Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fall Spectacular - Tomales Point Trail

At the Northern most edge of Pt. Reyes National Park is Tomales Point, a peninsula situated with Tomales Bay to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West. It is also a spectacular place to hike! I first got the idea to try this trail out after discovering Tom Mangan's blog: Two-Heel Drive. Tom picked up my story on Cloud's Rest and the number of visitors to this site sky rocketed (Thanks Tom!). Tomales Point is listed as one of his top 5 best hikes and since I love Point Reyes and had a Saturday free, I gathered the group of usual suspects (Tim, Tony, Bob and my son Ron) and we headed north.

We could not ask for better weather: no fog, no wind, a clear sunny day! The 4.9-mile hike to the end of the trail took us a lot longer than on the way back. The photographic opportunities were tremendous. Of course, the coastal scenery was great and we gazed at the high cliffs, crashing waves and pristine beaches as we headed to the point. There were parts of the trail where one can see the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean on one side and deep blue waters of Tomales Bay on the other.

I had heard about the wildlife in the area, especially the Tule Elk and we were not disappointed. Right off the bat we were entertained by a little long-tailed weasel (pictured left), popping up and down among the grasses in front of us. It looked like he was teasing us. Besides the elk and weasel, we saw or heard a myriad of wildlife: black-tailed deer, sea lions, pelicans, cormorants, black oystercatchers, seaguls, California red-sided gartersnake, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons.

We continued on and soon had our first siting of the Tule Elk (pictured below). A large bull elk was standing proud on the bluff, reminding me of the Hartford commercials. As we came closer, we saw a dozen or so females mulling about. Apparently the bull wasn't happy with all the attention and he gathered his herd and moved them away. We could see more bulls in the distance so we continued on the trail with cameras in hand.
The group of bulls were next in a series of encounters with the Elk. The most memorable was a National Geographic moment. Two rutting bulls decided to lock horns. Cameras were ready, but apparently, my brain wasn't. I had the wrong settings on my camera and although I captured the perfect moment when they came against each other, a 1/60 shutter speed, fast moving elk and excited hands make for a very bad photo(pictured left)! Picture or not, the memory is in my head and it is one that will last a long time!

I highly recommend this 10-mile hike. I imagine it will be a bit different during "normal" Pt. Reyes weather (windy, foggy, etc.). I would rate this trip as an easy to moderate hike. There is an elevation change of about a 1000 ft over the course of the trip. Most of the trail was well packed but it did get soft and sandy as you neared the point. A rough draft (very rough) trip report and map of this hike and additional photos can be found on TrimbleOutdoors. The polished version will be available soon at BACKPACKER magazine and more photos will be on my Picasa web albums as soon as I can go through them. Thanks for taking the time to read about this trip. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

After the faceoff

Elk everywhere

Silhouette of Pelicans

Cypress Trees at Pierce Point Ranch

5 comments:

Mark said...

Awesome Dave! I had no idea there were Elk out there. Fantastic photos for sure. I just wish that "clash" photo was clearer...

This looks like a hike I could do...

Waypoints said...

Great photos of the elk. Look's like you were there to see some elk style male bonding.

--------------------Dave Miller said...

Randy,
Thanks for the nice comments. I'm still going through my elk shots, there were so many of them.

I checked out your blog Waypoints and saw you did the Alaska thing this summer too. I ended up doing the Perseverance Trail to Mt. Juneau. Thanks for adding my blog to your links. I will be putting yours up on my site soon.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your write ups. One thing, they are Blacktail deer (not whitetail deer) - to be more specific Columbia Blacktail deer.

Dave Miller said...

Thanks "Anonymous". Hope you had or will have a chance to get out to Tomales Point. I'll update the blog about the deer too.