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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Point Reyes: Lighthouse & Chimney Rock

20070401 Point Reyes Lighthouse

I hiked more than 100 miles in Point Reyes National Seashore before ever getting around to seeing the most famous sight there, the lighthouse. I got to photograph some other famous sights on this trip as well.

I made the trip on April 1, just at the tail end of whale-watching season, but right in the midst of the best wildflower displays. Unlike in summer, you can't drive out to the lighthouse or Chimney Rock at this time of year (at least on weekends) because there are too many visitors. Instead you drive to the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center (formerly known as the Drakes Beach Visitor Center), and take a shuttle from there. I think it cost $5. I was one of the earliest arrivals, and the full-sized bus was mostly empty.

You are dropped at the parking lot, and walk to the stairs down to the lighthouse. Along the way you have views to the north of 10 Mile Beach. It can be quite spectacular in the right conditions (from photos I have seen), but it was overcast and foggy as usual when I was there.

20070401 Famous Shot #1

It's 308 steps down to the lighthouse, but what they don't tell you is there are also some slanted portions without steps. One gentleman needed to use the restroom when he was down at the lighthouse, so he walked back up all the steps, and then came back down them to rejoin his wife afterwards. I presume that he made it back up the second time. There are benches along the way for those who need to rest before continuing.

Just above the lighthouse is another building with some old equipment in it that was interesting.

20070401 1 and 2

20070401 Fog Horn

You can walk around the lighthouse itself and go inside to see part of the old mechanism behind glass. Outside is a good area to look for migrating whales, but when I heard that only one had been spotted all morning, I decided not to sit and watch for them, so it was back up to the bus stop to catch my ride over to Chimney Rock.

Actually, you are just taken to a parking lot from where you can take the short hike to Chimney Rock. Or you can go the other direction to an overlook to see sea lions, or head down to the old rescue boat station. I did all three, in that order.

But the most interesting by far was the hike to Chimney Rock. The bus driver had told us that there were over 40 types of wildflowers in bloom along the trail. I didn't spot that many, but was well pleased with display I got.

20070401 Checkerbloom?

20070401 Seaside Daisy

20070401 Douglas Iris

At the end of the hike is a bench behind a fence on the edge of the cliff, and there are several large rocks just offshore. Nothing indicates which one is Chimney Rock.

On the way back, I went closer to the cliff's edge on a use trail, and was rewarded with spectacular views. I got my favorite wildflower shot of the day with that backdrop.

20070401 Chimney Rock Trail

20070401 Wildflower

After checking out the other sights, it was back to the visitor center for a chicken sausage sandwich. I made a quick trip to South Beach after that. It was disappointingly foggy, but there were incredible numbers of ice plants (aka Hottentot figs) in full bloom.

20070401 Ice Plant

20070401 Ice Plant

I made another stop in Inverness while leaving the park to photograph the famous stranded boat.

20070401 Famous Shot #3

And I stopped again in Point Reyes Station after leaving the park to photograph the well known "NO BARKING" sign.

20070401 Famous Shot #2

So now that I have visited the most famous sights, I can return to hiking to the more remote and less frequently visited portions of the park.


Bud said...

So this is where the bug on the flower on the photocard was taken. I had forgotten.

Ron Sullivan said...

The wildflower show on the trail to Chimney Rock changes every week or two, so strolling it twice or more in a season isn't a bad idea.

Also, you can drive all the way out to the parking lot on weekdays.

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About Me

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I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.