23027
California

North of San Francisco: Redwoods, Lighthouses & Marine Mammals

Learn about biodiversity and geology as you explore the carefully preserved parks and beaches of Marin County – home to redwood groves and spectacular marine life and seabirds.
Rating (5)
Program No. 23027RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,599
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Corte Madera
D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Throughout the program, we will be accompanied on field trips by a local expert who will educate and enlighten us about Marin County’s national parks. National Park Passes: “America the Beautiful” passes cover entrance fees at national parks and wildlife refuges for up to 4 adults. If you have one of these national park passes, please bring it with you to the program and on our field trips to benefit other members of the group. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: We will walk to a restaurant adjacent to the hotel where we will enjoy a 3-course plated meal with appetizer (soup or salad), choice of entrée (including vegetarian), and dessert of the day (fruit alternative) plus coffee (regular/decaf), tea (iced/hot), water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Point Reyes National Seashore Full Day Field Trip
Corte Madera
B,L,D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Drive to Point Reyes is 22 miles and takes up to 60 minutes. Walking approximately 3 miles over the course of the day. Descent of 308 steps to reach the Point Reyes Lighthouse. There are two spots along the staircase to stop and rest. If you do not want to go to the lighthouse, you can still observe it from an elevated area (fog permitting). Please note: lighthouse may be closed at any time due to high winds/fog. If closed, an alternative area will be explored.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, the daily breakfast buffet offers a variety of choices such as an egg dish, breakfast meat, hot/cold cereals, fruit, yogurt, bread assortment, milk, juices, coffee (regular/decaf), tea (iced/hot), water.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach for a field trip to Point Reyes with expert commentary en route. The national seashore was established in 1962 to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources. The land mass of Point Reyes began a geological journey millions of years ago 350 miles south of its current location. The rock in Point Reyes is the same granite found in the Tehachapi Mountains located in Kern and Los Angeles Counties in southern California. Our first stop will be the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Designed to blend in with the historically significant ranching culture of the area, it is located in the heart of the Olema Valley. Next, we will walk the Earthquake Trail. On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 a.m., San Francisco and the Bay Area were violently awakened by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was in Point Reyes. Our naturalist will explain how Point Reyes moved 21 feet north as the result of the earthquake. The San Andreas Fault separates Point Reyes from the rest of Marin County. Point Reyes is uniquely positioned on the Pacific Plate. The rest of Marin County as well as the rest of the continental United States is on the American Plate. We are truly in a different world at Point Reyes! Our next stop is Drakes Beach, one of many beautiful beaches throughout the national seashore. In 2012, the federal government officially recognized this beach as the site where Sir Francis Drake landed in June 1579 and claimed California for England. Drakes Beach is a wide stretch of beach backed by dramatic white sandstone cliffs. The sands of the cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10-13 million years ago, compacted, then uplifted. Erosion has revealed this history in the cliff faces. We will be on the lookout for birds, elk, and some marine mammals. With close to 490 species recorded, more than 50 percent of the bird species in North America, Point Reyes has the greatest avian diversity in any national park.

Lunch: At picnic tables near Drakes Beach, we will have box lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert, water. There are bathrooms located here.

Afternoon: Next, we reboard the motorcoach and have continued expert commentary as we drive to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Built in 1870, the lighthouse heeds the warning to boats that are traversing the foggiest and windiest spot on the Pacific Coast. Accessible only by a 308-step staircase built in 1939, the sixteen-sided tower can be fogged in for weeks on end. Our last stop of the day is a special program highlight. We will ride to Chimney Rock at the eastern spur of the Point Reyes Headlands for stunning views of Drakes Bay and the coastline stretching to the southeast. It is also the only area within Point Reyes to view elephant seals. While it is usually possible to view northern elephant seals from here, December through March is the period when several hundred elephant seals haul out at the southwest end of Drakes Beach to mate and give birth. Pups can still be seen in April and May. Whales may also be sighted from Chimney Rock during the months of January through May. In addition to a feast of marine mammal sightings, the wildflower blooms at Chimney Rock peak in March and April.

