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Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:16 pm
by Wandering Daisy
I will do the trip report first, photos last.

A friend an I decided to take advantage of the unusually nice February weather for a "shake down" hike in Point Reyes. This would be the first backpack together, testing out compatibility for future trips. We both had some equipment that we needed to decide to "keep or toss". You know, all that stuff in your backpack closet. There is only so much you actually need.

After a slow drive from Sacramento to Point Reyes (we managed to hit Sacramento and Bay Area traffic messes) we picked up our permit and left at 11:00 AM. We were only going to Wildcat Camp which only took a few hours. We had group site 2 only to discover that the number on the air photo in the office was not the same as the numbers on the campsites. So we decided, what the heck, we would just set up were we wanted among all the group sites. Although we were told that Wildcat was "full", upon asking group sites were said to be available. The permit system is obviously not working well at Point Reyes. Many reserved sites are no-shows and there seems to be no effort to confirm no-show reservations for resale to first-come users.

We took a while to settle into an empty site, choosing one that would get the earliest morning sunlight and least chance of out-house fumes. Low tide was 6:30 so we felt safe starting down to Almere Falls at 4PM. There were a few others at the falls. I have never seen the falls at such low flow (nor have I seen the vegetation so dry this time of year). Poppies were in bloom but few other wildflowers were in bloom. We walked back and then went north as far as we could, farther than I had ever done due to the low tide. Back at camp we cooked dinner and watched the sunset. Dew point suddenly hit and instantly everything was wet, driving us into our tents. Sounds unbelievable, but according to my Garmin watch we hiked 13.5 miles in all; 3300 calories, 30,100 steps!

Eleven hours in a tent was about all I could take. I could see well enough to get out 6:30 to cook breakfast. Amazingly, the wind picked up enough at night to dry all the dew: yeh! got to pack a dry tent. Now, my friend is "triple crown" plus (did PCT twice) as well as numerous many long thru-routes worldwide, so even though we were doing a relaxed trip, we delayed our start to avoid getting to the next camp too early. We watched four elk graze on the nearby hillside. Sun struck our site, we drank coffee, chatted, leaving at 9AM. We took the Coast Trail to Coast Camp, getting there in time for lunch and a stroll both north an south down that beach. We nearly ran into a big Elephant Seal who looked dead as a doornail. Surprised we backed off then took photos. The beast did not even twitch once.

Then it was back on the Woodward Valley Trail up to Sky Camp. The first part of the trail is open grass- great for views but the sun baked us so we were thankful to reach the lush timber. We strolled into Sky Camp, looking at campsites, realizing that our #10 was the worst one. We then decided to go back to the group site and set up under a huge tree. Other than a leaning picnic table, it was a nice site with shade. Then we just relaxed and discussed various trips we had done and our gear (mine was light, hers was UL). A few people trickled into the camp as dusk neared, but the camp was hardly half full. When I filled up with water I spotted a creature near the outhouse. Dogs are not allowed, but soon as it turned I realized it was a bobcat. Again we enjoyed sunset and retired to the tents at dark, which was a bit before 7PM. As far as Sky Camp is from the ocean I could still faintly hear the surf. Garmin watch said 17 miles, 3440 calories, 37,900 steps! We had a stiff uphill this day so it did feel a lot harder than yesterday.

We specifically stayed at Sky Camp instead of walking out to avoid having to drive back to Sacramento in more traffic and dark. IT was a quick 1.5 hour walk back to the parking lot at Bear Valley. We did a side trip to Mt Wittenberg- not much to see up there except a USGS marker. 5 miles so the watch says. The drive home was easy with little traffic. We did time this one right.

In summary, it was incredibly warm, the driest I have ever seen Point Reyes, but fun as usual. Very scenic even if very civilized, with picnic tables, outhouses, potable water, and garbage cans too! And the camp facilities were clean and well tended. Trails well maintained. A pretty good deal for $10 a night with our senior passes.

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:28 pm
by Wandering Daisy
1086_Alemere Falls_small.jpg
1090-92_Contorted Rock Wildcat_small.jpg
1094_Wildcat Beach_small.jpg
1096_Coast Trail_small.jpg
1097-98_Woodward Trail View_small.jpg
1099_Elephant Seal_small.jpg
1100_Sky Camp_small.jpg

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:23 pm
by balzaccom
Nice report Daisy. Good idea to take advantage of the weather!

