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
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.