A Little Bit of the Pacific Ocean Bottom, That You Can Walk On
July 11, 2014 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Beautiful rocks. On the east side of the San Andreas Fault is mainland California. On the west of it is Point Reyes. The geology of Point Reyes is rather unique. It thus fosters a unique local ecology and is home to relatively unique animal species

Much of this bit of land belongs to the US Parks system because it is so geologically (and thus ecologically) unique. It is home to many endangered species. Much of what is readily available online is aimed at tourists. But I studied it as part of my environmental studies program.

More Pics (not just rocks)
More science.
USGS PDF -- more in depth
posted by Michele in California (19 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
So I hit "post" and immediately find the good stuff: Point Reyes Ecosystem Field Trip
posted by Michele in California at 4:40 PM on July 11, 2014

Okay, I'm now going to spend a few hours following all of this out.

One of my favorite hikes in all the world is McClure beach to Kehoe beach, along the shore. You can only do it at fairly extreme minus tides, and it involves going through 3 caves and some traverses with a little exposure, and even though the diagrams up there suggest that it's all in the granite section, the diversity in rocks along that trek is amazing (not to mention the anemone and starfish and whatnot...).

One of my favorite ways to kill a spring day is to wander out Bear Valley to Arch Rock (preferably using a bicycle for the first part of the trip, past the albino deer, although I think they've largely been culled now), and sit on top of the arch and watch the whales migrate.

And I've lived here almost 20 years and still haven't done the silly little earthquake trail at the Bear Valley Visitor's Center. Must fix that.
posted by straw at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't forget the wind! Because of the way it juts out into the ocean, it is Windiest Place on US Pacific Coast. For proof: here's how the coastal cypress trees grow.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

And here are better details on the weather, including the top recorded windspeed: 133 m.p.h.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:02 PM on July 11, 2014

And don't forget what is to me the highlight of Point Reyes National Seashore, the fabulous lighthouse!
posted by suelac at 5:17 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

(It's also a really good place for porcini and chanterelles -- but don't tell anyone.)
posted by mudpuppie at 5:31 PM on July 11, 2014

I tend to fave most FPP's that feature geology. This is an especially good one.
posted by Danf at 5:36 PM on July 11, 2014

On the east side of the San Andreas Fault is mainland California. On the west of it is Point Reyes.

That is a very misleading statement when given like that. A lot of mainland California is on the west side of the fault, like LA for example.
posted by w0mbat at 5:36 PM on July 11, 2014

Stunning photos (also love the lighthouse)!
posted by danabanana at 5:40 PM on July 11, 2014

Immortalized in the classic computer graphics image Road to Point Reyes by Pixar, 1983.
posted by scose at 5:48 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also on Point Reyes was Vladmir's Czech Restaurant, run at the time by Vladmir Nevl, a local fixture. My wife and I were looking at an oncoming financial crisis, so our trip was a last minor fling before we seriously battened down the hatches. The one-day tour was incredible- we wandered around the park, taking pictures, and decided to put the camera away because it was almost out of change- but then quail! OK, now we can put it away- dear! Dear swimming in the estuary eating pond leaves! Right, camera's redlining, so- OTTERS! A FAMILY OF SEA OTTERS!

Driving home in the twilight, the shadow of financial worry once again descended on me, but then we saw the only open restaurant in the village. It was dim, rustic, and warm. We were the only guests, so the ancient proprietor took extra interest in us. He had us try traditional Czech alcohols that tasted far better than slivovich, then recommended the food. And then he told us stories, crazy stories about how he once was an Olympic skier, and used his cross-country skills to escape the Nazis. And other stories about traveling. Looking at an uncertain future, we for the moment had good liqueur, good food, and excellent company.

That was 2008. Vladmir died that September. We never saw him again, but we'll always remember him.
posted by happyroach at 6:36 PM on July 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

Only place in Marin where you will find granite. Rounded granite river cobbles erode out of mudstone in the creek bed at Wildcat Beach. They are obviously secondary deposits, since they are all worn and there doesn't seem to be any granite bedrock nearby.

