Naturalist and writer Jules Evens has lived near Point Reyes for over 30 years. He is the founder of Avocet Research Associates and the author of The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula and An Introduction to California Birdlife (both UC Press).
The Bear Valley trail, heading southwest from Park Headquarters to the coast, is one of the emblematic walks, and the most traveled trail, on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The trail transects the peninsula, near its center, through a break in the spine of Inverness Ridge….
As we continue along the trail and approach the coast, the forest begins to thin slightly; moss-covered buckeye trees and red alders–both leafless in winter–trace Coast Creek westward. In the distance, a large fir snag with an osprey nest comes into view, silhouetted against a cerulean blue California sky. As we approach the junction with the Coast Trail, the forest gives way to coastal scrub and the air is redolent with that honey-sweet smell of coyote bush….
Soon we take the short spur that leads to Arch Rock overlook. It is a lucid morning; no clouds, translucent blue sky, and the Farallon Islands, usually obscured by fog, are clearly visible far offshore. Even the Pacific is living up to its name; calm, gentle swells, no breakers or white water in sight.
Here, the Coast Trail parallels the shoreline for a short distance (0.5 mi) before intersecting Sky Trail. We turn onto Sky Trail and follow the gentle switchbacks uphill. On this dry south-facing slope, California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) joins the coyote bush. We rub the aromatic leaves, redolent of the Sonoran desert or the Mexican plateau. Terry says that different sages have characteristic smells; to my somewhat smell-challenged nose, all merge into a pleasant potpourris. Farther along, a few flowers are already blooming; a splash of vermilion signals a cluster of Indian paintbrush. (It's only January!)
An uphill mile or two of gentle switchbacks leads through an ecotone of coastal scrub being slowly replaced by Douglas-fir, the consequence of fire suppression over the past fifty or so years. …
The last few miles through the fir forest to the Meadow Trail and back down to Bear Valley passes some second growth, but also some huge trees that must have escaped the crosscut-saw a century ago and the chainsaw a half-century ago. We pause and lean against some of the larger trees. Though tired from our hike, there is a calm provided by these old sentries that soothes the sinews and the soul.
Naturalist Jules Evens did this trail as the first outing of his 2012 efforts to hike every trail on the Point Reyes Peninsula, in commemoration of Point Reyes's 50th birthday. Here's an excerpt from Jules's account of the trail. Read the full story with pics on BayNature.org.