Spectacular Coast Scenes

Last week was another great adventure to Point Reyes, but this time we explored the Lighthouse area. Here are some of the sights we savored that day.

Called Outer Point Reyes, this part of the peninsula extends 13 miles into the Pacific Ocean.

Usually it is dense with fog–wet fog obliterating every view; and gusting, buffeting winds so strong that you can’t stand still even if you tried.

Often when you stand at the top of these steps (below), you can’t even see the lighthouse. But not that day.

The first magical moment came when we were still in the parking lot. We were at the back of our car donning extra layers of clothes.

Far from any humans in a nearly empty parking lot, out of the blue a middle-aged man walked up to us. He said we might be interested in the whales. He’d been watching them for quite some time…”lots of spouts” out there.

Binoculars in hand, we walked to the overlook with him, facing out at the glorious expanse of the Pacific Ocean. He pointed out the spouts.

It was the most amazing sight! Over two dozen whale spouts silently shooting out of the sea.

Many of the spouts were difficult to photograph because they were so far away. But this photo below shows several.

Soon after, he drove off in his sports car.

Point Reyes is a marine sanctuary where gray whales can safely travel in their migration south. (Eschrichtius robustus)

They are headed for Baja California in Mexico where they will mate and give birth, and then return to the Arctic when the weather warms.

Sometimes a fluke breached the water, visible through binoculars.

We watched the whales for nearly an hour. Also saw a peregrine falcon soaring around the lighthouse, several turkey vultures, a wren and a busy black phoebe.

Next we ventured over to Drakes Bay to see if the elephant seals were at the overlook near Chimney Rock.

On the way, few cars were on the road, so wildlife were close.

We noticed the land mammals had thicker coats for the winter.

Another pleasant surprise greeted us at the elephant seal overlook: about a half-dozen elephant seals were frolicking and vocalizing. They are often seen sleeping soundly in the warmth of the sun…can easily be mistaken for driftwood.

But these were young males having some play time. These individuals have not yet acquired their enlarged noses that resemble elephant snouts or proboscis.

Brown pelicans, western grebes, various species of ducks and kelp seaweed were also in the water.

Turkey vultures, songbirds, ravens and flickers flew overhead.

Before heading home, we were treated to one last delight.

On the main road there are numerous dairy farms. Acres of pasture and herds of cows, a few ranches with barns and houses.

We were driving past a herd of dairy cows when we spotted three tule elk bulls quietly grazing beside the cows. All mammals were fenced in and safe from traffic. There is a tule elk preserve miles away; apparently they are escapees. Renegades. And so majestic.

Every day in the wilderness is one of beauty. Fog and wind are beautiful…rainy days are too. But occasionally a really special day comes along with sunny skies, tranquil moments, and a dazzling array of wildlife…extraordinary beauty.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

81 thoughts on “Spectacular Coast Scenes

    • Thank you Jane. Yes, it is a very special place on earth, and I am glad you know it well. We hadn’t been out to this part of the park in years. It’s usually much more popular in this part so we have other places we tend toward, less people. But that day we lucked out with few people and great scenes. I am really happy I could share them with you and spark some sweet memories. My warmest thanks.

  1. Beautiful photos. Point Reyes is lands end with great views. We went to a lands end in NW Spain. The Atlantic was wild, the winds were fierce, the land was like a rocky desert, and we ended up covered in salt from the wind blowing over the ocean. Point Reyes is peaceful in comparison.

    • I liked hearing about your experiences of the coastal scenes in NW Spain, Timothy. The oceans are wild and wonderful places, and a real treat to experience. Thanks for coming by for a sweet day at Point Reyes.

      • When we visted the atlantic on the SW coast of Spain all I thought about was that explores like Christopher Columbus were crazy to launch their boats in those violent waters.

  2. Wow, what an incredible variety of wildlife in this beautiful landscape! And wonderful photos of them as well. The whales especially must have been amazing to see and photograph.

    • Thank you, Diana. Yes, it was especially thrilling to see the whale spouts. Knowing that all those gigantic whales were underneath the water in front of us was really special. Thanks so much.

  3. Very nice photos. Quite a wide variety of wildlife. Tim’s comments remind me of South Point on the Big Island. We could feel the waves pounding on the shore. 10-40 cm/s current flowing past, so don’t fall in.

    • I once had my knee wrenched by a fierce undertow at South Point on the Big Island, so I am agreeing with you as I chuckle about it now, years later, Brad. Many thanks for your visit.

  4. A very special day, Jet! Loved this, for the excitement you shared spotting the whales, to the magnificent renegades at the end of the day – absolutely thrilling! A very handsome coyote, and Athena’s lighthouse shots are certainly spectacular. Buffeted by beauty!
    Thanks for sharing one of your favourite places in another wonderful post!

    • Hi pc, so lovely to hear from you, thank you. It’s really fun to share that beautiful place with you here today. I know you and Mrs. pc would like it. Cheers and smiles to you…have a fun weekend.

  5. Amazing and beautiful photography, Jet! Athena does a beautiful job capturing your travels! I have never been to this area and it looks amazing. ❤️

  6. Oh what a treasured post! I feel like I got to visit Pt Reyes today myself. I’ve been there many times, but not for awhile. It’s one of my favorite places. You brought us all the joy of the seals playing and sunbathing, the whales in their travels, the great photo of the flicker, the elk… so much. What a lovely experience. Thank you.