In the Olema Valley there are a couple of old lime kilns hidden in the thick growth along the creek. Limestone rocks were burned there to make plaster. You don't need a lime kiln unless you have limestone, but most of Marin is Franciscan Melange. You don't carry the rocks a long way to a kiln, you build the kiln near the rocks, in this case in an overgrown creek. The only limestone deposit I know about in Marin County is on the fault just south of Olema. It's so unusual that I asked a geologist about it. A small, isolated deposit, it was scraped off the coast at Santa Cruz and brought north a hundred miles with the Pacific Plate.
posted by Repack Rider at 6:54 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, happyroach, you bring back memories. Back in the '90s (and probably early naughties), a bunch of us used to go as a group and explore various local eateries, usually moderately high end restaurants. Someone suggested Vladimir's, so we went. I don't think we made the same good impression you did, but I remember asking to see the wine list, and getting (in that wonderful thick accent): "You want wine? We have wine. Red or white."

So, we thought, that's probably not much on the wine, "okay, what about beer?"

"We have beer. We bring you beer."

And he did.

And for all the possible combinations of cabbage, beets, sour cream, and beef, with beer, it was good hearty fare.
posted by straw at 7:11 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

No, I do not want to make Bing my default search.
posted by birdherder at 8:29 PM on July 11, 2014

The earthquake-themed family-friendly walk the rangers lead from the visitors center is a whole lot of fun, too!
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:50 PM on July 11, 2014

And I've lived here almost 20 years and still haven't done the silly little earthquake trail at the Bear Valley Visitor's Center. Must fix that.

We've done that! It is little and yet awesome.

Every day when I drive to work, I drive down highway 280, which is in the San Andreas fault. I love that.
posted by rtha at 10:33 PM on July 11, 2014

If you're visiting, check out Philip K. Dick's Confessions of a Crap Artist and check out the Point Reyes Station locations he wrote about.
posted by quartzcity at 12:01 AM on July 12, 2014

I got to spend a week there during 5th grade as a class field trip. Cold, rainy, and lighthouse are all I can remember. And banana slugs. Couple of the class got mild hypothermia. Good Times.

On the other hand, I had the awsomest 5th grade teacher ever, and we also spent a night at Fort Point (under the Golden Gate Bridge) and on a three-masted schooner, the CA Thayer at the SF Maritime Museum. It was way more fun to pretend to be Civil War soldiers and sailors than being forced to tramp around in the wilderness.
posted by monopas at 2:04 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the east side of the San Andreas Fault is mainland California. On the west of it is Point Reyes.

That is a very misleading statement when given like that. A lot of mainland California is on the west side of the fault, like LA for example.

Yeah, it was really clumsily and sloppily thrown together. I am pleasantly surprised it has gone as well as it has.

I was trying to find a way to convey, in a nutshell, that the land mass in question is actually part of the Pacific Ocean tectonic plate, has been traveling northward for a long time (due to the San Andreas Fault) and is really alien terrain for the area. The fact that at that point, the fault separates this tiny bit of land from the mainland is geologically significant and juxtaposes foreign bedrock with whatever mainland California is made of in that general area. And this is why it is so ecologically significant that it was largely taken over by the parks system and there is ongoing efforts to protect species there and bring some of them back from the brink.

I am aware of its significance because of classes I took. Even though I lived in Solano county for roughly five years, I was extremely ill while I was there and never managed to make it out to Point Reyes, which is kind of a bummer. The touristy sites that came up first when I searched for info on it really do not do it justice. Of course touristy sites are going to tell you "It's beautiful and lovely and blah blah blah and you should totally go visit." And it just seems really shallow. No, no, it isn't like that at all. There are good reasons why this is a tourist destination. There are good reasons why it got swept into the park system amidst protest and controversy.

If you have the chance, you should totally go see it. And not because touristy websites hype it.

Also, it has redwoods which are fascinating in their own right, and not just because of their amazing size. You find redwoods and sequoias on the Pacific Coast because of the combination of low rainfall and lots of fog along much of the coast. Unlike most trees, redwoods get a lot of moisture from the fog. It helps make up for the lack of rain. (I don't recall how they manage to benefit so much when it means relatively little to other trees.) Plus, they survive fire better than most tree species. I have seen redwoods/sequoias with big charred areas from fires they survived. The dry climate makes the Pacific Coast an area of intermittent significant fire hazard.

These trees are awesome because of their ability to not only survive but thrive in a relatively fragile environment that is fairly harsh. When fire comes, it culls other trees and leaves behind the redwoods and sequoias which then will spread into the recently cleared landscape. When drought comes, other trees are much harder hit by it. As long as there is fog, these majestic giants are not going suffer severe dehydration.

Or so I understand it. Plant life is not exactly one of my strong points.
posted by Michele in California at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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