Point Reyes, Turning 34 and Whatnot

I was watching The Affair the other day out of curiosity just because the show won the Golden Globe for best drama series this year. The male protagonist, an aspiring writer, was spending the summer in his rich father-in-law’s mansion near The Hamptons so that he could write his book in peace. But of course he got into all sorts of trouble there and ended up doing a lot of things except writing. One evening, his father-in-law who happened to be a New York Times bestseller author called him just as he finished swimming. After a round of beating-about-the-bush asking how the writing went, he finally said, “I saw you out there swimming and it reminded me of what I used to do when I wanted to avoid the pages. I didn’t swim, but I’d play tennis. Four hours a day, and I’d come home afterwards always too tired to write.”

Well, I wouldn’t swim. And neither would I play tennis. But I would go around the house doing all sorts of unnecessary activities, wiping surfaces that need no wiping, checking messages on my cell phone, reading the news over and over, even doing laundry and washing the dishes. All just so that I could have some excuses not to write. So now you know why it took me more than 3 weeks after coming back from Point Reyes to start writing this. I’d like to think that the post is simply fashionably late, but deep down I fear that this love-hate relationship that I have with writing is truly incurable.

When I found out for sure that we would be relocating to the Bay area, the first thing I did was check the dates for all the bank holidays in 2015 and make a list of places that we could visit over the long weekends. Point Reyes was easily the first one on my list simply because it’s less than 2 hours’ drive away from where we live, we could drive part of the famous Pacific Highway 1 on the way there, it’s all about nature and landscape, and most importantly there are plenty of hiking opportunities there. The second one on my list is of course Yosemite National Park. Duh, it’s no brainer.

So on one fine Saturday as the protesters marched the streets of San Francisco in remembrance of Martin Luther King, we drove our rental Toyota westward from Mountain View to La Honda via Highway 84, then connecting to Highway 1 somewhere near San Gregorio. We were greeted by this jaw-dropping, traffic-stopping view right at the turning from Highway 84 to Highway 1. The driver of the car behind us had to honk loudly to remind us to get going.

Right after we turned right from Highway 84 into Highway 1, we were welcomed by this incredible view as if trying to prove its status as the most scenic highway in America

The view that is worth stopping the traffic for.

We made a short pitstop afterwards at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay but failed to locate Mavericks, the famous giant surf wave which has made its appearances in several movies (I did my research later and found out that we have to drive further north towards a cliff beyond Pillar Point to catch the waves). We continued onto Highway 1 towards San Francisco, passing the gorgeous beach at Pacifica and then the Golden Gate bridge into Sausalito and Marin County, making short stops at Muir Beach lookout and Stinson Beach before ending the day at Point Reyes Station.

At Half Moon Bay. The old man secured the most coveted spot.

Driving across the Golden Gate bridge

Driving across the Golden Gate bridge.

Muir beach lookout

Muir beach lookout.

The next day was a foggy day which we spent hiking in the woods and along the coast line. It was a rather interesting experience as I’ve never hiked in the fog before. The woods was wet and humid but surprisingly not cold at all. Some people were even walking around in shorts and sleeveless shirts. After while, we too started shedding our layers one by one. The fog descended lower as we climbed higher and at one point in our hike, we could only see 10-15 meters ahead of us. But we quickly learnt how drastically the weather at this peninsula could change at the snap of a finger.

Foggy day in the woods

We started off in the morning with a foggy walk in the woods.

Tall trees jutting into the fog

Tall trees jutting into the fog.

The weather improved significantly as we headed to the tule elk reserve area, giving us a clear glimpse of the Tomales Bay

The weather improved significantly in the afternoon as we headed to the tule elk reserve area, giving us a clear glimpse of the Tomales Bay.

As we walked across the reserve, the wind was slowly blowing the fog inland from the Pacific ocean. It was just a matter of time before the blue sky got covered in fog again.

As we walked across the reserve, the wind gradually blew the fog inland from the Pacific Ocean (on the right). It was just a matter of time before we were shrouded in fog again.

Yep, it's "Silent Hill" all over again.

And yes, here we are back to the scene of “Silent Hill” again.

We were pleasantly surprised to be treated to this ghostly and surreal appearance of the elks, amidst the heavy fog.

This was no doubt the highlight of the day. Amidst the fog, the elks made a sudden appearance just as we were leaving the reserve. The whole scene was rather ghostly and surreal. I wish we had a proper tele lens.

Monday couldn’t have been more different than the previous day, at least in terms of the weather. We went to check out Point Reyes Lighthouse, from where the gray whales can be seen migrating across the ocean between January and April. We stood on the viewing platform for a good 15 to 20 minutes, risking sunburn thanks to the gloriously clear blue sky, and spotted several spouts coming out of the sea accompanied by collective gasps from the excited crowd of whale-watchers. Some even came equipped with picnic baskets, clearly ready to sit there the whole day just to catch sight of the mammals. We’re definitely coming back there again in April as according to the park ranger, the whales should be swimming closer to the shore then. Note to self: buy a pair of binoculars before your next visit to Point Reyes.

