A Hike By the Sea

Looking north, up toward Tomales Point
Looking north, up toward Tomales Point
California poppy
California poppy

The ocean ...

Every once in awhile I get the calling. Like medicine for the debilitated, it hints of relief with its bucolic salve.

It asks for nothing, and does not try to impress, or offer heralded expectations. And even though I hope, it never disappoints. And changes everything.

The day is brisk, with a light but biting breeze. The drive was quiet, contemplative, ascending and descending through verdant hills, sprinkled with wildflowers and windswept cypress that swayed gently under the radiant skies.

Crunching of gravel under my feet as I cross the road to the trail head. Before me are the moddled white structures of the historic Pierce Ranch, framed by wooden fencing and bent trees, weathered by the sea breeze. Beyond the Ranch, the trail is carved through the greenery and it isn't long before I spy the first Tule Elk, roaming through the grasses.

I smell the brackish air as I traipse through the pathway. Others are returning from the hike, each offering a hello. Everyone is a neighbor here. The path curves uphill, the ocean to my left, down below, waves rhythmically crashing against the rocks, a million sparkles from the afternoon sun splay across the sea.

Pacific Ocean (west) side of the point
Pacific Ocean (west) side of the point
Looking northward along the trail to the point
Looking northward along the trail to the point
Looking down from the northernmost point of the hike onto the tidepools
Looking down from the northernmost point of the hike onto the tidepools

The mountain lion

There are other creatures about. Furry caterpillars on the riparian vegetation. A warning sign alerted to the presence of mountain lions in the area. I'm familiar with that information.

Last year, I took a hike alone on the southern part of Point Reyes, from Palomarin trailhead up through the coastal hike to Wildcat Beach. It was after a rain, and the ground was muddy, with pools of mucky water to jump around and over. Fewer hikers were out then, and I soon found myself alone in the wildland, though I wasn't really aware since I was enjoying the contemplative swishing of trees and ocean currents. A thought popped into my head unexpectedly. A couple of months before I hiked with a group in an area up above Auburn where a woman was fatally mauled by a mountain lion several years before. Along the trail, there was a memorial marker, and the group stopped there to talk and visit.

I became aware that I had not seen another human in some time. I thought it was silly, but I spotted a large rock and picked it up, then found another. Clutching both in each hand, I smiled, thinking how silly this would look, and how I'd toss them into the bushes if I came across another hiker. I looked to my left, and a mountain lion was standing in the bushes, about 25 feet away. It turned and looked toward me, as chills ran up my spine.

Instinctively, I stood up tall and held my hands over my head. The lion just stared at me languidly. So I made a loud noise and tossed one of the rocks into the air. He moved away, and I made my way up the hill, glancing frequently backward. When I reached the crest, I looked back and took a photo. If I followed the trail back to the trailhead, I would have to walk by him again, so instead I decided to hike forward and take the longer loop back to the beginning.

I didn't see another human for over an hour.

Tule elk herds wandering through the area - there were hundreds
Tule elk herds wandering through the area - there were hundreds
The big boys
The big boys
Moi
Moi

The Elk

So I try not to hike alone now. But it's still a solitary endeavor; both of us in our own internal mead. Cutting through pathways offering dramatic coastal murals of golden California poppies, seacoast goldfields, purple lupine, thistle with flaming red blooms, windswept grasslands and coastal scrub, on several occasions the pathway covered in foliage. It reminded me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy, Scarecrow and company walked across the field of poppies to get to the Emerald City.

We get closer to the point and sand appears beneath our feet, making it challenging to walk up the hills, but with each crest, the destination seems closer. At Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Point is its northernmost point - see relief map here - at the entrance to Tomales Bay, which rests directly above the San Andreas Fault. Yes, this is earthquake country.

It is also home to a Tule Elk Reserve. Almost near extinction following the California gold rush in the 1800s, the elk, which are native to California, were reintroduced to Point Reyes by the California Department of Fish and Game. In 1978, eight females and two males were brought into the area. Since then, their numbers have multiplied, and there are now hundreds, and several thousand throughout California. Needless to say, I snapped a ridiculous number of photos of the majestic creatures.

At last, Bird Rock could be seen to the left, and not far beyond that, the final destination of Tomales Bluff. Being approximately 50 feet above the sea on a cliff, that was as far as we could go. Below were tidepools and a few sea lions and gulls perched on the rocks. One of the passers-by said they had seen whales out into the ocean, but I couldn't spot them.

