Limantour Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

Every time I make it out to this jagged slice of the Pacific coast, it feels like a new experience. While there are only four major trailheads in the coastal park, add in a dozen different camping areas and numerous smaller trails and you could hike all day. Which is what we did Saturday. It was 90-plus degrees inland and not pleasant so heading to the ocean seemed like a good idea. The plan was to park by Limantour Beach (which is occasionally a nude beach in various nooks and crannies…. no evidence of that on this visit) and then find a decent trail. Our group headed about two miles on the sand to an area called Sculptured Beach, named for the intricate rocks that fill that part of the coastline. Fortunately, the tide was low enough that the rocks were exposed. This part of Point Reyes’ coast – Drake’s Bay — isn’t quite as rough as further north where the ocean comes in unfettered, but the waves were still decent enough and the water cold enough that no one was actually swimming. By late afternoon, that had changed as it ended up being a pretty warm day.

Anyway, two miles of hiking on beach sand felt like more than that, given that I wasn’t smart enough to take off my hiking boots and do it barefoot. Supposedly, Point Reyes is the windiest spot on the Pacific coast, and according to a sign at the visitors center, the second foggiest place in North America. The wind wasn’t too bad Saturday, and the fog was visible only in the distant distance, but both assertions seem believable enough.

A couple of streams come into the beach and so does a decent trail, so we headed inland for a decent climb up the cliffs. Not the kind of elevation of a mountain but given the heat, the direct exposure to the sun, and the steepness, it was still a tough climb. The National Park Service folks – is there a better federal agency out there? – have made sure the trails in this not-so-little 70,000-acre park are all well marked so even if you take a wrong turn, as our group did, you can’t really get lost. With CA nearly shutting down its state parks these days, or selling them off for whatever cash the state can get, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the NPS to take some of them over. To quote a former colleague, I’m just saying…..

Our inland turn off the beach led to about seven miles of trail-walking before finishing up by the Point Reyes Hostel ($22 a night….), and then, not ideally, a two-mile trek back to the parking lot alongside a busy road, where I successfully avoided getting run over, more thanks to my agility and no thanks to most of the speeding motorists intent on getting home.