Monday, January 21, 2013

Whale and elk watching in Point Reyes and Bodega Bay

Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore
 Last weekend, Dan and I headed out to Point Reyes and Bodega Bay. Our goal: whale watching from the coast. The grey whale migration is underway, and whales were reportedly visible from certain spots on the coast.

Tomales Point, with Bodega Head visible across the bay
 We decided to hike out to Tomales Point in the Point Reyes National Seashore. This hike has fabulous views and Tule Elk herds. We wouldn't see whales from Tomales Point (per the park rangers, whale viewing is best from the Pt Reyes lighthouse, see this list for whale watching spots in the SF Bay area), but we wanted to get in some scenic hiking & decided to defer whale watching to the next day.

One of several elk herds. This one was mostly male. I don't know why this was. Impressive antlers!

Big views looking south from Tolames Point!  In the high res version of this photo, the Farallon Islands are visible just to the right of the southern part of the park (the bit that juts out into the ocean, above). We talked with a local guy who said this was the first time he'd ever seen the Farallons from the park.  What a special day!
 What a great hike! We ended up with about 10.4 miles and over 1400 vertical feet of climbing for the hike.

I really recommend going all the way to the point. Lots of hikers turned back after about 2.5 miles at an overlook, but the views are most exceptional at the tip of the point, plus there are crashing waves and tidepools and access to the edge of the cliff.
Frosty morning!
We stayed over night in Bodega Bay, and got to our hotel just in time for a colorful sunset, which we enjoyed from the outdoor hot tub. The next morning, it was in the 20s when we woke up, so we abandoned plans to ride our bikes and instead hung out at our hotel waiting for it to warm up a bit (more hot tubbing!).
Whale watching from Bodega Head
When it warmed up a bit, we headed over to Bodega Head State Park to do some whale watching. Vounteer docents were hanging out at the point (center left of the photo above) and were very informative and enthusiastic. They reported numerous whale sighting that morning, however we hung around for about 30 minutes looking and failed to see whales.  Re-grouping, we went on a fantastically scenic 3 mile walk around the park uring which I was thrilled to spot a whale all by myself (hint: you look for the blow created when the whale clears its blow hole just prior to surfacing). We also saw seals and lots of birds (and lots of people, as this is a popular spot apparently). Dan wanted to try and spot a whale so we returned to the viewpoint where we saw another whale pretty close to the shore. Well, mostly I saw this whale, since Dan was looking in the wrong direction.  All in all, it was a lot of fun, though if I did this again, I would bring more powerful binoculars. Most of the whales were pretty far from the shore.
What a great weekend!


djconnel said...

Nice report! It was a great pair of hikes on amazing days.

Anonymous said...

What a great day out. Big whales, big elk and tiny frosty plants. They look like wild strawberries to me. I've usually seen them in the redwood forest.

NadiaMac said...

Yes, they were wild strawberries. I though the contrast of the delicate leaves and flowers and the frost was pretty