The wise man

At last, it's time to say goodbye to the bluff. The walk back is an hour and a half, and the sun will be down not long after, so we retrace our steps back through the trail. A slow mist is beginning to settle on the horizon, the sea wrinkled in the caramel light. The golden glow of the poppies is more pronounced, and the amber sky adds to the contemplative feel of the hike, as my mind empties and I feel the replenishment of the ocean settling into my soul.

The elk seem even more comfortable with us on the walk back, and several watch us, curiously. The elders of the herd - with massive girth and towering antlers, seem to be studying us from their perch on a hill, letting the rest know we are safe and welcome. The biggest sits in gentle silence, like a wise man, circumspect and sage.

He is wise, I think. And I feel honored to share in his peace.

More by this Author


Comments 40 comments

Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

This is very good writing. The settings, descriptors, and examples give me a vivid picture of what you were seeing and feeling. The pictures are great also. This kind of walk is after my own heart. I love to hike and to be by the sea, especially in a hilly, scenic environment. I hope to never live far from the ocean. Great hub Greg.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you. Writing also feeds me, so the combination of incredible raw material from this majestic setting and the desire to express in words makes for a fulfilling outcome. I already feel like this is one of my favorite hubs! :-)


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Loved this hub and photo's, great writing. Voted up useful and interesting, Joyce.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, writer20. Really appreciatethe support and encouragement!

G


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

What a lovely blend of beautiful word painting of real landscapes. It was a delight and a joy to read. Made me almost literally feel the breeze on my skin and tickling my nose with its scents. Much more, of course. This has quality and appeal to be read by all who love the beauties of the out-of-doors and beautiful writing. I'm so glad I visited.

I gave it high marks!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Such beautiful pictures, I can feel the fresh air doing me the world of good, just looking at them. And I say... what fine pair of legs.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Nellieanna/tobusiness: I could have posted so many more pictures - I had to be pretty selective. That said, I'm now considering why I posted the pic of myself! I guess to add an air of authenticity (ie. These are really my photos...) ;-)

Thank you both for the positive comments!

G


ama83 profile image

ama83 4 years ago from San Jose, CA

Great photos! Looks like an awesome time :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

The photos are wonderful, Gerg. It's nice to see you IN the scenery, too. With all that hiking, no surprise you have strong legs. :-) Suits the activity and the scenery!


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks ama83; and Nellieanna, don't get too used to it! ;-)


klarawieck 4 years ago

Beautifully written with great detail to all things that caught your attention. Pictures came out great, too. And you were smart to arm yourself with rocks. I've done it too in the Everglades. You can't be too careful. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.


JohnEricWms 4 years ago

Hey my bro. Beautifully descriptive, meaningful and deep, yet simple... acknowledging and enjoying nature and connecting to it. Spirituality at it's finest.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Klara, my friend. You helped inspire this hub, which of course is an extension of Gift From The Sea. I do think someday I may try to write a book of ocean musings. :-)

And thank you, John bro - I'm glad you read and commented. Perhaps we can take our own day hike to the coast this summer...

G


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

Regarding writing a book "someday" . Make that day today or tomorrow. I know you can do it. Blending in some other life experiences might add to it. This talent is going to waste.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Ah, but not waste. Where else can you create something in a short span of time and have so much immediate positive feedback! ;-) Seriously, I write here for the fun of it, and to sharpen my writing chops!

Not much longer before my first novel makes it to print, btw ... probably within the month.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

OK - :-)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Beautiful. It brought back a yearning for the west coast and Point Reyes. I miss California, and when I see the recognizable coastline it brings back fond memories. Excellent description. Voted up/A/B/I Thanks for sharing and thank goodness you didn't have a battle with the mountain lion. Beautiful photos.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Denise; I appreciate the support!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I love the ocean, and often find myself writing about it. I found your hub to be irresistible.

“A slow mist is beginning to settle on the horizon, the sea wrinkled in the caramel light…”

That is the perfect description, Gerg.

And what a pleasure seeing other life meld with such beautiful landscapes during your hike. Wonderful photos!

You were fortunate with that lion, by the way.

Voted up and more. :-)


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I liked that line too - "...the sea wrinkled in the caramel light." I must have needed a sugar fix at that moment. ;-) Thanks, Genna, for your support and encouragement!

