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 Tomales Point Trail starts at the historic Pierce Point Ranch and stretches northward nearly five miles to a narrow reef at the northernmost point on the peninsula. The point is so narrow that it was named “the bill of the hummingbird” by the first people, the Coast Miwok, the Hookooeko. Cloaked almost perpetually in fog, the point evokes a certain undefined mystery, a mystery that is embellished by an unnaturally straight line of small granitic boulders that crosses the peninsula about a third of the way out the trail.
The trailhead begins at the restored ranch buildings that include the original house, several barns, as well as a blacksmith shop, school, carpenter shop, slaughterhouse.
For most of the journey the trail follows the spine of the peninsula over fairly well compacted decomposed granitic soils, but toward the end, for the last mile or so, the persistent winds have deposited sand atop the bedrock and the trudging becomes a little labored. This is the same depositional process that accounts for the sand dunes at Dillon Beach, which is visible to the east for the last segment of this hike, and the extensive dune system along 11-mile beach to the west.
On the outer point, the soils are less compacted, composed of a thick layer of sandy, and the walking becomes more difficult. Although coyote bush dominates the first several miles of the trail, bush lupine overtakes the plant community in the sandier soil.
The peninsula’s hummingbird beak narrows to a tip with low rocky reef that points toward northwesterly toward Bodega Head. What a spot. Sitting here, perched on the shore, the rhythms of the Pacific are fully engaged. On a still day like this there are dozens of fishing boats swaying in the swells offshore. There is a spawning frenzy of squid (occurring all along the California coast) that is feeding a delerium of predators right now. Pelicans wheel and dive, followed by pirating gulls. Elegant Terns patrol the breakers followed by Parasitic Jaegers. Rivers of Sooty Shearwaters swirl by on their vast Pacific journey, a counterclockwise gyre from their nesting islands in the South Pacific, circumnavigating the north Pacific with their elegant aerobatics. Harbor porpoise swim past in tandem, their small fins visible momentarily before diving again. Swells overwash the rocks with a consistent pulse that connects us to the ancient past and the formidable future . . . we are in our place.