Point Reyes, Elk & Redwoods

June 12-14, 2017

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McClures Beach

Monday, June 12th, 2017
McClures Beach
Point Reyes National Seashore, California

From a distance I could see something floating up the cliff face. It darted, danced and fluttered. So unlike a bird that I thought it must be a butterfly. (Brownian motion?) Or perhaps a moth, because I could now see that it was white. But do moths or butterflies travels in flocks or swarms?

Finally, through binoculars, I could see that it was sea foam, or spume. The waves rolled the sea foam into a channel between some rock, which narrowed, funneling the foam into higher and higher piles until finally the wind would knock the foam off the crest of a wave and then an updraft would carry the sea foam aloft.

The sea foam then fluttered its way up the cliff face, a phenomena more curious then a flock of butterflies.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
Tomales Point
Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Why is it that the Elk so held my attention? What is the attraction of these big deer?

Point Reyes National Seashore is a triangle of land in the Pacific, barely attached to the coast of California. Geologically, it is a piece of the Pacific plate which is pushed up against the North American plate, with the San Andreas Fault and Tomales Bay to the east, and the vast Pacific Ocean to the west; I can think of no word better then "ocean" to describe the Pacific's magnitude. Most of the land is covered in prairie, ranch land, tall grass with a few cypress and pine mixed in.

Our walk today is to the north tip of the Seashore, out on Tomales Point. This area, high grasslands divided from the saltwater by a fifty meter plunge, is an elk reserve.

Yes, we also saw cayotes ranging through the tall grass and wild flowers. I could see one pounce with the quick little motions of a puppy or toddler, so I am sure it was stalking a mouse or vole. But it is the elk which made me take notice.

Regal? With a crown of horns?

When I spotted an elk in the distance I, at first, thought I was seeing the skeleton of a stunted cypress, barely rising above the tall grass. But then it moved! It was the horns of an elk laying down in the grass.

When seen from across a valley, when they are grazing half a mile away, Their tawny backs look like any other herd of grazing animals. Sheep? They are a little too dust colored for that. Cows? Perhaps Jerseys? I didn't hear the snorting and bellowing I expect from cows. Also cows and sheep are always busy munching away and creating manure. Elk are happy to sit in the grass and watch the hikers go by.

We walked out to Tomales Point (about 4½ miles) and on our return in the late afternoon, we passed a pond where the elk were gathering to drink, for happy hour. One waded into the pond, drank, and eat lily pads, moose-like. It offered us it's noble profile, toped with velveted horns, which I took to mean rarely used in combat. Is it too early in the season? Or is there a lack of predators in the reserve? The coyote is no match for this lordly creature.

But then this mid-pond elk presented it's rump to me. A broad, barrel shaped body balanced on stilt-like legs. The illusion of stability and dignity evaporates from this viewpoint.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Armstrong Redwood State Reserve
Guerneville, California

The Redwoods create their own world, maybe even their own universe.

And in that world, they are the masters, the gods. There is no sky beyond their canopy. The edge of the forest-world is a few hundred meters away, because there are no sights or sounds beyond that ring.

This is a quite world. The bark of the redwood is cork-like, which makes you feel like you are in a sound chamber. If someone or something was to breach that the rule of silences by whispering or stepping on a twig, the crack, the bang or the voice would be swallowed by the grove. The redwoods have decreed silence and there shall be no infractions.

The air which hangs heavy on our faces and which we breath is also mastered by the redwood (Sequoia Sempervirens). Maybe it is too heavy with oxygen and leaves us a bit groggy, a bit drunk. Or maybe it really is a warm day (the wind on the seacoast cooled and deceived us) and here the trees have pinned down the breeze. We are swaddled in a comforter which stifles.

These trees are a thousand or more years old, which hints at how to understand them. These Masters of the Universe have chosen to dispense with time. With no time, of course the air weights upon us like the bottom of the ocean. Of course there is no sound and no motion.

This place truly is a cathedral, and the deities are there, visible, corporal, towering over us.