Dinner: At a restaurant in the nearby town of Point Reyes Station, we will have a 3-course plated meal with salad, choice of entrée (including vegetarian) plus popovers, and dessert of the day (fruit alternative), with beverage choices of coffee (regular/decaf), tea (iced/hot), water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Mt. Tamalpais
Corte Madera
B,L,D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Drive to Muir Woods is 10 miles and takes up to 30 minutes. Walking approximately 2 miles over the course of the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: En route to Muir Woods, our naturalist will provide commentary. Muir Woods is one of the few remaining old coast redwood groves in the world. Millions of years ago, redwood and sequoia trees were found throughout what is now known as the United States. Today, the remaining redwoods grow in a narrow band along the moist, cool coastline of Monterey to southern Oregon. By the early 20th century, the logging industry had wiped out nearly all of the redwoods. The lack of accessibility saved the grove in an area once known as Redwood Canyon. In 1905, Congressman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth wanted to make sure this virgin grove remained untouched so they bought 611 acres for $45,000. Two years later, a water company in Sausalito planned to dam Redwood Creek which would have flooded the redwoods in the canyon. Kent attempted to stop the plan and the water company threatened to use eminent domain to force the project forward. Kent sidestepped the company by donating 295 acres of the forest to the federal government. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land the nation’s tenth national monument, the first to be created from land donated by a private individual. Kent insisted that the area be named after John Muir whose dedication to preserving the environment helped establish the National Park System. Muir wrote, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” Upon arrival, we will have a brief introduction to Muir Woods by a park ranger before beginning a morning of self-directed exploration through the grove. Muir Woods is meant to be a place of quiet so everyone may enjoy the majesty of the redwoods at their own pace in solitude. Near the entrance, there is a small café.

Lunch: At picnic tables near Stinson Beach, we will have box lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert, water. There are bathrooms located here. Because Stinson Beach is near Bolinas Lagoon, we have the opportunity to see seals and birds.

Afternoon: Our naturalist will continue his commentary as we ride to Mount Tamalpais, a California state park, and the highest peak in the Marin Hills that are part of the Northern California Coast Ranges. Mount Tamalpais lies just east of the San Andreas Fault near the border of the Pacific and the North American tectonic plates. The majority of the mountain is protected public land that adjoins the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Marin County Open Space Preserves, providing nearly 40 miles of continuous publicly accessible open space. The name Tamalpais was first recorded in 1845, based on the Coast Miwok name for the mountain meaning "west hill.” At the peak of Mt. Tam, we will have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, the East Bay, and Marin County. We will see forests of fir, redwood, and oak. Open grasslands and chaparral are abloom with wildflowers in the spring. Raccoons, gray foxes, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes, and black-tailed deer all call Mt. Tam their home. More than 150 species of birds have been spotted at Mt. Tam, including red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, and turkey vultures. Mt. Tam’s human imprint includes the now defunct, "Crookedest Railroad in the World," a railroad that meandered its way up to the peak from downtown Mill Valley from 1896 to 1930 until a road was constructed and cars gained popularity. When we return to the hotel, our naturalist will give a presentation on the marvels of Point Reyes throughout the year. With his unique insider's perspective, we will gain an understanding of the Point Reyes landscape at other times of the year.

Dinner: In a local restaurant near the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Point Reyes National Seashore Full Day Field Trip
Corte Madera
B,L
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive to Bolinas is 23 miles and takes up to 60 minutes. Walking approximately 3 miles over the course of the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our naturalist will provide commentary as we ride to Point Reyes National Seashore. Our first stop will be Point Blue Conservation Science, a non-profit conservation and research organization founded in 1965. Point Blue’s 140 scientists fulfill the organization’s mission of safeguarding birds, wildlife, and ecosystems. We will visit their Palomarin Field Station in Bolinas at the southern end of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Palomarin is one of the country’s foremost locations for long-term studies on birds and their habitats. Every year, the scientists band 5,000 birds and monitor 100 nests as well as study migratory connectivity. Geolocator tags safely attached to birds tell the scientists where the birds have stopped to feed, rest, and breed before their return to Palomarin. While at Palomarin, we will have a special opportunity to assist the bird banders in checking the mist nets for birds. We will then watch as the birds are banded and measured in the lab. Science interns will explain their work. Our knowledge will further be enhanced through interactive displays and a short walk on a nature trail. On our way to lunch, we will make a brief stop at Agate Beach to see dramatic ocean views, wildflowers, and birds, especially hawks. In the spring, it’s even possible we might be graced with a whale sighting!

Lunch: At the Bear Valley Visitor Center we will eat at picnic tables and have a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert, water. Bathrooms are available.

