Visiting the Point Reyes National Seashore – Another National Treasure

When Bob and I want to get away for the weekend, my first inclination is to head to water. I love being near Portland’s Willamette River, or San Francisco Bay, or Seattle’s Elliott Bay. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve got loved ones in all those places either! So last weekend, when we were visiting friends in Petaluma, California, I was delighted to squeeze in an outing to Point Reyes Station, and the Point Reyes National Seashore.

We started our day at Point Reyes Station, a small, unincorporated town located in Marin County that manages to be both boujee and rustic at the same time. On the one hand, you’ve got shops featuring local artists and locally sourced artisanal and organic foods. On the other hand, you’ve got stores selling saddles, bridles, feed and other products for horses. I loved it. We ate amazing grilled cheese sandwiches at the Cowgirl Creamery, followed up by Buffalo Milk Soft Serve ice cream made by Double 8 Dairy in Petaluma. Then we browsed the art, book and gift stores in the two-block burg.

From Point Reyes Station, we drove just a few minutes to the Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center. I must get on my soapbox for a moment and talk up our National Park visitor centers. When in the town of Point Reyes Station, we looked at buying a map of the seashore for $9.95. At the visitor center, we picked up a free map, but what I really loved was the free advice we received at the same time. We asked for suggestions on the best places to hike with the time we had allotted, and our friendly and knowledgeable park ranger offered several options. She asked if we wanted beach, trees or animals, then gave us her recommendations. Every time I visit a national park visitor center, I’m reminded of what a great resource these places are for travelers, and why some folks say our National Park system is America’s best idea.

Stepping off my soapbox and back to my story, we chose to hike the Tomales Point trail, starting from historic Pierce Point Ranch. A 14-mile drive from the visitor center, Pierce Point Ranch was a butter producing ranch founded in the late 1800s and in operation until 1973. Today, the restored ranch showcases a variety of buildings along with their history and functions. These include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, dairy houses, and more. From Pierce Point Ranch, one can hike four-and-a-half miles along the Tomales Point Trail, beside the Pacific Ocean, to Tomales Bluff. The trail passes through the Tule Elk Reserve, and although we didn’t see any elk rutting, as our National Park ranger suggested we might, we did see many elk off in the distance, relaxing in the grass, enjoying the cool breeze and salty air, and participating in scintillating conversation with each other.

It was a beautifully clear day at the National Seashore, although it was quite windy on the bluff. But, of course, our astute National Park ranger had prepared us for that too.

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