Even though his older brother is the one I call Pathfinder, my son Soldier took the lead in planning our family outing yesterday. Both of them wanted to include not only a hike but some beach time, coming as they did from places where one can’t make a day trip to the ocean.
All eight of us were able to go in one car, which added to the fun. The children who had recently endured 12-hour days on the road were cheerful, even though it took us a while to get to our destination, a beach farther south than we usually venture: Limantour. The main thing I always retain in my memory of this beach is that it faces south, so it is a little warmer than many North Coast beaches. It is on a long spit of land on Drakes Bay, named for Sir Francis Drake. In the article, “Drake in California”, you can read the many keys to the identification of this bay as the place where the explorer thanked God for a safe haven.
This map shows you where we were in relation to San Francisco:
And this next one reveals Limantour Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore:
We piled out of the car at the trailhead and hiked about two miles out to the beach, through dense woods opening up from time to time to views of the estuary and wide blue skies; irises in three shades of violet and purple dotted the sunnier banks. Under the trees stands of giant nettles extended back into the dappled shade, with swaths of forget-me-nots or candy flowers at their feet by the path.
It was the sort of hike where Grandma, with one or two companions, falls behind the main group to examine and hopefully identify wildflowers, and then eventually catches up when the group stops to wait. Liam spied the Indian Paintbrush first.
The trail was bordered by a lush jungle of trailing blackberry and manroot, strawberries, buttercups and ocean spray. I couldn’t stop for everything that was interesting, and I can only mention a few of the hundreds of plants. But at the time, I pointed out to anyone who would listen, how conveniently the plantain herb was growing near the nettles: if you were to get a nettle sting, you might chew up a few plantain leaves into a poultice to put on the burning flesh to soothe it. Or so I’ve been told many times.
In spite of my lagging, we arrived on the beach and oh, what a lovely, clean and white expanse it was to behold; we didn’t pause, but walked right on out to the shore.
We had brought along three kites, so all the children had plenty of time
holding the fliers against the wind. It was a perfect day for that.
This one above, once it got up, flew by itself all afternoon at the end of its tether,
while we ate a picnic on the sand, and the men dug holes for the waves to flow into.
Then it was time to reel it in, and head back out the way we had come.
It was only on our way out that I had time to really notice these grand bushes of purple lupine, a relation no doubt of the big yellow version I’ve seen so much of farther north, and have even grown in my garden.
Almost the last thing I took a picture of was a baby rattlesnake lying still as could be on the path. It was too young to have rattles, but as we stood around looking at it, the other adults told us about how the shape of its head and neck helped them identify it as a rattlesnake, and how the venom of juveniles is very potent.
I couldn’t see his eye until I saw the picture I had taken enlarged; he was definitely alive and awake. We were told that rattlers aren’t able to strike effectively if they are not coiled up. But we moved on very soon, stepping around the rattleless tail.
My family all departed this morning very early, before the sun was up, and while fog was still lying low in the neighborhood. All day I’ve been reeling myself in! I had hoped to go to bed early tonight, but instead, before I move on into May — coming right up! — I wanted to finish my story of kites and wildflowers, and my dear people.