this year, and that means trouble in the autumn. PG&E turns off our power every time it gets windy, when conditions are dry, and the fires are deeply disturbing and troublesome. Yes, I would recommend Sonoma, and can share much about it. Please feel free to email me, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Lovely to hear from you, thank you.

    • Yes, you’re right LuAnne. It is a blessing to have Pt. Reyes so close to home. It has helped my heart to leap again during these pandemic months. Wonderful to have you stop by, thank you.

  12. thank you for featuring Point Reyes once again, Jet. what a lovely place in Spring. i wish more people pay attention to the beautiful. we have such a wonderful world! have a great weekend dear friend. 🙂 🙂

    • Yes, we do have such a wonderful world, Wilma, and it’s great fun to see yours, and to share with you our beautiful Pt. Reyes. Thanks so very much for stopping by.

  13. I so admire the way you and Athena find beauty, diversity and joy in the world around you. And I most appreciate your sharing it with us, your adoring fans!

    • Thank you, dearest Nan, for this loving message. I have great memories of you, me, and Athena frolicking the hillsides of Pt. Reyes. I remember we were hiking on that blustery hilltop, struggling to breathe in the harsh winds. Then we aborted that trail and went into the valley for an easier time. Great memories and great love. Thank you Nan.

  14. I visited my brother just north of San Francisco in the late 80s and he took us to Point Reyes, Yosemite too, but we were only there for an hour or so which did not give us even a hint of all there is to experience there. Your prose and Athena’s images tell a lot more about the place than just the little bit of ocean we saw. We experienced one other thing while visiting…well sort of. As we were driving back to Fairfax apparently there was a minor earthquake but the shock absorbers did there job and we felt nothing. 🙂

    • Sounds like you had an authentic Calif. visit, Steve, including the EQ. The reason Pt. Reyes peninsula has separated from the mainland is that it is on the San Andreas Fault, and the tectonic plates have shifted. Shock absorbers are good to have, and wouldn’t it be good even when we’re not in a car? My warmest thanks, Steve.

    • The only thing about Pt. Reyes, Frank, is that there is SO much cool stuff, it’s hard to show it all. But I am glad I could give a good overview, and that you enjoyed it. Fun to have you there with us, thank you.

  15. For some reason I never associated California with wildflowers, until I saw some of your past posts with wonderful blooms on the hills. It’s good to be able to get out and about and savour the sights we’ve missed.

    • Hi Andrea, I’m glad I could share with you some of the wildflower-blanketed hillsides of California, espec. at one of my favorite places, Pt. Reyes. And I’m sending my best wishes to you for days of spring adventures ahead. Thanks so much for your visit.

  16. Hi Jet, I just did a post on Pt. Reyes as part of a Friday series I am doing on the Park. One of my blogger friends, Sue Sleight, urged that I check our your post. Pt. Reyes was one of my go-to places when I lived in Sacramento. Now I live in Southern Oregon it’s a bit more of a challenge to get to but I went down to celebrate my birthday. It’s obvious that we have a lot in common. Three years ago I celebrated my 75th birthday with a 750 mile backpack trip down the PCT. Anyway, I am hitting the follow button and look forward to your future posts and will check out your books. –Curt Mekemson

    • Hi Curt, Wonderful that you stopped by and introduced yourself. I’m very glad Sue connected us, she is a special friend to me. And how uncanny that we both wrote Pt. Reyes posts on the same day. I enjoyed stopping by your site and look forward to more. Although I have been traversing the trails of Pt. Reyes for over 30 years, it has become extra special during the pandemic for safe outdoor day trips. I am glad you and your wife Peggy were able to reunite with Pt. Reyes for a special birthday visit.

