Pt Reyes – A warm beach, a hostel in the woods, and a 100 year old lighthouse

I have been very irregular with writing this year (alas!), so this gives me so much joy to finally get down to writing this post about the magical, tucked away place that is Pt. Reyes.

I had booked my 5 year old, my mom and me in a private room at the beautiful Pt Reyes HI Hostel in the middle of the national park, surrounded by woods, mountains, beaches and hiking trails. I was excited for this trip, had heard from friends it was a beautiful place to visit, and I always end up going south, so this would be a nice change to go further north of San Francisco, and finally check out Marin county and the quiet life there. I also love cheese so was excited to try the wonderful fresh food and cheese in this area.

We were at a good friend’s house on Friday night, and when I told them I was planning to drive out to Pt Reyes, my friend and her husband started talking all about the winding roads to get there, and the fact that there was no signal for miles and miles, and on their way back even the husband was a little scared driving on a snake-like curvy part of Highway 1, especially with no car ahead of him or behind, and the fear that you could easily be stranded with no signal, a broken car and a little child. All this said, I was getting a little worried with the driving. My friend then realized they have their GPS and they could just lend it to me for the weekend. Well, let me just say what a blessing it was to have the GPS because as much as I love new technology, I wanted a way to get there and back safely with a kid and a nana in tow 😉

We left Saturday morning around 9:30. Once we reached the city and started driving further up north, it was crazy foggy. For a moment I wondered if the whole road would be that way and even considered turning back. But, after all the excitement for Neil for this trip of going to the beach and short hike in the woods, of course, I had to trudge on through the fog 🙂 After less than an hour of driving the fog did clear up finally and it was an easy drive after that; we reached in just under 2 hours. Here are some shots from along the way – the fog ‘before’ and the blue skies ‘after’ :

We reached Pt. Reyes Station right around 11:45, and parked in the cute little ‘downtown’ with a number of restaurants and shops. We had eggs and toast and soup for lunch, with ketchup of course ;), before heading on forward to the beaches and the bay:

Next we headed to the visitor center in Pt. Reyes which has some really cool real fossils, a long binocular which Neil had a lot of fun with, and also some interesting displays and facts about all the different animals and birds you might see in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore area. We had fun posing with the deer, rabbits and owls 🙂

And here are some memories of the fun we had holding the fossils including elk horns and a whale head 🙂

After all the learning at the visitor center we headed out towards the bay, since the guides at the visitor center mentioned the waves on the oceanside or the west side of the coastline were way too dangerous for kids, and even for adults there were incidents of these “sneaker waves” that would suddenly engulf you. I wanted to relax and enjoy without worrying about these scary waves, so we drove on to one of the cute little bay beaches – I think it was Chicken Ranch Beach, close to shell beach, which turned out to be a fantastic idea since the water was warm (yes, warm; if you are from the bay area, you know how rare this is!), shallow and perfect for swimming or just hanging out in!

We had our little green beach tent which is the best thing I ever bought online, and although I bought it at the end of last summer, it has been used many times this summer 🙂 Here is a shot of Neil and Nana hanging out in the tent while I took a few minutes to enjoy the water to myself:

We played american football (with our little soft football!) and frisbee, which I am awful at, although Neil more than makes up for my lack of skill 😉 The point is, we still had a ton of fun at this little peaceful, warm bay beach with barely any crowds, and just a few people a few fun dogs enjoying the water 🙂

It was 5 pm before we knew it, and we started to walk back to the car. Neil and I took the long road to stop by the kayaking place to ask them the age and weight limits, which we learned to our dismay that Neil was not yet heave or old enough for. But, I’ve promised to bring him back in about 2 years to Kayak out here once he’s ready and also once we’re both better swimmers 🙂 We headed to this nice little restaurant by the bay just to dry ourselves up a bit, change clothes and freshen up before we went for dinner. On the way, to our surprise, we got to see a seal taking a nap by the water!

We ended up eating at this local seafood place very close by from Chicken Ranch Beach, called Saltwater Oyster Depot which turned out to be a fabulous choice with great Italian food options (since I don’t eat oysters/seafood unfortunately, even though I eat fish). We went with the Gnocchi and it was melt in the mouth good, especially given how picky I am about Gnocchi 🙂 Neil was tired and cranky by this time however, hence I had to do the honors and feed him his dinner super quickly and also eat mine right after and gulp my wine down 🙂 And yet, would highly recommend the place and was a really good meal, although, albeit, with slow service.

After dinner, we drove out to our hostel which was about 15-20 minutes away and into the woods. It was raining by the time we reached although not heavily. I checked in at the desk, got our keys, and then carried a sleeping, tired Neil to the room and the bunk bed. My mom stayed with Neil while I went back to the car and carried all our luggage back to the room. The room was comfortable with two sets of bunk beds. Neil and I took the lower bunk which was wider, and mom took the other twin-size lower bunk.  There was a window that overlooked the lush green towering mountain up above, as if beckoning you to step outside and come conquer it 🙂 A restroom was right outside our room door, and shared only with one other family in the other family room, which was very convenient. I went for a short walk as it started to get dark, before going to bed:

I woke up early the next morning, and so did Neil. I was excited to show him the large, spacious, beautiful eat in communal kitchen with a dining table and cozy couches, and also a beautiful wooden patios facing the mountains. Breakfast with a view, there we had it, in the serenity of the woods and only at the very affordable rate of $65/night.

