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 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 Point Reyes Station, always a winner, and then wandered around.  Being a Monday meant some shops were closed. 

It is, geographically speaking, pretty 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 & surrounding hills, with very few houses to be seen. Almost all of farms across the Bay are in permanent agricultural conservation zonings, or trusts, or etc., which prevents them from being developed, which 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 uhhh.. 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. 

We'd seen the cemetery last time we were here, but this time 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 Linda, 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"  (see ref. at bottom of page)  This occurred mainly between 1800 and 1940.

By 1867, a Lighthouse had been constructed at the Point, using a Fresnel lens, purchased at the Paris Exposition the same year by 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 , 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 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 here were launched by a marine railway.   

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

Even in the most somber places you just can't escape irony and two of the main guys buried here did not die as heroes fighting fierce winds & huge waves to save lives stranded on sinking ships.  Instead, both were carpenters and/or mechanics at the Rescue Service shipyard who somehow managed to die accidentally while at work, almost on shore.  One knocked himself out and fell in the water, unseen, while the other had something heavy come crashing down on him.    

Close by is the old RCA communication station, heavily used before and during WWII to track US Navy and other ships, including commercial shipping.  This radio-array provided the first rough GPS function of its day.  Using other readings, the signal helped a ship Captain triangulate their ship's location to a fairly accurate value.    

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

Cypress trees, on the way in 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   Lagoon w/the sea behind  
    white-crowned Sparrow upper part of Abbott's Lagoon the lower part is larger
dark green ink sea kelp bed debris looking south looking north  

Later in the day we drove north along the eastern side of Tomales Bay, to the small town of Tomales.  We had stopped here a few years back 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   great room fireplace
  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. 

That book contains more info about shipwrecks and describes the means & methods used by the Rescue Service for evacuating people from partly grounded ships.  It involves sinking a telephone pole like post 6 feet deep in the sand and then rocket-launching a cable to the misbegotten ship, where they attach it hopefully to something stable, and then people come across the cable, in a harness, to safety, one at a time, life saving as its ideal best. 

The U. S. Life Saving Service closed the barracks and their books in the 1960s, as the threshold to the electronic age (including satellites) was passed, and, would take over from here for the safe travel of shipping on the Pacific, and around the world.               

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