Southwest of Petaluma, California, the Coast Range mellows into a chain of grass covered hills, traversed without mind-numbing switch-backs. It was across this scenic landscape that we returned to the Pacific Coast, headed for Point Reyes National Seashore.
More than a peninsula along the California Coast, Point Reyes, like much of Southern California, lies on the Pacific Plate, geologically separated from the North American Plate by the San Andreas Fault; the latter passes below Tomales Bay, the Olema Valley and the Bolinas Lagoon, east of the preserve. Established in 1962, the National Seashore is a mosaic of public and private lands, home to both the Philip Burton Wilderness Area (established in 1976) and a large swath of cattle ranches that date back to the 1850s; it is also home to a herd of tule elk and harbors the Point Reyes Lighthouse, constructed in 1870. Renowned as an excellent site for whale watching, the lighthouse point was our first destination this morning; unfortunately, high winds and choppy seas impaired our effort to observe whales. However, we were entertained by a noisy congregation of elephant seals on Drake Beach and were inspired by spectacular seascapes across the peninsula.
After leaving Point Reyes, we headed for San Francisco, enduring innumerable hairpin turns as we climbed over the Coast Range for a final time. We then traversed the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, clogged with vehicles and walkers alike on this mild, sunny Sunday and headed for famous attractions along the city's waterfront. Though we enjoyed a pleasant meal overlooking the Bay, the congestion of San Francisco was hard to take after a week on the road and we set our sights on Yosemite National Park; after a night in the Great Central Valley, we'll head to the Park tomorrow.