Afternoon: As we spend the early afternoon in the Bear Valley area, our opportunity to see birds is plentiful. Keep your eyes skyward bound. After lunch, we will walk a flat 1/2 mile to Kule Loklo (Bear Valley), a replica of a Coast Miwok village. The Coast Miwok people lived thousands of years ago in what is now Marin and southern Sonoma Counties. We will have a ranger-led visit throughout the tiny village and imagine what life was like many years ago. We will then walk back on the trail and reboard our motorcoach. Expert commentary will continue as we ride to our final destination at Point Reyes, Tomales Point, the northern tip of the national seashore. A short walk on the Tomales Point Trail reveals dramatic views to both the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay. Our naturalist will help us identify lupine, poppies and many of the other flowers that can engulf the trail. Red-tailed hawks, osprey, and other raptors often soar overhead. In addition to the spring display of wildflowers, the point is also famous for Tule elk, found only in California, that roam free in the area. Also located at Tomales Point is Pierce Point Ranch. Established in 1858, the preserved ranch is one of the oldest ranches on the Point Reyes Peninsula and was one of the most successful dairy ranches of its time. When Point Reyes National Seashore was established in 1962, 18,000 of the park’s 53,000 acres were leased back to dairy farms that continue to operate within the national park system. Pierce Point Ranch is representative of the agricultural heritage of the area. With our naturalist, we will walk along a path that winds through the historic complex. As we leave Point Reyes National Seashore, we will have a deeper appreciation for why these 111 square miles have been preserved for all to enjoy.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The group leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Marin Headlands, Bay Model, Golden Gate Bridge
Corte Madera
B,L,D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive to the Marin Headlands is 12 miles and takes up to 30 minutes. Walking approximately 2 miles over the course of the day. Path to Point Bonita Lighthouse is 1/2 mile; pathway has uneven terrain with steep decline to the point and steep incline on the way back up. Please note: lighthouse may be closed at any time due to weather. If closed, an alternative area will be explored.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our naturalist will again provide commentary aboard the motorcoach en route to the Marin Headlands. Thousands of years ago, the Marin Headlands was home to the Coastal Miwok tribe. In the 18th century, ranchers farmed the area. Beginning in the 1890s and through World War II, military installations were built in the Headlands. All military sites in the Headlands are now decommissioned and returned to civilian use. In the 1960s, the government sold more than 2,000 acres of land to a private developer who planned to build a city named Marincello that would have included 50 apartment towers, single-family homes, and a hotel. In 1970, the community successfully defeated the proposal and the land was sold to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, remaining open space for all, including white-tailed deer, bobcats, river otters, ravens, brown pelicans and the fall raptor migration. Our first stop in the Headlands will be Point Bonita Lighthouse which was built in 1855 and is still active. It is the third lighthouse on the California coast and the only lighthouse in the country accessed by crossing a suspension bridge. When the fog is dense, a foghorn supplements the Fresnel lens in the light. A park ranger will lead our exploration of the lighthouse and surrounding area. While there, we will look for harbor seals and sea lions, which are generally present year round, as well as whales in the spring. Next, we will take a short drive to the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, housed in a decommissioned army chapel built in 1941. At the visitors center, we will learn about both the natural history and human history of the Headlands. We can step inside a Miwok shelter, examine the bones of marine and land mammals, look through a microscope to explore life in local ponds, and smell and identify plants in a native plant garden. Rangers are available to answer questions.

Lunch: At a nearby restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will have a docent-led visit of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model, located just north of the Marin Headlands in Sausalito. To understand how the water flows in the Bay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the San Francisco Bay Model in 1957. The model of the San Francisco bay and delta is approximately the size of two football fields. The time scale, running 100 times faster than nature, permits the engineers to observe a long sequence of events in a short time period. It is constructed out of 286 five ton concrete slabs joined together like a jigsaw puzzle. Features that affect the water flow of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are reproduced. After a short drive, we will continue our exploration of the Marin Headlands at the Marine Mammal Center, founded in 1975. The Marine Mammal Center rescues and treats sick, injured, or orphaned animals with the goal to return the healthy ones back to the sea. Since the center's inception, they have rescued and treated more than 20,000 seals, sea lions, whales, sea otters, dolphins, and porpoises. The center also conducts scientific research to learn from the data derived from their patients. We will have a docent-led visit of this very special place and learn about their work. Please note: the number of animals on site and visible varies depending on their condition. We end our journey with a stop at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1937, it connects Marin County to San Francisco. Enjoy a short walk on the most beautiful bridge on the West Coast.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Corte Madera
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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