Monday, January 10, 2011

Day Hike - Point Reyes National Seashore - Estero Trail - 1/9/11

          We had such a great time last weekend we decided to revisit Point Reyes. We left the house at 8AM and headed out Sir Francis Drake. As we headed toward Drakes Beach we passed several Hawks lining the telephone poles along the road. We arrived at the Drakes Beach parking lot and started scouring the cypress trees for Owls and Hawks. No luck with the Owls, but we did see a Red Tail and Sharp Shinned Hawk.

Red Tailed Hawk

Sharp Shinned Hawk

          Back at the beach there were two giant Elephant Seals lying in the sand. Federal Law requires that you maintain a 300ft distance from the Elephant Seals, so the beach was basically inaccessible.

Elephant Seal

Elephant Seal

          A short path led us uphill to an overlook where you should be careful not to get too close to the edge of the cliff as it is eroding away and unsafe.
          We got back into the car and drove north toward the Estero Trailhead. About a half mile from the Drakes Beach parking lot we spotted a herd of Tule Elk in a field beside the road. There were also many predatory birds hunting in the area.

Tule Elk

Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

          Several cars were in the parking lot at as we pulled into the Estero Trailhead and a few more pulled up just as we were setting off on our hike.
          The multi-use trail travels slightly downhill for about a half mile before entering a forest of old Christmas trees and Monterey Pines. This is a prime environment to spot owls and other rare birds perching in the trees. Continuing downhill through forest cover the trail then opens up and crosses the Estero via a small foot bridge. Often times herons, shorebirds and other waterfowl can be seen feeding in the exposed mud flats.

Estero Trailhead

Estero Trail

Entering the Pine Forest

Bench on the Footbridge

Great Blue Heron & Snowy Egrets in the Estero

          After crossing the foot bridge the trail climbs west offering views of the Estero far below. In the winter and spring months the trail past the footbridge can be rather muddy making it very difficult to remain balanced. There was still a good amount of frost still lining this shaded section of trail. As the trail tops out we passed through a cattle gate and stopped to admire the views from a lookout.

Overlooking the Estero

Tidal Patterns

          Looking ahead we saw that the trail descends a short ways before regaining the elevation lost. Because the mud was making things far less enjoyable we decided to retreat to dryer grounds.
          We passed back over the footbridge and noticed an old dirt road (more like an old trail) heading off to the left. We took this as it basically paralleled the actual trail yet with much greater solitude. The double track eventually let out at a gated ranch where we observed several species of raptors.

American Kestrel

Swainson's Hawk ??

American Kestrel

          From there we took a short cross country route to connect back with the Estero Trail near the beginning of the Monterey Pine forest. As we strolled back to the car we noticed another herd of Elk in a distant valley.
          Once back at the car we drove back to Pierce Point Rd. and headed out toward Tomales Point. Again we were greeted by several Tule Elk just as we entered the Preserve. This time however there were several bulls.

Tule Elk Bulls

          Just before the parking lot at the Tomales Point trailhead is a pullout situated on the last sharp right curve in the road. We pulled over here to have a late lunch and enjoy the views.

View of Tomales Point

          A short path leads to an overlook of a small pond with the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop. Another herd of Elk was situated no the hill below us. After lunch we contemplated revisiting McClures Beach however, I counted 17 cars in the parking lot and that was enough to discourage us. Instead we sought out serenity. While passing the parking lot for Abbots Lagoon we spotted a coyote hunting for food in the grassy field to the east.

Distant Coyote

          We then continued on Pierce Point Rd. where we soon spotted what we thought was another coyote. As we stopped for photographs we quickly noticed that it was actually a bobcat.



Bobcat on the Move

          Observing these animals in their natural habitat and environment is truly a privilege and we feel very blessed. We admired the bobcat for some time before it eventually dipped out of sight in the valley below. We drove onward and took Marshall Beach Rd. which leaves Pierce Point Rd. traveling uphill through a forested area past a very neat home that makes me jealous. The road turns into a well graded dirt surface and levels out as it opens up with views to the west. We pulled over and relaxed for a while soaking in the views as the sun sank lower toward the horizon. Again we observed several Hawks inhabiting the area.

Marshall Beach Road

Red Tailed Hawk

Swainsons Hawk ?

Swainsons Hawk ?

          A park ranger stopped and we chatted for a while. He suggested that we drive to the roads end at the Marshall Beach trailhead. As we drove off toward the trailhead we noticed another bobcat lying in the grassy field to the right. We pulled over slyly and observed it for a while before it darted into the thickets.


          All of the wildlife seems to be very healthy. The coyotes are very large compared to the scraggly ones I see in the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.
          We continued to the roads end at the Marshall Beach Trailhead where we watched the sun set.


          From there we called it a day and drove home to face another work week.

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