Backyard gem: Tomales Bay State Park

Have I mentioned before how very fortunate I feel to be living in the Bay Area? The diversity of ecosystems and microclimates that surround me is rich, and the nooks and crannies leave me with plenty to explore. 

On early July trip up to the North Bay, my only plan was to hike and catch up with a good friend. We set our meeting spot as the Point Reyes visitor center, and tentatively planned on a hike near the coast to escape the unrelenting heat of inland Marin on a hot summer’s day.

Driving along that stretch of Sir Francis Drake between Fairfax and Highway 1, watching the buildings fade away and the green of the forest take over the passing scenery, my adventurous spirit starts to awaken. I swerve my Sierra through the curves, and softly whisper “sorry” to my dear car when I hit a few of the many potholes just a bit too fast.

Once I arrive at the Point Reyes visitor center, I am fully awake and ready to take on the world! Ya hear that, world?!? Or at least I was ready for a little walk in the woods. I was up for anything so when my friend suggested that we head on over to Tomales Bay State Park and not even check a map first to see where exactly we’re going, I was game.

We had both been “in the area” before, but not to this specific parking lot which the road we took directed us too. We paid the parking fee (gotta support your local parks!), and quickly found a spot in the crowded lot.

We had arrived into “party central” in this small corner of the Point Reyes peninsula. Seriously. There were folks from all walks of life enjoying the gorgeous day on Heart’s Desire beach. There were barbeques in process, a volleyball game, lots of little kids splashing around in the water, sunbathers, and food and libations aplenty.

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Party Central on Heart’s Desire beach

We wanted nature, not a party, so we quickly spotted the trail that would lead us out of there, and breezed past “the scene”. Just a short way up the trail, we came to a viewpoint with even more picnic tables. There were a few folks getting their barbeques started, and we admired the view overlooking Tomales Bay on a perfect day, no fog, just clear sunny sky ahead. We made a mental note to ourselves that this would make a fine picnic/BBQ gathering with our mutual friends at some point.

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Nice view!

We soon left the crowds behind as we headed deeper into the forest, and by deeper, I mean about a mile in. The sword ferns lining the sides of the trail waved in the gentle breeze, and a few of the old twisty oaks were just begging to be climbed. We easily chatted the mile away, eagerly catching up on each others’ lives.

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Ferns and Oaks

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I’d say this tree is ready to be climbed

Happy and content with our very mellow hike and feeling our stomachs growl with hunger, we took a spur trail down to a seemingly deserted beach and cove, a world away from the party. We settled into a nice shady spot, took off our shoes, and started chowing down on lunch. There was a family nearby with their young kids naked and splashing around in the shallow water. They glanced in our direction, then went right back to their splashing. Oh to be a kid again, I thought, with no worries in the world! Except who to splash next…

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We had the beach all to ourselves! This is after the family left.

Sailboats and kayakers glide in and out of our viewpoint of Tomales Bay. Directly across the Bay are brown rolling hills with the ribbon of Highway 1 cutting through. We can see the tiny town of Marshall in the distance. There are a few splotches of green in the patchwork of brown marking where the oaks have stood their ground. It’s easy to just sit and stare and daydream. So we do. My city worries leave me alone for a few hours, and I consider splashing around in the water myself. If only it was just a few degrees warmer! Because I’m a wimp when it comes to cold water.

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Can you see the kayakers?

My day in the country is complete with a stop at one of our favorite pubs. The day becomes a blend of old and new. New discovery with an old friend topped off with a favorite beer. And THIS is why I love living in the Bay Area. Even after 8 years, I can still stumble upon a new place, with awe and wonder, and a sense of adventure as if I’m in some far off exotic destination halfway across the world.

Does that mean that I’ll stop traveling because I’m content here? Heck no, there’s a big, beautiful world out there that I can’t wait to explore more of, plus, I need some tropical beach time periodically (read: ocean warm enough to actually swim in). But the Bay Area, it’s one of a kind, and it’s home.
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