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
1,649
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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. If you will be arriving after 5:00 p.m., call the hotel at 415-974-6400 to be sure they hold your room.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously). Orientation. 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 have a resident naturalist who will lead field trips focusing on why conservationists and local communities fought to keep the beautiful landscape north of San Francisco as open and undeveloped as possible. Expect walking up to three (3) miles per day on terrain that can range from flat and even to steep and uneven. Transportation for program-related activities will be via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. Please bring two refillable water bottles on each field trip throughout the program. Periods in the schedule designated as “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 across the street from the hotel and have a 3-course plated meal with beverage choices of soft drinks, coffee, tea, 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 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.

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), hot tea, water.

Morning: 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.

Lunch: 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.

Afternoon: 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.

Dinner: 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.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
3
Muir Woods, Muir Beach, Mount Tamalpais
Corte Madera
B,L,D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 25 miles, approximately 4 hours over the course of the day. Walking up to 2 miles; generally flat, uneven terrain. Bring 2 refillable water bottles for the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: En route to Muir Woods via motorcoach, 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. By the early 20th century, the logging industry had wiped out nearly all of the redwoods. The remaining redwoods today grow in a narrow band along the moist, cool coastline of Monterey to southern Oregon. 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 that 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. There is a small café and gift shop near the entrance. We will meet at the front entrance at a designated time to walk back to the motorcoach and ride to our lunch destination.

Lunch: At picnic tables near Muir Beach, we will have boxed lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert; water from our water bottles. There are restrooms here.

Afternoon: Next, we will reboard our motorcoach with continuing expert commentary as we ride to Mount Tamalpais, a.k.a. Mount Tam, a California state park. The highest peak in the hills of Marin County, it is 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 Mount Tam we will have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, the East Bay, Marin County, and 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 Mount Tam their home. More than 150 species of birds have been spotted here, including red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, and turkey vultures. Mount Tam’s human imprint includes the now defunct, “Crookedest Railroad in the World” 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 us 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: We will walk to a restaurant across the street from the hotel and have a 3-course plated meal with beverage choices of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

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; driving 80 miles, approximately 4 hours over the course of the day. Walking up to 3 miles; generally flat, uneven terrain. Bring 2 refillable water bottles for the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our naturalist will provide commentary aboard the motorcoach 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. The 140 Point Blue 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. We will also 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 be further enhanced through interactive displays and a short walk on a nature trail. Reboarding our motorcoach, we’ll make a brief stop at Agate Beach for dramatic ocean views, wildflowers, and birds, especially hawks. In the spring, it’s even possible we might be graced with a whale sighting! We’ll then ride to our lunch venue.

Lunch: At the Bear Valley Visitor Center picnic tables, we will have boxed lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert; water from our water bottles. There are bathrooms located here.

Afternoon: We will have plentiful opportunities to see birds during the early afternoon in the Bear Valley area. Keep your eyes skyward bound! We will walk a flat half-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. A ranger will lead our walk through the tiny village as we imagine what life was like many years ago. We will then walk back on the trail and reboard our motorcoach with continuing expert commentary as we ride to our final Point Reyes stop at Tomales Point on the northern tip of the national seashore. A short walk on the Tomales Point Trail will reveal dramatic views of 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 displays of wildflowers in Spring, the point is also notable 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 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, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Model, Wrap-up
Corte Madera
B,L,D
Best Western Corte Madera Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 30 miles, approximately 1.5 hours over the course of the day. Walking up to 2 miles; path to/from Point Bonita Lighthouse 1 mile, uneven terrain with steep decline/incline. Lighthouse may be closed at any time due to weather. Bring 2 refillable water bottles for the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our naturalist will again provide commentary aboard the motorcoach as we ride to the Marin Headlands. Thousands of years ago, this 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 here. 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, built in 1855 and 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. We will be on the lookout for harbor seals and sea lions, generally present year round, as well as whales in the spring. We’ll then ride a short distance to the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, housed in a decommissioned army chapel built in 1941. There we’ll learn about both the natural and human history of the Headlands. We will have opportunities to 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 the Marin Headlands Visitor Center picnic tables, we will have boxed lunches with a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert; water from our water bottles. There are bathrooms here.

Afternoon: We will reboard our motorcoach and ride a short distance to the Marine Mammal Center, founded in 1975. The center rescues and treats sick, injured, or orphaned animals with the goal of returning 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 number of animals on site and visible varies depending on their condition.) The center also conducts scientific research to learn from the data derived from their patients. We will have a docent-led exploration of this very special place and learn about their work. Next, we’ll have a scenic drive through the Marin Headlands as we make our way to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1937, it connects Marin County to San Francisco. We will make short stop at the bridge to take in the beauty that surrounds us in every direction, fog permitting. Our day will end in Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, where we’ll have a self-directed examination of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model that is approximately the size of two football fields. It is constructed out of 286 five-ton concrete slabs joined together like a jigsaw puzzle and reproduces features that affect the water flow of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Corps of Engineers constructed this model in 1957 to understand how water flows in the bay and delta. The time scale, running 100 times faster than nature, permits engineers to observe a long sequence of events in a short time period. Returning to the hotel, we’ll have a relaxed wrap-up session to review the week’s highlights.

Dinner: We will walk to a restaurant across the street from the hotel and have a 3-course plated meal with beverage choices of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. 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: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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