Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Day On The Peninsula – Limantour Beach

Peeking out from underneath two cozy wool blankets into the diffuse gray light of a chilly dawn on my first morning at Point Reyes hostel, I had a sneaking suspicion as to what kind of weather would greet me during my upcoming adventures in the Park.

Coastal fog envelopes Limantour Beach

 Sunshine would of course be totally excellent, but since this was early March on the northern California coast, I had long ago resigned myself to the likelihood of ever-present fog and rain.  In addition, I was thoroughly exhausted after driving nearly 800 miles in two days, I was soon found to be apparently allergic to nearly every blooming thing on the peninsula, and I would stay utterly chilled to the bone for the entire week.  

But it would all be absolutely worth it.  Over the next few days I would find myself checking off several spectacular items on my own Geologic Bucket List, along with a few bonus entries enthroned in categories all their own. 

As I drove away from the hostel with my indispensable thermos of hot coffee comfortably wedged nearby, I had two choices.  Left or right? Left won out;  I headed to the beach at the end of Limantour Road. 

At first it wasn’t raining.  I caught sight of patches of blue sky through the thick but broken cloud cover…

Road to Limantour Beach

…and so I was able to enjoy relatively clear views for a while.

Limantour Estero is an estuary, the tidal mouth of a watercourse coming off the highlands of the peninsula, where fresh water mixes with ocean water.


 Below, Limantour Spit is shown in the foreground with Point Reyes in the left distance.  Barely visible on the right are cliffs exposing the Drake’s Bay Formation.  According to “Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula,” these cliffs put explorer Sir Francis Drake in a mind of the White Cliffs of Dover, England.  


As I got out of my car in the parking lot, this fearless little (white-crowned?) sparrow brazenly hopped and pecked its way over to my feet.  


Quickly it made itself at home in my car, snacking on the tasty detritus it scavenged from the floor.  I think it would have fed out of my hand if I’d had anything to give.



Soon the fog and clouds moved inland from the Pacific Ocean, enveloping the coast in a gray dreamy haze.

Limantour Spit trail

Pathway to beach

Distant beach walker in the fog

Chilled now by the dampness I turned back up the path to my car, stopping for a human moment in geologic time to ponder the dune formations.  I wondered in what form any remnants of these dunes might present themselves 50 million years from now.  Situated on the Pacific tectonic plate as it scrapes its way northwestward alongside the North American plate,  this Point Reyes beach is but a tiny speck on the edge of the deep Pacific Ocean which stretches for thousands of miles across the planet.  In this vicinity there is a relentless accumulation of stress along the San Andreas Fault.  What immense and unimagined changes will Point Reyes have undergone after those 50 million years have passed? 

More questions than answers, for sure.  Perhaps I will discover some of those answers while I am here.  I definitely will enjoy the journey. 


We'll be seeing a lot more of this reference:
Evens, J.G., 2008, Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula 2nd edition, California Natural History Guides, University of California Press

1 comment:

  1. Although cold and damp aren't great for you the foggy photos bring a sense of what the northern CA coast truly is. Bundle up.