Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Black-backed Woodpecker Surveys 2009. Part 04

I wake up Saturday north of San Francisco and I have two days to myself, two days to wander before I had to meet Bob in Fresno for the next (and last) leg of my field work. I had decided that I was going to wing this whole portion of my journey. No reservations, no solid plans. I wanted to throw myself out there and see what happened. If you know me well, you realize this is completely out of character. I was trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and I have to say I did accomplish that.

Point Reyes National Seashore
I felt incredibly independent with my own wheels to point in any direction I wanted. Northwest it was. I drove my red rental car out to the Point Reyes National Seashore, which I had wanted to see since my move to California eleven years ago. I checked at the Visitor’s Center and there was only one campsite left for $20, which involved a five-mile hike in. I was not in the mood for that, so declined. (This turned out to be a wise, yet fateful decision because the wind was going at 45 m.p.h.+ at the ocean, where all the campsites seemed to be). The ranger told me she had just sold the last easy hike in campsite; I had missed by fifteen minutes. Housing I would have to worry about later. I went to Abbott’s Lagoon and hiked out to the shore based on Rodney’s birding recommendations.

I saw this Red-shouldered Hawk on the drive to Abbott's.
California Quail at Abbott's Lagoon.

Red-winged Blackbird.
Lupine at Abbott's Lagoon.
I hiked out past the lagoon and to the shore.
Here I came in contact with the wind, and some kitesurfers who were using it to their advantage.
I then went to the lighthouse, which was closed because of the high winds.

This is how windy it was. My breath was being snatched out of me!

You could see the lighthouse, but could not descend the stairs on account of the wind.
I was amazed at all the cattle/dairy farms on the peninsula. I lost count, but there were easily ten. These all got grandfathered in when the park was created. When I went to an elephant seal viewing area, the wind was strongly blowing offshore and all I could smell was cattle manure.

On my way back towards the entrance to the peninsula, I made a turn to the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm and had a half dozen delicious oysters. I didn’t realize I could shuck them myself, so needlessly spend $9 cash (when I could have spent $5.40).
This proved to be not the smartest thing I have ever done. I then stopped at a few motels to see if I could find a deal, but they were all much more than I wanted to spend. My plan had always been to camp Saturday night anyway; I wanted to save the luxury of a room for Sunday night, my last night before going back in the field. I finally returned to a campground in Olema, which I had driven by earlier in the morning. The price was $39 (!) for a campsite, which she told me I could go look at and then come back and let her know if I wanted it. This is when I looked at the sign behind her (CASH ONLY), opened my wallet and realized I not only had merely $31, but I had not brought my debit card. I considered using a charge card for a cash advance, but I had a new card and I had no idea what the PIN was (I’m sure a blessing in disguise. Interest on that would have been ridiculous). I opted to throw myself on the cashier’s mercy. She very kindly gave me what she thought was a crappy site and charged me $25. I had been prepared to give her my whole $31. Her kindness left me with $6, which turned out to be one of the most fortuitous things that happened to me all weekend. In addition, the crappy campsite was much quieter and away from the madness that was Father’s Day Weekend. I had a shower/bathroom near me which no one else seemed to use. I didn’t have a stove, so I had onion potato chips and beer for dinner.

My site on the 100 Meadow.
The relatively empty 100 Meadow.
The madness of Father's Day.

Driving South
Sunday I woke up early, broke camp and left before almost anyone stirred. The last two sites next to me had been taken; the people must have arrived after dark and set up. I drove down to Bolinas and had a coffee while avoiding crazy homeless and drunk people. Then I went out to Point Reyes Bird Observatory, which I had heard about for years in birding circles. They have been banding on the peninsula for a long time. I hung out with the two banders for a bit. They netted a Pacific-slope Flycatcher and a Swainson’s Thrush. Then I was on my way.

I headed south to San Francisco on the 101 and crossed my fingers. I hoped I would have enough money to take the Golden Gate Bridge. (I’m not sure when this dawned on me, that I would have to pay to cross a bridge. Once it did I was … concerned.) I had no idea how much it was and I didn’t really have a sound back-up plan if I didn’t have enough. I was hoping the cashier might be able to take a charge card or at least tell me if there was a way to get over the bay without paying a bridge toll or the ol’ throw-myself-on-her-mercy thing again. The adrenalin was building as I drove over the bay, and as I approached the booth I saw the toll …. $6. Wow. I had exact change.

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