Sunday, November 23, 2008

One Last Time: A Trip to Point Reyes Lighthouse

One of our favorite places to visit and one we have been to several times is the lighthouse at Reyes Point. Reyes Point is a needle of land that extends west about 11 miles into the Pacific about 30 miles north of the Golden Gate. But it's not just the beauty of the lighthouse- but the road that you take to get there. As you follow highway one up the north coast you drive the most windy, mountainous road to get there. Part of the highway is the road they use for that spectacular stretch of road to advertise cars- cars that go fast and take the curves close in- And the road that makes even me queasy in my stomach- and it takes a lot to make me queasy. But this stretch of road is spectacular- and I'm going to miss this spectacular beauty- around curves, and then by the flats with the waders fishing in the estuaries. A coastline so rugged and spectacular and remote- that it is still virtually uninhabited- except by birds and deer and fish and seals. The north coast Reyes Point runs straight east and west and is a beautiful straight beach onto which the winds blow and the surf pounds.

The south coast is a big curve that forms Sir Francis Drake Bay (he supposedly landed here back in 1570) and the waters there are calm and blue.

The western edge that faces the Pacific is all rocky cliffs, rock outcrops in the water and pounding surf that continuously wears at the coast line.

To make it more interesting, this piece of rock is moving north as the San Andreas Fault slowly moves this western part north. The fault line moves Reyes point away from the coast and another bay is formed on the east end of this piece of rock opening to the north called Tomales Bay.

We drove the Smart (AKA Too Cute) up to Reyes Point on Friday (Vacation Day for me) to spend one last time exploring this National Sea Shore. We do love lighthouses and try to visit them whenever we see one.

This 11 mile rocky needle has been the cause of many ship wrecks. The lighthouse was built back in 1870 to warn ships about this rocky point. The lens from this lighthouse was able to penetrate into the night for 24 miles from the light of several whale oil wicks. The Fresnel lens weighs about 6000 pounds and was made in France. It rotated using a geared clock system somewhat like a grandfather clock works using counter weights that had to be cranked up to keep it rotating.

The tip of the rocky point is 600 feet above the sea and the lighthouse was placed into a level spot blasted in the rock 300 feet below the top of the rock. Consequently, to get to the lighthouse you have to walk down some 300 steps. They really are quite helpful though- they put numbers on every 10 steps so you can mark your progress and you climb up from the lighthouse.

And they quite conveniently put little cages (don't want us to suddenly decide to jump) with benches periodically so we could stop and rest- We did occasionally.

But this National Sea Shore is more than just a lighthouse. There are hiking trails that allow you to explore the rocky cliffs. There are lots of deer that inhabit the land and we saw many of them grazing on the newly greened grass. They pretty much just ignored us as we walked by.

And there are COWS! I love COWS!

I have more pictures of cows- I kept making Don stop the car so I could take just one more picture- But maybe this is enough...

Well maybe you have to see this one- so you see what an absolute gorgeous views these cows have while they munch the grass. And this is no ordinary dairy farm- No this is a HISTORIC DAIRY FARM...

You all know all about the gold rush- and how everyone wanted to make a fortune in gold. Well I haven't heard of anybody that made a fortune in gold- but all those miners needed stuff- So there are folks still around who made a fortune in Levis- and railroad (Haight of Haight-Asbury)- and now you know it- Dairy cows. It was actually dairy farmers from Vermont that established these early farms moving several hundred pounds of butter from Point Reyes via schooners to the restaurants of San Francisco. These ranchers ultimately formed an uneasy alliance with the Sierra Club (you got it- ranchers and environmentalists all on the same page) to keep out the high end developers who wanted to turn this beautiful countryside into another gated community. This alliance won- so today we have both wilderness- and lighthouse- and COWS- all in one visit- and not a McMansion in site. Life is grand!

We hiked out about a mile to a place called Needle Rock at the southern tip of Point. As we were walking back we came to a narrow area and in the picture below you can see the rugged Pacific coast line on the left and the blue waters of Sir Francis Bay on the right.

I loved standing right in this spot- and being able to look to my left and see the crashing of the waves against the rocks on the ocean side- and turning to my right- and seeing the quiet pastoral scene of the bay with the docks and blue, blue water. It absolutely takes your breath away- you want to just stay and stare and stay and stare...

After hiking we drove back to Highway 1 and ventured north a few miles to Tony's Sea Food Grill. Tony's is a family owned business and has been in the same location, sitting on Tomales Bay, for the past 60 years. Tony's is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and doesn't accept credit cards or checks. Tony likes cash. And Max likes Tony's BBQ oysters.

Tomales Bay is the location of another farm- Oyster Farming- The Hog Island Oyster Company (You can read about them at they raise nearly 3 millions oysters a year- oysters you can actually eat without worrying that you'll die of some awful disease. And I do love OYSTERS- so you can say that a trip to Point Reyes is always a favorite for me- rugged coast, great lighthouse, COWS, nice hiking trails- and OYSTERS. Now Don hates oysters (I'm not sure what he thinks of cows)- but I know he hates oysters- So while I ate oysters- raw- barbeque and then fried- he had a hamburger and fries!

But before there were any oysters- everyone in the whole restaurant had to come out and check out the car- they took turns sitting in the seats- looking in the rear- So there was no service until the tour of the car was finished...

I counted- there were two cooks- two servers- and about three people who were just drinking at the bar- all checking over the Smart- We really drew a crowd- and were treated like celebrities after that.

They started me with a great big fat raw oyster- Oh my- this was good (by the way notice the finest of table setting- paper plates- now there's a road side joint that knows how to act like a road side joint).

And then to their specialty- five great big fat barbeque oysters- all for me- Don won't touch the things- go figure.

And then I made a strong finish with a fried oyster sandwich- three great bit fat ones- with tartare sauce and toasted sour dough bread. Delish!

After dinner and on our way back to San Francisco down Highway 1 the sun was setting as we were passing the estuary at Stinson Beach. You all know how much we do like sun sets and this one was another that was worth displaying.

I'm going to miss Point Reyes and the lighthouse and the cows and the oysters and the estuary and the sunsets. Maybe we'll visit- I don't know- but one thing for sure- I'll always remember the trips up the coast- and those great big fat oysters at Tony's!


Beyond The Strip said...

Thanks for sharing your last trip to Point Reyes. Mom, I'm going to keep my eyes out for an oyster eating competition, I think you could take home first!

Lucas said...

I"ve never been there but it's on my list now! My word! What gorgeous views (and lighthouses and cows and oysters!) Simply stunning!