And, there is something to be said about a “no signal” weekend. It was bliss. Happiness. A joy impossible to describe in words. No reminders about to-do-lists, no people telling you that you forgot yet another thing on that never ending to-do list (yes, that’s me, #singlemomlife :-)), and no questions or ideas or thoughts shared with others, even friends. Just a fully dedicated time for yourself. We prepared some toast, and had some yogurt, tea, milk, fruits and other things to eat. Here’s my adorable little tea drinker who never eats a ton of breakfast but will never refuse a small cup of tea 😉

We also had a kinder egg surprise to open from the day before, which turned out to be a tiny little skateboard. And, a shot of the cool artwork which displayed the footprints of various animals seen in the Pt. Reyes area:

After the breakfast, we spent some time playing with board games that someone else had brought in but generously shared and allowed us to play with for a while. Finally, when the hostel manager/volunteer was almost getting mad at us and another family for staying in the kitchen too late (since they were about to close it for cleaning), we wrapped up and went back to our room to get our stuff together and check out.

We headed to this beach called the Limantour beach to checkout the west side of the coastline from afar. It was still a bit chilly and foggy but we made the walk out to the beach and let Neil play in the sand for a few minutes before heading back to the car to drive to the lighthouse.

There were some people riding horses on the beach even in this fog and cold, and in the sand we found some coal left over from people who were perhaps trying to create fires the night before.

Finally, we headed to the lighthouse, which was a windy, gorgeous 11 mile drive through the country hills within the national park, which got us to a beautiful, majectic view of the entire coastline, hurray!

The beauty of the california coast is it is full of surprises, especially if you’ve come to live here from other parts of the country or the world – there are pine trees right next to cypress trees by the coastline, there’s oak and fruit trees, there’s marshlands, and blue skies, there’s dry ground, and red rock, creating a picturesque portrait of contrasting, maginificent, unexpected colors, as if painted by the creator herself (no, I will not use the male gender for God, just because ;)). The photo below of my mom and my little boy walking up to the lighthouse is one of my favorites on this trip.

There was this beautiful brown rock as we headed closer to the lighthouse which reminded me of the photos of canyons in the midwest (which I have yet to visit), so we decided to capture the moment with some shots:

As we got closer to the lighthouse steps, we heard the people climbing up say it was a bit tiring and especially for a 5 year old it might be a little hard to climb the 301 steps down and back up. My mom and I told Neil that he didn’t have to walk all the way down if he was tired, but my strong little guy insisted on going all the way down to see and touch the lighthouse and then climb back up (and boy, did he stick to his word without a grime or complaint about the climbing!! ) 🙂

As we climbed down, we saw this beautiful algae which grows on the rocks and gives them this beautiful red color. We were told that there was always crazy wind and fog on this path and we were so incredibly lucky to have gotten a day like this where we could see the blue ocean waters and the lighthouse as we headed down.

After we got down to the lighthouse, we stood inside the lighthouse and the range explained all about how this was one of the oldest lighthouses in America and one of the families who worked there had lived there for 23 years! He told us also about the mechanics of the lighthouse and how it worked, how they kept the light burning many years ago with thousands of tons of coal being hauled to the site, and other interesting facts. Neil listened intently until the ranger was done talking and really seemed to be learning and soaking in the experience 🙂

Finally, we started to hike back up and finally we reached the giftshop  where we bought a mug for Nana which she had loved at the visitor center but didn’t end up buying. We decided it would be our secret surprise for her and I’m sure that would make her happy. There was a donation or tip box for the rangers as we exited the gift shop, and here is what Neil said to me “Mom, can we please put some cash in here like 10 dollars? Because the ranger worked so hard and talked a lot to tell us about the lighthouse, and what if he wanted to buy some water and some juice because his throat was so dry.” I was so touched by his kindness than I emptied all the change I had left into the tip box which made Neil very happy and satisfied 🙂

Isn’t it interesting how we as parents or adults always think we can teach children so many things, while, on the contrary there is just so much that we can learn from children instead? I think this is the most misunderstood thing in parenting.

For example, think about relationships and a petty argument in a relationship, a 5-year old would say sorry together on the count of 3 (that’s what we do, if we think we are both at fault), or I say sorry 100 times (super fast, yes, I’ve mastered this!) if it was my fault, and he says sorry once if it was his fault. These are the rules – sorry, and a hug, and a commitment to avoiding or not doing that thing again. We are then laughing, loving, playing and giggling again. Not complicated, is it? And yet, for adult relationships, be it with a romantic relationship or an adult parent-child relationship or even adult friendships, we struggle to communicate, to let it go, to love. If it were up to me, I would hire a 5 year old as a relationship coach in a day.

Life is joyous, wonderful, not complicated, and afterall, as my guru would say, a gift! Let’s just start seeing life from a child’s eyes, and I promise our experience of life will be so much more richer and fulfilling.

On that thought, I hope you enjoyed reading this post about Pt. Reyes, and please reach out via email with thoughts and comments, or if you need ideas on hikes or what to do in Pt. Reyes!



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