I sure hope it rains/snows soon. We are in for a very long dry summer at this rate

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:02 am
by c9h13no3
Nice trip :). I counted >30 poppy blooms on the south side of Peak 1869, and the south face of San Bruno mountain has some colors on it. Things are looking like spring in the warmer aspects of the Bay, which is fun except for the snow thing : /

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 12:24 pm
As a local, I really enjoyed your report. Yes, the permit system is a mess due to all the no-shows. I talked to a couple of rangers about it and they say various ideas have been discussed, but nothing has been done beyond the $20 “no-show fee.” That obviously is not discouraging enough people to make a difference. At both Sky and Coast Camp, I’ve experienced over half the sites as no-shows. Since you can pick up your permit after-hours, they cannot give the campsites out to someone else during the day. They need to retain the after-hours pick-up since a lot of people pick up their permits after 5:00, especially during daylight savings time.

It was great timing that it was low-tide for going to Alamere Falls. From the photo, the falls look like mid-summer, not February. The hike on the Coast Trail is almost other-worldly on a sunny day. Before the fire, #10 used to be the best campsite at Sky Camp. The view of Limantour Beach was unobstructed and the tent site was large and level. There was a magnificent Bishop Pine next to the campsite my son loved to try to climb when he was growing up. After the Vision Fire, the pine was gone and the tent site became an uneven, bumpy mess. For a few years, the view was still there, but they’ve allowed the bushes to grow and ruin the view. Only #11, #1 and #2 (the group site) now have that magnificent view of the beach, Drake’s Bay, and the point when sitting at the picnic table. #1 is the walk-in site and can be fabulous if the group site is empty, as you found.

They destroyed the incredible view from Mt. Wittenberg when they reforested the summit. It used to be one of the best views in the county. For many years, my wife on her birthday loved having a picnic on top with the panoramic view extending from Mt. St. Helena to Mt. Tam to the Farallones on a clear day. Yes, camping at Point Reyes, is still a great deal for $10 with a senior pass. Did they ask to see your pass when you picked up you permit? Unless I it’s a ranger who knows me, it’s the one place where they actually ask to see the senior pass. I’m glad you and your friend enjoyed it so much.

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 2:25 pm
by Wandering Daisy
The no-show issue is huge with any reserve system. I think it would work better if it was more like the backpacker's campgrounds in Yosemite, where you pay for a site, not a specific site, and they simply sell as many permits as total sites. Then it is first-come as to who gets which site. In fact it may be better to go entirely to shared sites. A few year back I commented to a ranger that the permit system was not working and he looked me right in the eye and said, for all he cared, the less use the better. The gal who issued our permits was nice but not very knowledgeable. First she said Wildcat was full. Never mentioned the group sites. I then asked if all the group sites were full and she said none were even reserved. She knew nothing about the campgrounds. Given the seemingly lack of interest to fix the problem, I get any permit I can, then go where I want to, set up in a group site and if it actually is reserved, am willing to move. I have never had to move and no campground has ever been full.

Yes, they did ask to see our senior passes. A little bit creepy to me, but my friend registered for the permit and she had never camped at Point Reyes, and with just her phone number they pulled up her compete record of any permit she had at any National Park or Forest. It is also now "no cash" so you have to use a credit card. With all that personal information in their database and credit card numbers, it does make one wonder what if the system were hacked. To me a bit of a privacy issue too. Sign of the times.

This was the first time I have seen elk as far south as Wildcat. I wonder what is happening with that herd. They obviously had no fear of humans.

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 5:35 pm
What I would prefer for no-shows is that if someone has more than 2 no-shows without informing either the park or of the cancellation, then that person should be prohibited from making any reservations for one year. If you can go on to make the reservation or phone for the reservation, than you should be able to go to "Cancellation" on the confirmation email and click on it. I understand there can be extraordinary circumstance where one is unable to cancel, but not 3 times.

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:08 pm
by neil d
Looks like a great and relaxing trip, in one of my favorite places on earth (maybe *the* favorite). Can't beat those views on a clear day! And how lucky to pack up a dry tent, pretty sure I have never had that luxury at Pt Reyes.

I am also very frustrated with the no-shows. They should try tripling the penalty fee for no-shows. Not sure what it would take to get peoples' attention on that.

How was the water quality at Wildcat? Is used to be consistently terrible, thick with sulfur or something. Yuck.

Re: Point Reyes 2/25-27

Posted: Fri Mar 06, 2020 6:13 pm
by Wandering Daisy
Water at Wildcat was typical coastal water, no bad taste (no Sulphur) but somewhat alkaline and bland. Not that sweet acidic Sierra water! Sky Camp water was definitely better.