Saturday, October 11, 2014

Road Trip: Point Reyes National Seashore

Milking barn at Pierce Point Ranch
Foggy coasts, frequent sightings of endangered Tule Elk and historic ranches co-exist within the 71,000 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore. Ninety minutes north of San Francisco, the park offers amazing photo opportunities year-round.

Point Reyes is a favorite of mine, not only for photography, but also for hiking, history and peacefulness. Located in Marin County, it's close to hotels, restaurants, shopping and the wine country of Sonoma County. It's a year-round destination, though photo opps and conditions will vary by season. 

Tule Elk along Tomales Point trail, the cool Pacific behind.
For me, the Tule Elk are a highlight. Thought to be extinct by 1870, a hidden pair was later discovered. Today, about 4,000 animals are protected in a handful of areas in California, its native state. They'll be found on or near Tomales Point, and can readily be photographed with a long telephoto lens (400-600mm recommended). There's also abundant bird life, with shore birds at McClures Beach and many other species around Abbotts Lagoon. 

There are ample hiking opportunities, including short and easy walks as well as longer, more strenuous challenges. On a recent visit, I was thrilled to do a 12-mile hike through fog-shrouded forests while climbing 2,000 in elevation. Another hike out to Tomales Point offers a view of the Pacific Ocean to one side, Tomales Bay to the other, and the likelihood of seeing the elk anywhere along the trail. In fact, you'll see their tracks on the trail. Use these trails to capture the coastline, forests and sunsets. 

Hiking along Sky Trail in the fog.
Once home to the Miwok Indians, the mid-1800s saw the coming of numerous dairy ranches, some of which still exist today as inholdings. Historic structures of the former Pierce Point Ranch, now part of the park, show what life was like in the 1870s. They offer good photo possibilities, as does Point Reyes Lighthouse. Visiting the lighthouse requires a climb down 300 steps - and the climb back up! Also on the south end of Point Reyes, the brown cliffs and wide beaches of Drakes Bay mark the spot where Sir Francis Drake stopped for several weeks during his 1579 circumnavigation of the globe. 

Feel free to contact me for more information or if you'd like a guided photo outing to discover Point Reyes National Seashore. 

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