This is the 10-mile beach. The weather was a stark contrast to the day before.

This is the 10-mile beach. The weather was a stark contrast to the day before.

Exactly 308 steps (excluding the ramp which was pretty steep) brought us to the lighthouse. The climb wasn't exactly vertigo-inducing, but it was quite a cardio nonetheless.

Exactly 308 steps (excluding the ramp which was pretty steep) brought us down to the lighthouse. The climb back up wasn’t exactly vertigo-inducing, but it was quite a cardio nonetheless. Especially under the hot sun.

We moved on to Chimney Rock next where there was a huge colony of elephant seals down at Drakes Bay. People stood around the viewing platform taking turns to look into the park ranger’s telescope to view the magnified version of the animals. Just as they did at the whale-watching station, the crowds couldn’t stop gasping and oohing and aahing at every single thing that happened down at the colony. Noisy, smelly, blubbery creatures are not exactly my cup of tea. I couldn’t understand why people were so fixated by the sea lions at Pier 39 and the same goes for this one.

Drakes Bay. The greyish and blackish dots you see on the beach are elephant seals. There must have been hundreds of them down there.

Drakes Bay as seen from the viewing platform. The greyish and blackish dots you see on the beach are elephant seals. There must have been hundreds of them down there.

We left the elephant seal colony behind and started hiking along the coast line.

We left the elephant seal colony behind and started hiking along the coast line. That’s an old boat house that you see down there.

There was clearly a sign warning people against entering the cliff area due to the danger of rockslide. I guess some pictures are literally to die for.

There was clearly a sign warning people against entering the cliff area due to the danger of rock slide. And yet people still go off the trail many times. I guess some pictures are literally to die for.

The ruggedness of the landscape in Point Reyes reminded me of Tasmania and New Zealand. Just by looking at the vista, I wouldn’t be able to guess that we were in California. Clearly there are still many more interesting nooks and crannies that we didn’t have the chance to explore in just 2 short days. We are definitely coming back here again in the spring when the days are longer, not just for the whales but also for the flowers that would have bloomed by then and decorated the walking trails.

So there goes our very first long weekend here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Not long after, my 34th birthday came and went too. I’ve stopped celebrating birthdays a long time ago and every year that day will just be the same as any other day, if not a reminder that I’m getting older and actually moving closer towards death. Yes, technically speaking one could die anytime and not necessarily just due to old age. But in this developed world, barring any unforeseen accidents or critical illnesses, chances are you would die of old age. People often say that age is just a number but I think that’s a lie. Age actually signifies how much time you have left to do whatever you want in life. And birthdays often have a knack of reminding you of that so-called bucket list, a list of things that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. This year was no different. The question crept into my head one night as I was brushing my teeth without any warning whatsoever: So when are you going to realize that dream of yours to trek the Inca trail to Machu Picchu?

This item has been in my aforementioned list for years and I’ve kept telling myself that I’d do it when I finally moved to the States (yep, even moving to the States was also one of the items in that list and it wasn’t a coincidence that I ended up here). The reason being proximity to Peru, which means shorter travel time and cheaper plane tickets. So here I am now, closer than ever before to Machu Picchu and yet I can still throw you a million and one excuses why I haven’t even started making any plans. Who am I gonna go with (as if traveling alone was ever an issue before), how am I gonna carry such a huge pack while climbing for 4 days (time to eat more chicken breasts, do more bench presses and push-ups), how am I gonna shit outdoor (jeez, just pull down your pants and squat I guess), and blah blah blah. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine has also started pestering me to go to Patagonia and hike the Torres del Paine National Park with him at the end of 2016. It’s a multi-day hike, and possibly even more gruelling than the Inca trail. For weeks he just couldn’t stop taunting me with pictures of snow-capped peaks and lakes so turquoise that it almost looked fake. He even sent me a list of training regime for people who are preparing to trek that particular trail. Luckily I’m not superstitious, or I would have taken all these coincidences as a sign.

In any case, I’m not very good at multi-tasking. So for now I’m just going to focus on a few things that are already on my plate such as securing an apartment, passing my behind-the-wheel drive test, deciding when to visit my dear friend in Turks and Caicos, and contemplating if I should return to the Moulin this summer (but first I need to tackle some variables that could make traveling overseas tricky in the next couple of months, but that’s a story for another time). Yes, these are excuses too, I know. But at least they are more valid than being afraid of sleeping and shitting out in the wild.


For more pictures, please visit my Flickr.