    • It’s a pleasure to take you to Pt. Reyes today, Lisa. I am glad you have enjoyed the marvels of Pt. Reyes, and happy I could virtually take you back there as a sweet reminder. Many thanks.

  7. It’s always wonderful to see the wildlife you feature, and it was wonderful to be reminded of this beautiful spot I’ve had the chance to visit. But my favorite of this series of photos was the landscape shot of Drake’s Bay: empty, but far from desolate. It’s a wonderful photo.

    • I really like that photo of Drake’s Bay, too, Linda, thank you. The sand dunes and cliff sides that surround the bay are stunning and we were in a light that accentuated them. The overlook we were on gave us a great perspective of the bay. And the beach and waters were so quiet that day…only wildlife and kelp. We were at this overlook two summers ago and the bay was lively with numerous boats, which was lovely too. But there was something so tranquil this time about no boats whatsoever. My warm thanks, Linda, for your visit and words.

    • Thank you, Willy. Wonderful to see you here and your comment is appreciated. I’m glad I could share the current version of beautiful Pt. Reyes, and I am especially glad that you have been here. I seem to remember you had an uncle who lived in the area. Cheers, my friend.

    • Hi Mark. I like the northern flicker a lot too. That scene was three northern flickers, it was great. They were vocalizing or we might not have seen them because the commanding view of the bay was dominant. They were landing and taking off in the top of the cypress and making squeaky calls. I’m happy you enjoyed the post, Mark, thank you.

    • Thank you, Janet. It was a day filled with marvels and a pleasure to share them with you. The whales and tule elk were both unexpected and that did add to the charm, you’re right. The tule elk were only about 20 feet away! Lovely to “see” you, Janet, thanks for your visit.

  8. What a gorgeous place! Facing the Pacific Ocean. Point Reyes lighthouse is so beautiful right at the edge of the cliff. Thank you, my friend, one day I’d love to see that place. 🙂

    • Oh so fun to share more of Pt. Reyes with you, H.J. That lighthouse is indeed beautiful. We’re going to come back on a Friday when it’s open, to see the Fresnel lens. They’re not open many days of the week so it’s a bit tricky. Always a joy to have you stop by, HJ, thank you very much.

  9. What a wonderful day. We got into the whales like that off the Oregon Coast a few years ago. That bull elk is quite impressive. Can you imagine lugging three loads of groceries to that lighthouse? Makes my back hurt just thinking about it.

    • Your words have me chuckling, Craig. I never thought of lugging groceries to that lighthouse. And then how ugly would it be if your groceries were biting you!!! Many thanks, my friend.

  10. Hate coming here Val. It gives me all the more reason to want to BE THERE!
    The west coast has some of the most beautiful county in the US. It is home
    to a great variety of animal and plant life too! Your posts typically illustrate
    the largest collection of wonderful photos proving my point!
    Great as usual Val!

  11. What a magnificent day you had! There’s such variety there, that I can see why you go often. Remembering fondly our visit there last month with you!

    • It is indeed majestic, Bill. Winter here can be a bit tricky with winds and rain, but it is a great time to visit Point Reyes because there are far less visitors here then. Thank you for your visit today, and for joining us at Pt. Reyes last month.

    • It was indeed amazing, Sherry, to see all those whale spouts. If it’s the season, i.e. migration time, you can spot one or two spouts if you look carefully, so this was a complete bonanza. Many thanks.

  12. Another amazing day – I have yet to see a whale (spout, tail, anything) and always intrigued when I get see other encounters .. some day, some day ha. I cannot believe how lucky you were to get such a clear day, especially around the lighthouse area. Not sure what your hunting policies are there, but that buck would definitely be in “danger” in my parts (currently a shotgun season for us, so the woods around us are thick with hunters – the smart deer make it to our sanctuary). Great post Jet and once again, thanks for taking us along on your adventure. Great clicks by Athena as well!

    • I’m glad I could share the whales and elk with you in Point Reyes, Brian. Fortunately Point Reyes is a national seashore and, like national parks, hunting of anything is strictly prohibited. The elk here are protected and so are the whales and elephant seals. It’s even prohibited to take away the shed elk antlers. Always a delight to have you stop by, thank you.

  13. It really does sound like you saw spectacular scenes along the coast at Point Reyes. Looked like wonderful weather too with plenty of sunshine. Amazing you got to see whales and the photo of the elephant seals are so adorable – looked like they had a lot of fun. Would not have thought there would be dairy farms nearby including elks. So much to see. Hope you are well, Jet. Wishing you and Athena a wonderful season and year ahead 😊

    • Truly a joy to “see” you here, Mabel, and I am happy you enjoyed the recent post of Point Reyes. All is well here for me, and I hope the same for you. You have a lovely holiday, my friend, and thanks again for your visit and kind words.

  14. I just love how you two find ‘delights’ everywhere you go. It reminds me that I, too, can find ‘delights’ if I just pay attention. This post is so inspiring. Whales, coyotes, elk… I must say that first photo really caught my eye. I love the colors of the sky and sea blending together. I like to play around with watercolor and I think I am going to try to paint that scene.

    • Yours are the first words of the day for me, LuAnne, and what lovely words they were, thank you. I have birding to thank for setting me on the road to paying attention. They come and go so swiftly, and have so much beauty to share, but you have to be on your toes. I loved that you will play with watercolors as you recreate the lighthouse scene. Have fun and again, thanks so much.

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