Point Reyes National Seashore-October 2018

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In mid-October my wife and I stayed three nights at the Inverness Motel, located on Tomales Bay, in Marin County.  The Point Reyes area, including the National Seashore, has been special to us for a long time and it was great to be there again. 

We enjoyed a late lunch at the Station House Cafe, in the small town of Point Reyes Station. Then we wandered around. Being a Monday meant some shops were closed. 

It is, topographically speaking, rare in Northern California to stay in a residence or motel which is essentially at sea level, or only a few feet higher.  The Inverness Motel, as well as a number of adjacent homes, fits this description, or profile.  So do a fairly small number of homes at nearby Bolinas and Stinson Beach.   

In the Motel's back yard is a wide-open view of Tomales Bay and the surrounding hills, with very few houses anywhere. The farms across the Bay are in permanent agricultural conservation zonings, or trusts, which prevents future development; this fits well with the local reality of incessant drinking water shortages.    

this place has been here a long time ancient movie house across the street Old Western Hotel Peruvian Lilly
  common Mallow   California native fuscia,   Zauschneria  
Point Reyes Emporium, since 1898 Tomales Bay view from motel yard Eucalyptus plank walkway to the bird blind
  evening on the bay  Elephant Mountain at dusk (see note) Monday's Harvest Moon  

note - also known as Black Mountain

On our first day touring we returned to the Station House Cafe for breakfast and then took a walk nearby to look for decorative thistles, well, what we thought were thistles.  Then we stopped in Inverness to see what's left of the old boat Point Reyes, behind the grocery.  Rich clued me in later on the Teasel plant.  

morning on the bay cruising for 'thistles' Teasel adolescent & mini Teasel
old boat Point Reyes   looking north Great Blue Heron

Next we drove into the Point Reyes National Seashore, our first destination being the tiny cemetery for Rescuers from the U.S. Life Saving Service, perched on a hill in a Eucalyptus grove, a lonely, somber place, in a lovely setting. 

Cemetery for rescue crews watch your head! rescuers' graves
    view of Drake's Estero giant Cypress tree

We had seen this tiny cemetery (for the first time) the last time we were here, but on this visit we wanted to know more about it.  Fortunately, the day before I found a book at Toby's Feed Barn in town which had the complete story and on our arrival night, I read some parts of it to my wife, as follows:

"Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest coastline on the North American continent.  Springtime wind speeds can reach hurricane force. The Point Reyes Headlands and its granite rocks, which jut 10 miles out to sea, posed a threat to ships lost in the fog or helpless against the winds.  It is no wonder that Point Reyes has had more than 73 major maritime wrecks, 37 of them total losses"  (ref. info is at bottom of page)  This occurred mainly between 1800 and 1940.

By 1867, a Lighthouse had been constructed at the Point, using a recently invented Fresnel lens, purchased at the Paris Exposition the U.S. Government. A fog horn was soon in place and together with the lens, and with the also-new Point Bonita Lighthouse, it became much safer for mariners on the west coast who were sometimes caught out, searching for the entrance to San Francisco Bay. 

Ship Captains carried a list of lighthouses and could tell where they were by counting the number of rotations, or beams per minute.  The PR Reyes lighthouse operated at 5 beams per minute, or one flash every 12 seconds.  

A U.S. Life-Saving Station, for a time associated with the U.S. Coast Guard, began operating at Point Reyes in 1890, with day and night shift rescuers walking the coast, especially during storms, looking for ships in trouble, no doubt a low-paying job which included an excess of work during bad weather and it was dangerous work involving risk-taking to try to save lives on crashed ships.   

In 1927, the Station was relocated to the Chimney Rock area, where Life Saving Service continued until 1968.  Rescue boats there were launched by a marine railway, as shown further below.   

Close by is the old RCA communication station, with old technology and it was heavily used before & during WWII to track US Navy ships, and was extended to commercial shipping across the Pacific. This radio-array provided the first rough GPS function of its day, but it was not 3D, or even 2D.  By using maps, and visual clues, the signal helped ship Captains triangulate their approximate location, a definite improvement in precise location.       

On the entrance road to the RCA facility and back, there's a really impressive array of Monterrey Cypress trees, probably a hundred years old.      

Monterey Cypress trees Art Deco building a cathedral of coastal cypress trees

Afterwards we headed to the Chimney Rock area, not far from the Point Reyes Lighthouse, to have a look at the U.S. Rescue Service Life Saving Station.  (the Lighthouse is currently closed for renovation)

house near Life-Saving Station Drake's Bay Life-Saving Station  
  rails for launching rescue boats Pelicans & Cormorants  weathered displays
    Tuesday's Harvest Moon

On the following day we went on the walk to Abbott's Lagoon and just beyond that to the Pacific coast.  If you take your time it's about an hour each way, an easy stroll.   

coyote bush stagnant pond and grassy hills upper part of Abbott's Lagoon Lagoon w/the sea behind
    white-crowned Sparrow the lower part is larger
green ink sea kelp bed debris looking south looking north

Later in the day we drove north about ten miles to the small town of Tomales.  We stopped here a few years ago and at the Presbyterian Church cemetery we recalled seeing a gravestone for two brothers who had drowned nearby, but our memory was vague on specifics.  In light of the booklet info about the U.S. Rescue Service, we wondered if there was a connection to the shipwrecks (or the rescue service) along the Point Reyes Peninsula. 

Turns out there's no connection at all. These two brothers from England, 21 and 25, undertook a different kind of misfortune in the 1870s.  

church in Tomales the Castle Brothers a gardener showed us this

The Inverness Motel has a Great Room which overnighters have a key to, after the office closes.  It's quite comfortable with a huge fireplace and a pool table, but, the owner has disallowed use of the fireplace, possibly out of respect for the destructive fires at nearby Santa Rosa, only a year ago.  I watched a world series game there and chatted with a few of the other guests.       

bird watching gear billiards great room fireplace, not usable at present
  nice lighting      
  our last evening there was cloudy      

The quote and other info above about the prevalence of historical shipwrecks is from The Point Reyes Lighthouse, 2014, by local photographer Richard Blair & writer Kathleen Goodwin, 2014, published by Color and Light Editions, Point Reyes Station, Ca. 

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