Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 95 miles, approximately 4 hours throughout the day. Walking up to 3 miles over the course of the day; 308 steps up/down at Point Reyes Lighthouse, two spots along staircase to stop and rest, lighthouse may be closed at any time due to high winds/fog. Walking 1/3 mile round-trip to/from seal overlook; generally flat, uneven terrain. Bring 2 refillable water bottles for the day.
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), hot tea, water.
We will board a motorcoach for a field trip to Point Reyes with expert commentary from our Group Leader 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 southern California. Our first stop will be the Bear Valley Visitor Center where we will meet our naturalist. We will then walk the Earthquake Trail across from the visitor center. On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 a.m., San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area violently awoke to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, two miles west of San Francisco. 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. Back aboard our motorcoach, we will drive to our next destination, 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. The wide stretch of Drakes Beach is 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.
At picnic tables near Drakes Beach, we will have boxed lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, and dessert; water from our water bottles. There are restrooms near the picnic area.
We will re-board our motorcoach with continuing expert commentary as we drive to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It was built in 1870 to warn boats 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. Those with stamina are welcome to climb to the top. Those who prefer to stay on the ground can observe it from an elevated area (fog permitting). Next, we will ride to our last stop of the day, Chimney Rock, at the eastern spur of the Point Reyes Headlands with stunning views of Drakes Bay and the coastline stretching to the southeast. We will walk on the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail to view the seals from a safe distance. While it is possible to view northern elephant seals year round, 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. Typically, pups can 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. At the conclusion of our field trip, we will ride a short distance to our dinner venue.
At a restaurant in the nearby town of Point Reyes Station, we will have a 3-course plated meal with beverages choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.
Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.