By Outdoor Afro Contributor, Alex Genadinik
Point Reyes National Seashore is too large to hike in its entirety unless you are a marathon hiker! The entire area spans thousands of acres and is large enough to be home to over 1,000 species of pants, birds and animals. If you are planning a hike in the area, you can start at the visitor center like most people, but if you want a real adventure, I suggest you choose a more unforgettable hike like the one to the northern-most point of Point Reyes.
The hike is a 5-mile trek to the very north tip of Point Reyes National Seashore called Tomales Point, and an extra 5 miles retracing your steps to get back. It requires a few extra minutes of driving north from the visitor center, but it is worth the extra drive because it is one of the best spots to see wildlife. Make sure to bring your camera.
The hike itself is through pretty flat ground, which is good because you get to spend more energy looking around. About 1 mile into the hike there is an area called the Tule Elk Reserve. The elk are not too afraid of people and will just stare at you as you walk by. You can take plenty of pictures as they will just stand around and won’t run away like some deer do. The elk are bigger than regular deer that you may see at Muir Woods or other preserves. Be careful though, even though they have a friendly appearance, don’t approach them carelessly or you may set of a defense mechanism where they feel forced to fight back. The elk typically don’t do much and people tend to get bored staring at the elk, and just hike on.
When I last visited, as I walked up the trail, a turkey vulture began hovering over me and glided towards me. These are relatively large and ominous-looking birds that eat the remains of dead animals, so I felt a little uneasy. Luckily, this vulture moved on. It was either confused, overly hopeful, or didn’t have me in mind at all. In truth, while these birds get a bad rep due to their somewhat unpleasant appearance and name. They actually provide a great service to nature. By eating the remains of dead and decaying animals, these birds help prevent disease from spreading, and are actually known as nature’s sanitizers.
After the vulture glided away (they don’t fly fast) I resumed my hike. Since the trail is beside the Pacific Ocean, there are many seabirds in the area. If you bring binoculars you can see many birds perched on a huge rock in the ocean called the “Bird Rock” which is best observed about 3 miles into the hike. After the bird rick, the trail becomes more sandy and it is a 2 mile trek to the Tomales Bluff, which is the complete end of all land from which you can see far into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Standing at Tomales Bluff, I witnessed one of the wildest sights I have ever seen during a hike. I saw a typical v-shaped flock of birds fly over the ocean that gradually came down to just a foot above the water, and then proceed to spread into a single row in an almost machine-like manner. The original v-shape slowly spread out into a perfect horizontal line, almost like a ruler. All flying in a row beside one another just a foot above the water, these birds began hunting for fish. There must have been twenty or thirty birds and together they covered an area of about 50 feet, sweeping through the ocean. I tried my best to take photos, but between being completely amazed, and a non-professional photographer, none of the photos captured anything worthwhile.
After seeing that, the hike felt complete and since I could not go any further after running out of land, I dragged my tired self back to the parking lot past the elk, without seeing any more of my friend, the vulture, and thinking about how I’d tell the story of seeing the hunting birds in the ocean.
Alex Genadinik is the founder of a Bay Area Group Hiking site – a community for hikers in the Bay Area. Please say hello
on Twitter @sfhiking.