The Joys and Perils of Nature

My sweetheart and I went backpacking at Point Reyes National Seashore last week, which meant we went three days without any news of the world or contact with anyone who wasn’t also out hiking. Coming back to the news of world was wrenching.

To counteract all that — since I’m sure that many readers are depressed by the news as well — here’s a picture of the sunset over the Pacific that we watched for two hours last Thursday night from Sky Camp, about 1,000 feet above the coastline.

Sunset on the PacificPoint Reyes is a beautiful place, with a wide-variety of flora and fauna and both hills to climb and a long stretch of coastline. We saw deer, rabbits, lizards, and slugs, plus evidence of coyotes and raccoons. (The raccoon left footprints all over my backpack as it crawled up on the picnic table to chew new holes in our big water jug.)

And then there was the skunk. On the last night we camped, we hadn’t closed the door of the metal food storage box all the way (we thought we had). We were awakened in the night by a loud clatter — the door swinging open. I grabbed my light and turned it on to reveal a skunk pulling items out of the box.

Flashing the light at it didn’t faze the skunk at all. It dove back into the box, looking for better items than toothpaste. My sweetheart got up and — very carefully — splashed some water at it. It took a couple of splashes before the skunk decided that whatever was in the box wasn’t worth getting wet for and slunk away.

Fortunately, the skunk didn’t associate us with the water or get angry for any other reason, so we both saved our breakfast and remained unsprayed.

Skunks and other animals are an amusing nuisance at campsites, but there are real dangers in nature, even in national parks. Point Reyes has a feature called Arch Rock, a rock formation that juts out into the bay. When we went last year, we had lunch sitting on it.

This year the pathway to the rock had collapsed.

Arch RockThat gap used to be a passage. Back in March, the park rangers had noticed a fissure along the path and posted warning signs, but a couple of days later a woman was killed when the pathway collapsed beneath her as she walked out to the rock.

Rocks crumble around here, even without earthquakes. Though earthquakes are a definite possibility. The park is on the San Andreas Fault and has an exhibit related to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In this year of drought, we are particularly sensitive to fires in California and have already begun hiring Fire Watch Services NYC to help us. Here’s a picture showing that they are not anything new (though we’ve had more of them this year):

fire damageAnd while sea level rise is probably more of a future problem along the California coast than tsunamis, the fact remains that the latter are a possibility. Here’s the sign at Coast Camp:

tsunami warningI have my doubts about whether I could run uphill as fast as that stick figure is going.

Let’s end on a high note. Here’s a picture of the actual point that gives Point Reyes its name, taken from the hills above it.

Point Reyes



The Joys and Perils of Nature — 10 Comments

    • I think that’s the first time I ever got a decent picture of a sunset — and it was just a camera phone! I spent a summer in South Dakota years ago and kept trying to get photos of the magnificent sunsets there with my good twin lens reflex camera, but all of them looked like washed out watercolors instead of the vivid experience you got in person.

  1. I love these posts. Thanks Nancy! You can also add various aches, pains and strains to the joys of the outdoors. I love being outside, but I do need to note that in August I took on one mountain too many and ended up with tendinitis in my Achilles. Ouch! Enjoy. Adventure. Be safe. Do NOT ignore warning signs.

    • I confess I’m lobbying for future trips in which we backpack into a campsite, set up camp, and then do day hikes around the area instead of backpacking to a new site each night. Walking all day with your home on your back gets very tiring. Be nice to climb a hill without that extra 40 pounds!

      Hope you recover quickly from the Achilles tendinitis. Make sure to take good care of that.

  2. The first time I climbed in your part of the country I was fooled by the crumbling rock. Fortunately I learned after only one, non-fatal rock-pull-away. I was young and inexperienced, but testing holds became a habit very quickly. Your photos brought back that memory. Thanks!

    • I’m not very knowledgeable about the geology around here yet, so I rely on the kindness of park rangers. If they put a sign up, that’s good enough for me.

      I wonder if the Arch Rock passageway gave out because so many people used it. It was a destination point for almost everyone hiking out there.

  3. Ah, but do you know how fast you could move with a little — incentive? As in, a tsunami coming in?