G


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a beautiful and very interesting hub, Gerg! You've described your hike and its joys very effectively. Thank you for an enjoyable article and lovely photos.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks Alicia - I appreciate the support!


ciaralw profile image

ciaralw 4 years ago from San Diego, California

Your writing is so vivid and gorgeous. I can imagine every scene, plant, animal and stages of the sun. This is very relaxing to visualize, thank you for sharing the beauty that you enjoy.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Ciaralw - thank you; that's high praise, and exactly what I was hoping for! Have a beautiful day ~

G


Melbourne31 profile image

Melbourne31 4 years ago from Ogden, Utah

I like how you tell your experiences. While reading your hub, I begun to visualized the places that you have mentioned. This is because you have given me a right and a vivid description of the place. I wish I could write like you do. =)


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you. Years ago I recall watching the movie City of Angels, with Nick Cage and Meg Ryan, and in it he watches her eat a pear and asks how it tastes. She said, "like a pear!" He said, "No, I want to know how it tastes to you." It was something that reminded me that when describing, to pause and think of all the senses - not to write them all down necessarily, but to think of each of them and then describe the most vivid, the most descriptive of that moment. Sometimes we can get locked into just telling what we see or what we hear, but with this little exercise, it makes you think about every one of the senses. If it's a breeze combing across the tiny hairs on your arm, then that's what you describe, etc.

I think writing is like running, or any other life activity. We may be born with different competencies, but becoming a good writer is a constantly evolving task, and I think anyone can become a master with time and the right attention. I appreciate the praise, and I do like the way I described things in this hub, but all of HP for me is just exercise - it's to keep my senses sharp.

And I have no idea why that prompted me to respond with such a lengthy explanation! I will happily read some of your hubs, Melbourne31, and sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement!

G


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Hi Greg, my daughter lives in Petaluma and Point Reyes looks to be a straight shot to there. I looked to see what highway I'd take and it said Point Reyes Petaluma Rd. I asked if they couldn't be more specific. (dry wit grin here)

I loved this, I listen to a lot of audio books and I imagined I was listening to your travelogue with the pictures easing by and the sound of the ocean in the background.

I liked your last comment--Jack Johnson (who was a top surfer and thus used to time with the ocean) has a song in which he compares our hectic forward motion with a train. The song is about his desire to see the old train breakdown so he'd have a chance to step outside and look around. When we are engaged in an activity--even a hike by the ocean--we often concentrate on reaching a destination instead of making the journey, with all your senses firing, the destination.

Thank you for the outing. =:)


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Winsome - I literally just returned from an overnight backpacking trip into another part of Point Reyes 15 minutes ago. Yes, Petaluma is very close - cool, quirky, diverse little city (as are most in Sonoma/Marin County), and I was on that very road about an hour ago!

I'm a big Jack Johnson fan (big surprise, huh?), and I know exactly which song you're talking about. I can hear it in my head. I think I'm heading toward an existence much like Jack's at some point in the not-too-distant future. Not so much the surfing part, but living by the sea, in the moment, strumming my guitar. That is living.

I appreciate the positive words, and am happy mine resonated with you as the experience did with me.

G


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

Wonderful write, descriptive, luring and informative. Voted up and across the board.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I'm honored by your praise, arb; thank you!


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Gerg - I have now read several of your compositions and you never fail to take me on such wonderful journeys. Your descriptions are so vivid and it makes me want to travel to all of these beautiful spots. Once again - thanks for taking me away for a while.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

You're very welcome! I appreciate your encouragement, shiningirisheyes!

G


manuspohr profile image

manuspohr 4 years ago from Massachussets

Nice job man, is nice article, i love fine articles and your this is.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks manuspohr!


Fennelseed profile image

Fennelseed 4 years ago from Australia

You captivate me with your words so that I felt I was there beside you, seeing and feeling and hearing and touching all of the elements of your coastal hike. You were so brave in the Mountain Loin's presence, and your respect for the Elk and the flora and fauna of the area is to be admired. A wonderful journey with beautiful photos of the occasion. All my votes to you, Gerg and sharing.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I appreciate the kind words, Fennelseed. Glad I found your work through HP as well...

Greg


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and awesome. Enjoyed the hike with you. Love the ocean and love to contact with nature and animals. Really enjoyed this. Lovely pics. Passing it on.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Gypsy Rose Lee, for coming along with me! ;-)


SWC 4 years ago

Beautiful. There must be a deeper meaning behind this hike, this moment in time. Spiritually speaking, you were not alone - figuratively, and literally.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

SWC - there's a deeper meaning behind everything. Every moment is valuable, and life is precious. Thank you for your affirming comment.

Best,

G

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