"Nature is the medium in which life transpires,"
Scott Russel Sanders on Wendell Berry.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 7: Samuel P. Taylor State Park & Tomales Bay State Park

29 May, 2011

Samuel P. Taylor State Park & Tomales Bay State Park

(Photos by Karl Cordtz*)

Once again, I am fortunate and grateful to have a friend accompany me on my trip. Karl met me at home this morning and became the focal point of doggy enthusiasm before we headed out to the parks. The sun beamed (an especially joyous thing considering our strange weather this year), and we decided to hike Samuel P. Taylor and then stop at Tomales Bay to chill out on the beach.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park sits on the western edge of San Rafael, and exemplifies the coastal redwood experience at the end of their range in the bay area. We began our hike from the picnic area surrounded by the boles of Sequoia sempervirens. People filled the park enjoying picnics, camping, and playing in the stream that runs through the middle of the park.

Because of its proximity to San Rafael, I suspect a lot of locals use this park. The first part of our walk was on a fire road being utilized by families with strollers, serious (and less serious) cyclists, and people with their dogs many of whom looked like they were on their way from somewhere to somewhere.

Recently, I read an article in Land and People, a magazine published by the Trust for Public Land, that explained the results of a study on the relationship between parks and human health. The parks most beneficial to people are situated in or near communities and amenities. Samuel P. Taylor and Annadel State Parks provide a shining example of this type of park and reflect it in visibly high usage. Because legislators based closures partially on income, I wonder if the easy accessibility to these parks from areas where day use fees cannot be collected actually hurt them in the eyes of our utilitarian decision makers. Every time I visited either one, they appear to maintain high levels of use.

It took me a minute or 45 to adjust my legs to the steep hill to Barnabe Peak, but once I made it through the initial burn my energy seemed to double. Again, I appreciated my patient and skillful hiking partner who teaches backpacking classes, and hiked the John Muir trail traveling somewhere around 15 plus miles a day. Views of the surrounding hills, a reservoir, and Tomales Bay revealed themselves as we rose above the crowns of the redwoods. We stopped to take in the numerous views and look at some interesting flowers. A rogue dog trounced down a dangerously steep hill as we neared the peak, but his owners recovered him without incident.

Numerous birds flitted about at and near the peak of the hill. An osprey soared over our heads, along with several turkey vultures and a red-tailed hawk. Two swallows fed a nest of hungry youngster at the lookout station that crowned the peak. The star of the show, however, turned out to be a raven playing on the gusty and plentiful wind around the peak. The raven soared then rolled upside down, turned right side up and then rolled over again; then he used his wings like a kind of hang glider and suspended himself and balanced in the drafts. This behavior continued the from the time we arrived to the time we left the peak—quite spectacular.

I, on the other hand, imitated a lizard and toasted myself on the warm cement at the side of the tower followed by some yoga to relieve my legs. Karl deftly climbed a metal pipe to the second floor of the tower to get a better look around. He also managed to take some really nice photographs.

Karl ankle deep with sharks
* Photo by Tova Fleming

Our next stop, Tomales Bay State Park, lies at the end of a 45 minute car ride. The bay is protected and the waves are small compared to the rest of the unprotected shoreline. The main beach teamed with people, so we took a light jaunt, sans hiking boots, along a lush wooded trail of bay trees dripping with lichen that ran through several picnic areas with stunning views of the bay. We arrived at pebble beach, immediately lost the shoes, and waded into the water. Cormorants fished and very soon I spotted fins just above the surface of the water. At first I thought the fins were the flippers of a seal, but was soon proven wrong. By the end of the afternoon, I saw what I estimate to be 12 or more sharks swarming in the water,and riding waves into shore—sometimes coming as close as five feet. They appeared to be sand tiger sharks. They swarmed and breached; one came two or three feet out of the water before crashing back down. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Today, Karl brought a book of Robinson Jeffers poetry and we took turns reading the poetry of coastal California. I found this experience even more powerful than the Snyder we read the day before; perhaps, because of the overwhelming sensory experience of the ocean—the smell, touch, and feel of it are completely unique and sensual. This in combination with Jeffers potent and well crafted language is just something everyone must experience. Jeffers made my favorite poets list today.

Hiking out with mud and sand encrusted feet, we disturbed a gray fox searching for scraps on oneof the picnic tables. On the way home, we stopped in Petaluma at Punjabi Burrito, a restaurant that basis its food on Indian cuisine then mixes it Mexican and Jamaican. I highly recommend stopping there too. Yummy!!!

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