Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Point Reyes - February 2012

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Point Reyes National Seashore
……….and things that go bump in the night

“I wish you hadn’t shown me that photo last night on the computer,” the Lady said.
It was Saturday night and we were comfortable in bed in our camper, I thought completely content after a wonderful day of hiking along the coast. We were camped along Lagunitas Creek in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
“Do you mean the one of Ted with the axe on Wander the West?”
The Shining
“Yeah, some kind of play off that Jack Nicholson horror film. What was it?”
“The Shining,” I answered.
“That’s it. I just don’t like movies like that.”
“So what about the photo?" I asked.
“Those kind of photos stick in your head, they stay on the surface and are the first thing that comes to mind if you hear something at night or see a quick movement,” she explained.
“So do you think you are going to see an axe wielding maniac behind every tree tonight?”
“No, but I don’t like the idea that someone like that could be out there.”
I decided to take a different tact. “Think of it like Bigfoot. Folks claim to see Bigfoot all the time, and other kinds of monsters or creatures. In all our ramblings we have never seen any evidence of anything like that or a nut case with an axe.”
The Lady was already starting to drop off to sleep. It came out in a mumble, “Yeah, I know but it might be interesting to see something really strange sometime……………………………….” She was asleep.

So she was sleeping soundly, not a care in the world. I was left with axe wielders and Bigfoot and all other kinds of creatures in my head.

Little did I know this short conversation would set the stage for one of our most bizarre night time encounters. I am still unsure about what we saw. The Lady got up in the night for a trip outside. She thought she saw something. She climbed back in the camper and told me to go outside and look. I grabbed the camera as I stepped into the night.

But I’m way ahead of myself here. What were we even doing out on the California coast again? The stage needs to be set.

We had a weekend open up for a quick trip. We decided again to head for the Pacific Coast. Point Reyes National Seashore offers all kinds of opportunities for exploration. We left early Saturday morning after readying the camper Friday evening after work. Our first stop was at Samuel P. Taylor State Park to check on overnight camping opportunities. A phone call earlier in the week told us the campground is only partially open and first come first served only. Finding the campground about a third full, we secured a spot and then headed out Limantour Road to Drakes Bay.

We had never hiked the Coast Trail between Limantour and the Bolinas area. An overnight storm was clearing as we walked along Santa Maria Beach.

At the south end of the beach we found a use trail that took us up to the Coast Trail.

The Coast Trail follows the top of the bluffs at sea’s edge. It is a marvel to see the work that water can do.

We dropped down the trail to Sculptured Beach, a wonderful little secluded cove.

We watched the surf, the sky, and the sea birds.

The day remained cool and overcast but we sat and napped and just enjoyed being here.

As we headed back to the Limantour Trailhead, the sun broke out for a moment onto Drakes Bay and the long Limantour Spit.

We dropped down off of The Coast Trail and retraced our path along Santa Maria Beach.

At the truck we changed out of our hiking boots and clothes and the Lady announced she had hidden away a thermos of hot chocolate and suggested we just wander down to Limantour Beach and sit and enjoy it. We did.

Our day was winding to a close. We drove back to our camp at Samuel P. Taylor, took a hot shower, and enjoyed the evening. The campground had filled. There were the usual various groups but the Lady was soon busy helping a group of small children. They were on a nature scavenger hunt and their bag was full of treasure. There was one item still to be found, a feather. It is so great to see happy children learning and having fun. It is also nice to see the natural ease that the Lady has in interacting with kids.

The next day was our planned main event for this weekend, a hike on The Coast Trail north from Bolinas with a visit to Alamere Falls. But first we had to make it through the night.

Back to Saturday night.

