Sebby & I headed north to Point Reyes Station yesterday morning to view Stage 1 of the Tour of California pro bike race. This was my first time spectating a stage race, although I’ve seen numerous criteriums. After a delicious breakfast at our favorite diner, the Pine Cone Diner, we walked up the hill north of downtown Point Reyes Station and perched ourselves along the road.
Basically you mill around and wait for the pack to near (you can tell by 1) the police escorts clearing the road in front of the riders, 2) the race vehicles and 3) the helicopter that flies above the peleton to relay TV signals). Then they blast past you at 30+ MPH, and then it’s over 🙂
It was very cool being so close to such a large pack of riders – the pavement rumbled as they flew by literally inches from me – when the race marshall told everyone to step behind the fog line, they weren’t kidding! Due to the nature of the race I didn’t get very many photos, but a few were keepers.
After the race we went to the main Point Reyes National Seashore visitor’s center at Bear Valley, where I picked up the 5th edition of the National Geographic Field Guide to North American Birds, which is the textbook for my birding class (I have the 4th ed., but they rearranged things a lot in the 5th, and it’s hard to follow the teacher while fumbling around in the index trying to find the bird under discussion!).
Since we didn’t have a ton of time, we decided to do two short hikes that we hadn’t done before. First we hiked the Earthquake Trail, a 0.6mi paved path east of the main parking area. This granny trail was peppered with interpretive signs explaining rudimetary plate tectonics. Probably the most interesting thing about this trail is a fence that had a 6-foot gap created in it by the 1906 SF earthquake. Other than that there wasn’t much to see. A pair of deer grazed in the shadows near the trailhead, numerous Turkey Vultures soared overhead, a lone Black Phoebe flitted about for insects, and 3 accipiters called incessantly as they caught thermals and vanished above us.
The Earthquake Trail is nice for the less mobile and families with strollers and the like, but I don’t think it’s a trail I’ll be hiking again anytime soon….
The Woodpecker Trail, which we hiked next, was lovely, however, despite our not seeing any of its namesake birds. Heading southeast from the main Bear Valley Trailhead, this unpaved 0.7mi mini-loop climbs through a douglas pine forest, and is also dotted with interpretive signs about forest habitats and common woodland denizens.
Although we didn’t see any woodpeckers, I did hear some calling at a distance as we left the pine forest and crossed a small meadow before entering a verdant grotto with moss-covered trees and ferns galore. Some early wildflowers were starting to bloom: asters, milkmaids, forget-me-not, and a yellow holly-like bush that I haven’t ID’d yet. There were numerous poisonous-looking mushrooms along the trail, some a brilliant crimson, some orange, and some interesting shelf fungii was growing on fallen trees.
We emerged from the forest at the Morgan Horse Ranch, the only horse breeding ranch operated by the National Park Service (they breed horses for the rangers). We wandered around the horse area and saw a large group of fallow and axis deer, a controversial species in Point Reyes.
The controversy is due to both being non-native deer brought by settlers for hunting, but over the years they’ve proven very successful and are multiplying and encroaching on territory needed by the native deer & Tule Elk. Some advocate exterminating them, which seems a little extreme, other want to let them be, which doesn’t seem like a good solution either. Expense aside, sterilizing the population and letting nature take its course seems like the best thing to do, but of course that would be cost-prohibitive, and the controversy goes on.
Walking back to the car we stopped for a few to watch a Great Blue Heron stalking rodents in a field. I just love the intensity with which they look for potential prey. This one didn’t catch anything while we watched, however.
Although it would have been nice to do a more substantial hike and/or more intensive bird-watching, it was nice to get away from landlord duties for a day, and any day spent in Point Reyes is a fine day indeed!
The bird list du jour was:
– Accipiter sp.
– American Crow
– American Kestrel
+ American Robin
– Black Phoebe
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Great Blue Heron
– Red-winged Blackbird
– Turkey Vulture
+ Varied Thrush
And the wildflower list, short though it is, was:
– Aster sp.
– Holly sp.?