Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pt. Reyes Magnificence

Tomales Point
(Pierce Point-Tomales Point trail)
(9.88 miles)

So if my previous Marin run cast aspersions on the general smugness Californians can have about their running conditions, this run put all those doubts to rest. This run was an advertisement for the Bay Area and its running trails. 

Embarrassingly, I have lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years, and I have never been to Pt. Reyes. Pt Reyes is actually an old piece of the Sierra Nevadas that, due to seismic drift, ended up 350 miles away. (I find this really amazing--how is it possible to move pieces of earth so far?) The peninsula that makes up Pt. Reyes is separated from the rest of the coast by the San Andreas fault-- one of our state's biggest movers and shakers. 

One important caution about Pt. Reyes: this is a very, very popular place to hike. We got started early in anticipation of possible crowds, and I'm glad we did. The parking lot at the Visitor's Center was already hopping when we took a pit-stop before heading out to Pierce Point, the trailhead for Tomales Point. Most Pt. Reyes hikers stay in the area around the Visitor's Center, and while I would love to go back (starting EARLY in the morning) and explore this area, Jen pushed for the more remote (yet still popular later on) Tomales Point trail. 

Pierce Point trailhead starts at an old dairy farm. The National Park Service has conserved the buildings and provided informational signage--we educated ourselves a bit before starting off towards Tomales Point.

Apparently, the trails near the Visitor's Center are much more wooded and sheltered--Tomales Point has very few trees, making for an exposed trail that provides stunning views every way you turn.  While this area can be foggy and cold, the weather for our run yesterday was just about perfect. Not a cloud in the sky (as you can see), and enough breeze to keep us nice and cool on our run. 

This is a pretty mellow trail-- not a lot of up and down. The one thing I found completely irritating was the last mile or so of the trail out to the point was on sand. I do not like running on sand. I feel like I'm expending a ton of effort to go a very short distance. However, that's not so much to complain about on such a brilliant run, because once we got to Tomales Point, the views all around were incredible. Two hikers told us they had just seen a seal eating an octopus, and the mouth of Tomales Bay, due to its warmer water temperature, is a major breeding ground for Great White Sharks. It's possible (although we didn't see any) to spot Great Whites from the point. 

The other wonderful part about this trail is that it runs through Tule elk habitat. The Tule elk used to be plentiful in California, but were almost rendered extinct until biologists took note and started trying to stop their demise. A few Tule elk (8 cows and two bulls) were restored to Point Reyes in 1978--today their herd numbers more than 400, and they are considered one of the environmental success stories of California. It is possible to run on this trail and not see a single elk, but we were fortunate enough to see the herd yesterday.

Most of the elk stayed together--we saw one all male group and another mostly female, with some young bucks. As we were getting near the trailhead, we saw this lone young buck. His antlers are still in the "velvet" stage-- meaning they have not lost the furry covering that will become exposed in time for mating season. The elk were calm and not overly afraid of humans, but they would also move away, which I attribute to a strong docent presence on the island, constantly reminding visitors to leave the elk alone. 

Overall, a run not to be missed. It's definitely a drive to the trailhead (probably 30 minutes or more from the Visitor's Center), but well-worth the effort on days like today. As Pt. Reyes is a national park, no dogs allowed except for the Bolinas Ridge trail leading out of the Visitor's Center. 

Plus, at the end of the run, you can head down to McClure's beach (short trail from Pierce Point trailhead as well) to soak your dirty tootsies in the chilly surf, then head back on the main road, stopping by Priscilla's Cafe for a much-appreciated sandwich and an IPA. Not that I know anyone who's done that lately...


Tony Lafferty said...

Victoria thanks for you post on my blog..I was very suprised to get my entry into nine trails so early before the race was officially to go online...Not a wise idea on a race directors part to send out notes to get in past runners(that can lead to some very hard feelings as it is tough enough to get into many races WS,WTC,Miwok etc..)...
Anyway, yes I run with Rena alot. She is a great uphill runner...Something everyone will need for nine trails...see you there...Tony

Jo Lynn said...

You run at the most spectacular places. I want to make a little bed in one of your pockets and run around with you for a while. :)
~Jo Lynn

Victoria said...

Well, Jo Lynn, it's not like you live so far away from most of the places I write about... ;-)

Gambolin' Man said...

Victoria, thanks for all your interest in my blog! I dig yours too and am impressed with your running skills! I used to be a runner myself!