http://www.dancingcoyotebeach.com Waterfront cottages overlooking Tomales Bay.
Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore, Inverness, California. Gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore.
On The Way To The Lighthouse
By Mary Olsen
Most visitors to the Point Reyes National Seashore head to the Lighthouse. The roundtrip can be made in as little as two and a half hours, but there is so much to do on the way that it can easily be stretched to a pleasant all day trip. Although it is only about 17 miles to the very end of the road, the speed limit is 40 miles per hour (unless otherwise posted) and the road is narrow and twisty in parts.
The area is intensely patrolled and tickets are issued, so be advised. The road is rough and rife with potholes. However, the intrepid will be rewarded with stupendous views of the countryside and the coastline. The very lucky may also see a bobcat, a fox, Tule Elk or even, possibly, a mountain lion. Elephant seals and sea lions are always on the agenda and bird lovers are sure to spot raptors and ospreys or any one of the thousands of species that soar the skies of this wild landscape.
And there is plenty to please history buffs and day hikers as well. In short, it’s sure to be a day that will delight the entire family – that is, IF the weather cooperates. Rain or coastal fog could be a spoiler although hardy romantics may enjoy the moody gloom. Be sure to bring warm jackets, sturdy shoes, water, snacks and binoculars.
The lighthouse is the terminus of the 40 mile Sir Francis Drake Boulevard which begins in San Rafael. The road is named for the infamous pirate -or English explorer, depending on the historical perspective, who is said to have landed at Drakes Bay in 1579.
It is believed that Drake made contact with the Coastal Miwoks who may already have been here for more than 5,000 years at that time.
The next to arrive were the Spanish Missionaries, followed by settlers who came after the US annexed California in 1848.
After entering the National Seashore you’ll notice Park signs designating The Alphabet Ranches, as they are known. After a messy lawsuit in 1857 lawyers divided the ranch lands of the Pt. Reyes peninsula into leased parcels and gave each a letter name, the exceptions being the ranches given more poetic names by one of the lawyers, such as Drakes Head, Muddy Hollow, Oporto and Sunnyside.
Read the fascinating history of ranching on the peninsula on the park’s website: www.nps.gov.
To get a great perspective of the Park, climb the road to the top of Mount Vision. Look for the small brown sign on your left just inside the park boundary. (See “The Grandest View in West Marin” just a few pages away.)
Next along the route notice the small brown sign “Drake’s Estero”. Until recently the sign read “Drakes Bay Oyster Company”. A long battle between the aquaculture operation and the Park Service was won by the latter. The road out to the kayak put-in spot is made of crushed oyster shells, now taking on a new and ironic meaning.
For a not-too-strenuous short hike, turn at the small sign, “The Estero Trail”. It’s just four miles out and back and offers some excellent birdwatching. A Christmas tree farm of long ago has grown into a little forest where beautiful egrets make their nests. Just beyond is a wooden bridge with some built in benches that makes a lovely spot to rest and look for leopard sharks in the water below.
The trail ends a short distance later with a pleasant view of the Estero – the Spanish word for estuary – a place where fresh and salt water meet.
The next interesting stopping point along the Boulevard is the historic RCA building.This is the site of a Marconi era (Morse code) ship to shore communication station. To get to the 1929 Art Deco building drive through the Monterey cypress tree tunnel. This tunnel has suddenly become a popular site due to its similarity to The Dark Hedges tree tunnel (near Armoy in County Antrim, No. Ireland) made famous in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones.
Leave Point Reyes Station behind and head west, cross The Green Bridge and follow the sign for Inverness. This is Sir Francis Drake Blvd, named for the infamous British Admiral – explorer or pirate, who may or may not have landed at Drake’s Beach. Take a left on Bear Valley Road to access the lovely Limantour Beach or the Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center. At the visitor center Park rangers are available to give out information about the light-house, whale-watching, Tule elk, hiking trails, conditions in the park, history, wildlife, the ranches and more. There are books for purchase and free brochures with trail maps.
Continuing north on SFD, the first settlement is Inverness Park, founded in 1911 around a trout hatchery. Perry’s Deli has been beautifully renovated and the name changed to Inverness Park Market. Chef Ed Vigil is turning out sumptuous deli food and offers complete dinner specials, changing each night. You may enjoy your meal with a glass of wine at the adjoining Gather at the Market. Their fresh fruit smoothies are not-to-be missed. Next door, in the fanciful driftwood covered cottage, Spirit Matters, you’ll find one of a kind gifts. Friendly Motel Inverness, exuding the rustic chalet atmosphere typical of Inverness, beckons overnight guests.
Move on now to Inverness. Along the way enjoy lovely views across Tomales Bay
of the rolling hills of the eastern ranches, green in winter months, yellow in the summer. In “Downtown Inverness” a jewel of a pocket park featuring native plants is tucked beside the parking lot for Saltwater, the Post Office and Saltwater Depot. There are picnic tables here in the pretty park and more across the way behind the Inverness Store, where you can picnic near the much photographed wreck of an old fishing boat. The general store has picnic supplies, deli sandwiches, wine and beer, ice and a terrific selection of ice cream. On sunny days you may find BBQ’d oysters.
Affable Luc Chamberland’s much praised restaurant “Saltwater” has become the heart of this tight knit community. The menu showcases oysters and a treasure trove of organic Marin products.
Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant is a cozy spot for ice cold beer in the warm and friendly old world pub and a full service restaurant providing lunch and dinners, featuring roast duckling, wienerschnitzel, Moravian cabbage rolls, kilbasa, and apple strudel, a full bar, an outdoor patio. Vladimir’s daughter Vladia is usually on hand to steer wayfarers toward local treasures. Stroll down the lane beside Vladimir’s to the charming Inverness Library and Jack Mason Museum, across from the historic Ten Inverness Way, a popular Bed and Breakfast. When the library is open, the friendly librarians are the go-to source of information and local lore. Down the road The Dancing Coyote Beach Guest Cottages offer peaceful waterfront lodging. Don’t forget Manka’s Inverness Lodge up the hill on the left on Aberdeen Way, a 1910 hunting and fishing lodge built in the Arts and Crafts style.
The lovely old St. Columbo’s Episcopal Church and Retreat House was visited by Prince Charles and Camilla in 2005. The Retreat House offers worship and meeting spaces and overnight accommodations. Further up SFD on the right is the Tomales Bay Resort, a classic Marin family resort, newly renovated. The resort has an onsite activity center offering kayaks, bikes, hikes, massages, a marina and a boat launch and a swimming pool. Continuing on, Chicken Ranch beach is hidden on the right – no signage, but cars parked along the road give a clue. This beach, with its very shallow water, is the perfect place to take the little ones and the dog and you can put in your kayak here. Where the road turns west, the ecofriendly resort, The Cottages at Point Reyes, is a delightful place to stay.
If the pounding surf of the blue Pacific is your destination, a broad, wild breath-taking panorama awaits you out in the historic ranch land area of the Point Reyes Seashore.
Here at the end of the continent visit the Lighthouse, Chimney Rock and the Tule Elk Preserve. Visit www.nps.gov/pore or phone the Bear Valley Visitor Center at (415) 464-5100 for the most up-to-date information on the Park.