Adventures: Point Reyes, California

January 1, 2014 · 7 comments

Bolinas, CA // Wayward Spark

Happy New Year, everyone! We’ve been having a few relaxing catch up days at home after a week exploring Point Reyes in California with Henry’s extended family (same folks as in this post plus an extra aunt and uncle and a day visit from Henry’s cousin, cousin in law, and their two kids).

Point Reyes is a small peninsula northwest of San Francisco in Marin County. Aside from a few small communities (Bolinas, Inverness, Olema, and Point Reyes Station), the land is mostly under the protection of the National Park Service. There are so many geological, ecological, social, agricultural, demographic, and economic factors at play in this area, making it a fascinating place to see and try to understand. We had a number of very heated discussions about these issues, and though nothing was settled among our group of non-stakeholders, it gave us a lot to think about. (What is wilderness? Can anyone protect “wilderness”? Can the national government protect “wilderness”? How does agriculture fit into the ecosystem of Point Reyes? Can Point Reyes farms be profitable? With limited resources, can they be truly “sustainable”? What does “sustainability” mean anyway? How is the California drought affecting ecosystems as well as farms? Where does tourism fit in?)

Aside from the debates, we filled our days with hiking, cooking, eating, laughing, tide pool prowling, sand castle building, window shopping (in Point Reyes Station–too cute!), more cooking, more eating, beer drinking, and board game playing. It was the perfect kind of vacation.

Bolinas, CA // Wayward Spark

Agate Beach near Bolinas

Bolinas, CA // Wayward Spark Bolinas, CA // Wayward Spark

I posted a few photos of our trip on Instagram, but for the full, un-curated version, see @el_ee, @sueph52, @rlharmon, and @allen0285.

sea snails // Wayward Spark fish and chips feast // Wayward Spark

We ate a lot, and we ate well. Breakfasts were pancakes, waffles, lemon curd, yogurt, granola, good bread with good jam, and fresh fruit. We had two lunches at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, and both were stellar. There were also a couple of epic picnics, one at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center and another at Drake’s beach on Christmas day.

The day before we arrived, the rest of the gang stopped in at Marin Sun Farms for lunch. While they were eating, several different customers came in asking for a “mystery box” of meat. Intrigued, Henry’s relations decided to go out on a limb and purchase one also. When I think of a meat mystery box, I imagine a bunch of hearts, tripe, and liver or some of the lesser desired bits of animal. At Marin Sun, however, any cuts that sit in the case unsold after a few days get thrown in the freezer and sold at deep discounts in “mystery boxes”. We ended up getting 13 pounds of pork chops, tenderloin, belly, and a roast for $20. Sold fresh, it would have cost about $200. We heard that “mystery boxes” may not be available all the time, but if you happen it be a meat lover in the area, you should definitely pop in there and inquire.

I’m not that big on pork in general, but I have to say that Henry’s posole was delicious (#barehandbbqing), and the rest of the pork was served alongside healthy big doses of fresh or roasted vegetables. There were always too many cooks in the kitchen, but somehow the meals were prepared, the kitchen got cleaned up, and every one was satisfied.
Stinson Beach // Wayward Spark

Coming from the dreary Willamette Valley of Oregon, the sunshine and warm weather felt glorious. The ocean water was still too cold for my taste, but Charlotte was happier than I’ve seen her in a while prancing (along with Henry) barefoot through the surf at Stinson Beach.beach time // Wayward Spark beach time // Wayward Spark heeler by the fireplace // Wayward Spark

We stayed in a large but comfortable rental house in the “town” of Inverness. Kit was happy to come along.

elk at Point Reyes // Wayward Spark

There’s a herd of about 450 Tule elk living in various areas on Point Reyes. We saw groups of them several times, but there were a ton hanging around when we went hiking at Tomales Point. Tule elk almost went extinct a while back (read the Wikipedia article here), but they were reintroduced to Point Reyes in the late ’70s and have been thriving ever since (though with what must be severely limited genetic diversity).

Tomales Point // Wayward Spark adventuring // Wayward Spark

elk at Point Reyes // Wayward Spark survey marker at Tomales Point // Wayward Spark

Here’s a cool survey marker we came upon at Tomales Point.

sandcastle building // Wayward SparkAs a group, we made a couple of large sandcastles (above at Drake’s Beach), and each time, random people would periodically walk up and gawk at us like they’d never seen a sandcastle before. I don’t know if it was the actual sandcastle, the intensity of the building (pretty serious), or the fact that it was mostly adults working on the project, but their reaction was kinda weird. Don’t people build sandcastles on beaches in California? Isn’t that a regular occurrence?

The drive to Point Reyes and the one home to Oregon were rather long (~10 hours) and not that pleasant, but it was totally worth it. There was even some half-joking, half-serious talk about picking up and moving down to a farm in West Marin. I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon, but that sunshine was sure enticing.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

margot January 1, 2014 at 10:58 am

it’s a great time of year to get out of the pacific northwest! what a nice adventure :).
and, your family is so cute. happy new year, Camille. i hope our paths might cross this year again.

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Camille January 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I really hope so! Let me know if you’re ever in or near my neighborhood.

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Lisa M January 1, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Great vacation! Have you ever read Garden Betty’s blog? She spent Christmas with family in Marin too. Anyway, am looking forward to another year of your great blog—I really love your posts. You’ve even inspired me to live a little more “off the grid” :-) And am enjoying the honey I ordered too! Happy New Year—I hope 2014 is wonderful for you and your family!

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Jess January 2, 2014 at 6:07 am

Camille, sounds like an incredible trip! Love the part about questioning the identity of wilderness and what it means to “protect” it. Glad you and your family had a sunny, restful break.

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Monica January 2, 2014 at 8:10 am

Hey, you were in my neighborhood! So cool to get a peek at Point Reyes through fresh eyes — I worked at the park for a while, and have to say that it’s the strangest and, in many ways, most heavily compromised National Park of any I’ve worked at. I have about a dissertation’s worth of observations on the character and designation of wilderness, and the role of agencies like the Park Service in providing stewardship thereof. My. goodness.

As for West Marin, it’s a pretty trying place to live, but a wonderful and thoroughly gorgeous place to visit, especially in the late fall when the fog finally subsides and Tomales Bay becomes bioluminescent. Take the kiddos for a nighttime kayak paddle next time; it’ll blow their minds!

Happy New Year and best wishes to you and yours, and thank you for all that you write!

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Monica January 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

p.s. — People totally build sand castles in California, but the demographic on Marin’s beaches is skewed heavily urban, and maybe they don’t like to get their hands sandy?

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Chris C. January 2, 2014 at 11:19 am

I used to live in Tomales, and have never seen anyone building a sand castle on any beach in the area. Maybe Californians are just too hip for that ;-) Or maybe it’s just that the beaches are so often cold and windy, and there’s always the threat of massive “sleeper” waves — especially up at Point Reyes. Anyway, your post made me totally homesick (and totally sad I didn’t know about Marin Sun’s Mystery Boxes when I lived there!)

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