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Spittin’ in the wind (Limantour Spit)

Limantour Spit View

Today we hiked out to the end of Limantour Spit at Point Reyes National Seashore. The waters of Drakes Estero (38 deg 2′ 49.2″ N, 122 deg 56′ 31.2″ W) (which is an expansive estuary on the Point Reyes peninsula) empty into Drakes Bay between Drakes Beach and the tip of Limantour Spit. Drakes Bay is considered to be the likely landing place on the West Coast by Sir Francis Drake, during his circumnavigation of the world in 1579. Limantour Spit greatly extends the length of Limantour Beach to approximately 7 miles (11.3 km). The beach is beautiful, with dangerous rip currents, sharks, and, like today, strong winds. :-) (Today’s winds were VERY strong.)

Hiking to the end of Limantour Spit has been a goal of mine. Getting sandblasted in the process was strictly optional. :-) We parted ways with the sun worshippers at the beach area nearest the parking lot and followed a group of “serious partygoers” on a path between the dunes and the marsh just inland from the dunes. Eventually, we parted ways with them as well, continuing on the path and then, when the sand on the path got deeper, we crossed the dunes and the beach to continue west along the edge of the ocean. Walking was easier, but we still had to deal with a very stiff headwind. Eventually, we crossed the spit to the north, where I would love to tell you that the wind was not so strong, but it was every bit as strong as along the side bordering Drakes Bay.

What was the point of all of this physical exertion? (Note on July 28, 2008: The round trip from the parking lot and back was a little more than 5 miles, through sand and very heavy winds. Of COURSE I took GPS waypoints and plotted them on a calibrated [MacGPS ProUSGS topographic map. Of course, since the spit is made of sand, its absolute position is always changing.) I wanted to get some shots of the mouth of Drakes Estero. What were the unexpected rewards of the trip? A colony of harbor seals was camped out on the remote inland side of Limantour Spit, almost to the tip. We walked closer (but we were still a LONG way off) without disturbing the seals and took photographs. We continued to the tip of the spit and took more, across the stretch of wind-tossed water, of the cliffs at the mouth of Drakes Estero and surrounds. Several intrepid hikers were climbing around on the beaches and trails across the water from us. As we finished at the tip of the spit and turned southward, two kiteboarders were sailing across the crests of the substantial waves. I took a number of photos of them enjoying this beautiful and remote area for their sport.

The hike back along the edge of the spit was far more enjoyable (wind at our backs) than the trip out. When we reached the path back to the parking lot, we discovered that the solitary egret in the marsh had been joined by seven or eight of its closest friends. I photographed the brave bird, closest to the stream of humans flowing out onto the beach. Then we traveled on, to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

By the time we were approaching the lighthouse, it was after 4 PM, an “iffy” time if there is an onshore flow of wind. The fog was coming in, and the huge crowd of weekend visitors were starting to scatter from the effects of the cool foggy air. We decided to postpone photographing the lighthouse, since the fog was already very thick at the end of Point Reyes. We opted instead to take the one-lane road to the parking lot for Chimney Rock, and I photographed the bluffs of Drakes Beach. The bluffs were still in sunshine, but we were in fog.

There was bright sunshine in Inverness and Inverness Park – the fog had not reached these towns. The drive back home was enjoyable and uneventful.

I have downloaded about half of the images from today while writing this entry I will process all of the camera RAW images from today and add them to images from the Estero Trail at Point Reyes, from Tuesday. I will upload images to the site when processing is complete. (Done.)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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