“I saw the camera flash fire and then you turned on your headlamp. Did you see something?” the Lady asked quickly as I opened the camper door. I was shaking as I climbed inside and locked the door.
“I don’t know,” I honestly said as I sat and took off my shoes. “What did you see?”
The Lady thought for a moment. She was working it out. “I just saw a movement. I heard a noise and I looked over at those redwoods. Whatever was there was gone. It was unnerving; that damn Wander the West photo!” She shook her head and then remembered the camera. “Did you take a picture? Have you checked the camera?”
I looked up from my shoes. “No I haven’t looked at the camera. I saw movement and just fired a shot off from the hip and then turned on my headlamp. There was nothing there. It was so damn fast; only a movement caught my eye.” I let out a deep breath. “Let me get back up into bed and let’s settle down. Then, let’s see if the camera caught anything. It was so fast the shutter speed was probably too slow and all we’ll have is one of those ugly blurry photos you see on the cable channels or Internet.”

We settled into bed and our nerves calmed. We lay on our backs and I held the camera’s LCD screen up to our eyes and hit the play button.
“My god!” we blurted out in unison.

We were well into our second cup of coffee Sunday morning before we were able to bring up the subject of the night’s events and the camera still up on the bunk.
“What should we do?” the Lady asked.
“I’m still shaken,” I said. “What do you do with something like this? Cable channels, the tabloids, maybe the networks? Do universities have serious research departments you can turn a photo like this over to?”
More coffee.
“Well I think we ought to get on with our day and put it behind us for now. We have a fun day planned. Let’s get on with it,” the Lady announced.
“Do you think I ought to check for tracks or other sign?” I countered.
“No, we’ve got the photo of whatever it was. We’ve got the photo.”

We felt in a rush to get out of here. I guess that’s understandable. We hit the road and drove out to highway 1 and headed south. We turned off for Bolinas and then turned on to Mesa Road and followed it to its end. We broke through the morning fog at the trailhead. That brightened our spirits and the getting ready for our hike – boots on, lunches and water ready, maps added to the packs – did its work and the night was behind us.

We headed north on the Coast Trail from the Palomarin Trailhead.

The trail starts high on the bluffs over the Pacific.

The trail also works its way into and out of drainages that fall toward the ocean. There are also a couple of trapped ponds such as Bass Lake.

About 4 miles out we found the use trail down to Alamere Falls.

The trail steepens on rough terrain as it drops to the creek.

The creek stair steps down a series of falls until it reaches the edge and plunges to the beach below.

The route down off the bluff and down to the beach is not to be taken lightly. Someone has tied a rope in place, a rope of dubious condition and obvious ultra violet damage. We did not touch it.

The beach below was delightful.

And Alamere Falls were spectacular.

The beach is short and exposed. You don’t want to take the surf and ocean for granted so we made the climb back up to the top of the falls.

It was warmer up in the sun and we had earned a nice long break at a wonderful overlook.

The Lady wanted to check out the small town of Bolinas so we headed back. We enjoyed the varied vegetation.

We had seen only a couple of people on our hike in, the advantage of an early start. Our hike out was a different story as we passed well over a hundred people on the trail, a reminder how close this area is to San Francisco. But it is a great place, a national treasure, and it should be well visited.

A hike along the Coast Trail as we did this weekend is highly recommended. We will be back. There is so much more to explore.

Next, the mystery that the camera holds.

We drove north on Highway 1 passing through Olema and Point Reyes Station and then along the east side of Tomales Bay. The sky was darkening. It looked like Monday’s storm was coming in early. In planning for our coast adventure in January, our friend Ted had suggested the Sonoma County campgrounds at Bodega Bay, either Doran Beach or Westside. The wind was building as we neared Bodega Bay and was really driving across the Doran Beach spit. We drove on to Westside looking for a bit more shelter from the wind. Westside was nearly empty as we selected a campsite. The rain started to drip from the sky as we walked back from our showers.

It was a quiet night even with the rain building on the roof that turned to a hard clearing wind in the early morning. The light across the bay in the morning was calming.

We worked our way home to find winter, snow and a road and deck that needed to be cleared. It had been another great adventure, a wonderful weekend, except for that encounter in the night.

We have struggled with what to do about that night’s events, the mystery, the photo. We have told the tale accurately. The proper thing is to probably just share it, get it out there, and offer the advice to take care when you hear a bump in the night.

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