Bakeries and Bioluminescence in Point Reyes
By Anna Parker
Realizing that I was one of approximately five people in the entire Bay Area who had never been to Point Reyes, I decided that it was time to remedy the situation earlier this week. What could be better than dragging a couple of friends along for a birthday road trip up the coast? I’ve scribbled down a few notes on behalf of the four remaining Point Reyes virgins; everyone else can go back to watching the Olympics or sharing goat videos or wondering what the hell happened to this country over the past year.
Getting three anti-morning people out of bed and on the road by 8:00 a.m. is no small feat. Of course, we needed coffee after sitting in gnarled traffic for half an hour, so we stopped for cupcakes. And coffee. (Smallish cupcakes, stop judging.) Traffic eventually thinned out, replaced by winding roads and green hills covered with oceans of yellow flowers. Other than the occasional roadkill, the scenery was bucolic, straight out of those old Happy Cow commercials.
Brunch (or, Second and Third Breakfast)
Of course, we had to stop at the famous Cowgirl Creamery as soon as we arrived in Point Reyes Station. I’ll let you in on a deep, dark secret – they don’t make ice cream, just cheese. My heart was set on birthday ice cream, so this was devastating news. The creamery’s website only mentions cheese, but I’d seen some Yelp reviews praising the ice cream. (They did sell a couple of flavors of Three Twins, but definitely don’t produce their own ice cream.) Undaunted, my friend the cheese connoisseur forged ahead, sampling cheeses like a champion. While I was intimidated by the sheer number of exotic varieties, she spent what felt like hours discussing subtle nuances with the cheese sellers, finally settling on a variety of truffle cheese.
After the Cowgirl Creamery, we wandered over to Bovine Bakery, another eatery the Yelpers go crazy for. Sadly, we were all disappointed; it just didn’t live up to the hype. We ordered muffins and scones, experimenting with normal, vegan and gluten-free. Clearly, the next step was to buy cookies, just for research purposes. But despite the inordinate calorie consumption, we remained underwhelmed.
We quickly learned that stores in Point Reyes Station have no bathrooms, with the exception of sit-down restaurants. Having no time or money for a fancy meal, we were relegated to the public restrooms next to a small park. After struggling to locate the facilities, we stumbled upon a couple of porta potties. Seriously?! Of course, only after reluctantly taking care of business did we realize that the porta potties were like the overflow parking behind the actual restrooms. Oops.
After much discussion, we settled on the Tomales Point Trail, a popular 9.4-mile out-and-back trail north of Inverness. The easy path revealed beautiful – but not exceptional – scenery around every turn. We passed by a couple of herds of peacefully grazing elk, and saw a huge variety of wildlife poop. The weather was a perfect 73 degrees, so naturally we bitched now and then about how hot it was. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to complete the hike, and never reached the ocean. After an hour and a half, we stopped for a picnic lunch under the shade of a grove of cypress trees before heading back. One friend pulled a beautifully crafted gourmet sandwich from his backpack, while my other friend dug out an entire loaf of bread and truffle cheese from her giant handbag. No one packed water, so we spent a good portion of the return hike daydreaming of grape slushies. (Don’t make our mistake – carry water!)
The highlight of our adventure was a bioluminescence kayaking tour with Blue Waters Kayaking. Because it was a weekday in the off-season, we were able to enjoy a tour all to ourselves. One caveat – Blue Waters uses tandem rather than individual kayaks. Running from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., the ride provided the perfect mix of daylight, sunset and nighttime kayaking. A cute seal followed us around for a while, popping up and huffing every couple of minutes.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect once the sun went down. The concept of glowing water brought to mind the scene in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo, mesmerized by the lights and corpses in the Dead Marshes, reaches down and almost drowns. Our guide, however, gave a practical overview of the science behind the sparkles, the biology of tiny dinoflagellates that light up when disturbed. We discovered the best ways to create vibrant glowing waves, and spent more time splashing around than actually paddling. Enhancing the alien glow down in the bay was a jaw-dropping display of the Milky Way up above – the macro and the micro, sky of stars meets ocean of lights. The experience was transformative, serenely surreal and utterly unique.
Be forewarned – Point Reyes shuts down after 8:00 p.m., with the exception of one pricey restaurant in Point Reyes Station, the doors of which remain open until a whopping 9 o’clock. By the time we changed into warm, dry clothes and headed home, we were starving. Out of snacks and options, we had to wait until we hit the In-N-Out in Mill Valley, arriving just in time to stand in line behind an entire basketball team. When they finally called our number, fast food never tasted so good.
*Disclaimer – No oysters were consumed during this trip to Point Reyes, so naysayers would argue that it didn’t count. Just another reason for a return trip (but with water next time)!