      • My first trip over there, Jet, would have been in 1968. I had been recruiting on college campuses throughout the South for the Peace Corps. It was one of those jobs involving constant travel, eating out, and not much exercise. I was not svelt. I’d moved to Sacramento to open a public affairs office for the Peace Corps for Northern California and Nevada. My first wife and I had driven over to Pt. Reyes and hiked out the Bear Valley Trail to the coast. It half killed me! But I fell in love with the area. –Curt

  17. Nice pics – you two have really captured the place.

    Of course, as I was just telling Curt in his Point Reyes post, my dim memory of the place doesn’t go much beyond the lighthouse. When I hear the name I tend not to think of meadows. I guess after 35 years or so I’m due a revisit.

  18. Oh this place!! So very beautiful Jet. Thank you for this post, I loved reading about this wonderful area. And of course, the photos are stunning. What a great team you make.

    • How wonderful that you and I have been able to connect this morning, Sylvia, thank you. Thank you for your comment. Yes, Athena and I do make a great team, it is bliss. I hope your week ahead is smooth and easy.

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  20. How fortunate you are to have this splendid place relatively close to home. I like that it has not been commercialized and enables quiet walking (and without dogs). It must be so nice to be able to visit often enough to see it change through the seasons. I enjoyed the photos too and seeing the plants, animals and birds as well as the landscapes. It is interesting that dairy farming is being integrated with wildlife conservation. That bull looked to be a little less mellow than the horse?

    • Carol, what a delight to have you visit this morning, thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed our spring adventure, and yes, it is such a blessing to have Pt. Reyes fairly close to home. With the pandemic this past year and the many limitations, we have started a new thing of going to just this one area once a month (safety reasons). Although I have been going to the park for over 30 years now, this steadier visit to the same place has afforded a grand introduction to the subtleties of the seasons like never before. What a gift that is! I chuckled at your last dry comment. Yes, that bull was not nearly as mellow as the horse. I had been looking out the other side of the car at the elk in the distance, and when I happened to turn my head, the bull was looking right at me. Made me gasp. Cheers to you and So. Africa and all the beauty in your unique place on earth.

      • It must be interesting to be able to observe the subtle seasonal changes on a regular basis. I think you are wise to behave with caution during this pandemic. We have too. About two months ago after a significant drop in infections here, we decided to go out to the countryside for the first time in over a year to walk in an indigenous forest patch as a special outing. The day before I sprained my ankle so we didn’t go! (Ankle mended now.)
        It can be an odd sensation to be intent on watching something on one side of the car and suddenly discovering something dramatically close by on the either side of the car!
        Good wishes to you too. WInter has arrived with falls of snow in the mountains yesterday!

  21. What a great vacation spot, a beautiful locale, and thanks for sharing your visits… The photo of the western bluebird perching on a rusted wire is an insight into history & the present moment all at once!

    • Always a treat to hear from you, Walt, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad I could entice you to enjoy this virtual Pt. Reyes visit with me. And that western bluebird photo was a thrill. The sun was hitting him in just the right way, had to screech on the brakes for that moment. And the old dairy barbed wire, as you noticed, was an extra fun touch. My warmest thanks to you, and wishes for a happy spring week.

  22. You’re fortunate that such a scenic place is only an hour away. I wondered about the name and found an explanation in Wikipedia: “The Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno named the land Punto de los Reyes (“Kings’ Point”) when his ship, the Capitana anchored in Drakes Bay on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany, or the end of the 12 Days of Christmas) on January 6, 1603.”

  23. Thank you very much to share Athena’s wildlife pictures and your text with us. It’s always interesting to see wildlife in such a different habitat. It seems to be a great spot and looks geomorphologically like our Blakey Point.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Fab Four. I, too, always find it interesting to see wildlife in different habitats and countries. So I appreciate your visit, and hope your day is a beauty.

  24. England is so tame compared. All I saw this morning on my ramble were magpies, rookravencrows, dogs, blackbirds, pigeons, tits, sparrows, trees, grass, dandelions and molehills. Nothing like the profusion of wild you have there. Still, I didn’t have to stare down any bulls …

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