Our day trip to Point Reyes this week was another pure delight, a summer day on the coast. Fifty miles inland a hot and dry July day was forming, but our visit to the coast was one of fog and blessedly cool temperatures.
The fog was so thick it was actually billowing in clouds that blew across the road. The sky had a low cloud cover and sweeping skyscapes all day.
Summer at Point Reyes National Seashore, Northern California. Migrating winter ducks and geese have not yet arrived, and it’s too early to look for migrating whales. But there’s plenty of color and beauty on this windswept coastal paradise.
It was still too early and too cold for shorts and sandals, so most visitors hadn’t yet arrived…just a few dedicated hikers quietly making their way down the trail to the sea.
The local denizens of Abbotts Lagoon, however, were busy with their day.
Upon arrival we noticed the lupine shrubs no longer have the yellow blossoms we saw last month. This is a snap of June.
And this (below) is a snap from this week, July. As you can see, this month the native shrubs have just the pods, the flowers are spent.
Coastal chaparral was colorful on this day, enhanced by the overcast sky, and was fragrantly herbaceous with the moisture.
Everything seemed to be hushed by the fog, including these Canada Geese.
The low-lying marsh area down by the boardwalk didn’t have water this time of year, but it had a thicket of marsh plants–docket (brown) and coastal hedge-nettle (pink).
Predictably there are almost always one or two black-tailed deer down at the marsh, grazing.
And sure enough, we spotted this fawn without its mother, who soon went bounding off.
Insects in the summer are different from the other seasons, and one of the stalwarts of summer is this beetle. We see them on the trail where their shiny black backs stand out against the sand. They’re about the length of a paper clip.
As we neared the sea, the trail turned to sand. It was too cold for the dragonflies who frequent this part of the trail, but a brush rabbit soon dove under cover.
Then we arrived at the shore and crossed the short walking bridge, always worth a stop to see if any creatures are underneath.
In the past we have seen river otters here, nesting swallows, a pelican carcass, and lots of different wading birds. That day it was a great blue heron hunting…and with success.
Since the spring, the beach plants have been flowering and they are different flowers every month. This month it is the gumplants that are in full bloom.
Robustly growing in large patches across the sandy beach, gumplants are named for the gummy white resin that grows in the center of each yellow flower.
It was about a 45-minute walk back to the car, and then we were off to other parts of Point Reyes. I’ll tell you about that another time.
We were happy to spot this coyote as we drove slowly along the country road.
We also spotted a few female elk, aka cows, grazing. Point Reyes is the only National Park unit where tule elk can be found. A grassland elk found in just a few places in California, they live on a preserve in Point Reyes.
That day the cows were too far away to get a good photo, but here is a photo from another summer visit.
We see the elk every single visit on this road, Pierce Point Road. We look forward to seeing the elk next month, when the rutting (breeding) season typically begins.
There is much excitement when the bulls join up with the females. The males put on quite a show of territorial sparring with bugling and antler bashing. It lasts for a few months, so I’ll be sure to share the excitement with you.
Always a pleasure, my friends, to share Point Reyes with you.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.