A beautiful hike despite wind, mud and whines
Usually a suggestion to hike is met with a considerable resistance from my daughter. But mention a trip to the beach? That elicits a tremendously positive reaction—which is why I told her we could only reach the beach by hiking to it. This is not in any way true: you can certainly drive down to Limantour Beach. But she didn’t know this, and I felt no guilt whatsoever about manipulating her love of the beach to get her to hike with me.
At just under five miles, the loop we made from the hostel at Point Reyes along the Laguna Trail to the Coastal Trail that brought us back to our point of origin is a little challenging, but certainly manageable for a five-year-old. And if you have the time to take the kids out to the ocean for an outdoor excursion in nature, you’ll find few spots that are better.
"Let's run daddy," she said to me as we climbed up the first hill along the Laguna Trail, past blue blossom trees and bishop pines. "It's a long hike, kiddo," I reply, as we walk past vibrant blue Douglas' irises and monkey flowers. "Let's just walk for right now."
More enthusiastic about puddles and rocks along the trail than the flowers and birds we saw on our way to the beach, I still managed to get her to stay in one place long enough so I could show her how the iris had evolved yellow and black markings on its petals to attract bees to pollinate its flower. She probably didn't remember the information five seconds after I explained it to her, but I felt like a good dad for trying.
A steady northwest wind blew along the beach, blasting sand against our exposed shins. The plan was to eat lunch when we reached the ocean, but the wind made it a near impossibility unless we could find a sheltered spot to sit.
Created by streams eroding away the sandstone bluff, we found two small gullies that came together, providing a respite from the cold—a perfect place to stop and have lunch. After scarfing down our sandwiches and bananas, she played in a small pool of water while I relaxed on the warm sand. As I rested my head on some driftwood, the sweet sounds of a white crowned sparrow pealed from atop coastal sage brush. I called my daughter over and we watched as the first sparrow flew across the gully to a second bird, which had answered its song moments before.
We walked back to our car along a marsh that provides some of the freshwater feeding into Estero de Limantour. White alder trees and coast live oaks grow in abundance along the trail, making it difficult to see the many birds we heard along the trail. We did glimpse a golden finch, its bright yellow feathers easy to spot as it streaked through the trees. And a song sparrow jumped around a yellow lupine bush.
If this sounds like a hike you might want to take, I'd recommend waiting a few weeks before taking the sections of the Coastal Trail that runs between the beach and the hostel. The heavy rains of the season have made parts of the trail impossible to traverse without wading through ankle high water. One of my daughter's shoes got stuck in the mud at one point and I had to walk back through the mud to where she was stuck to find it.
Our spirits were a little low as we squished our way back to the car in wet and muddy shoes. Luckily, we kept on running across coveys of California quail walking along the trail. Investigating these noisy birds as they ran away from us, her spirits were buoyed.
Driving up the hill away from the ocean, I stopped to take one last picture of Point Reyes before leaving. As I climbed back into the car she told me,"Dad, the world is beautiful from up here." Despite the wind, mud and tiredness, I'm certain she had a good enough experience that next time we hike, I won't have to trick her into accompanying me.
Stephen Cosgrove is a Valley native who has a passion for enjoying the local terrain by foot, bike, tent and most recently—longboard. Join him here as he journeys forth into the Wine Country wilds and embarks on greater Bay Area excursions. You can read more at his blog