I woke up on day nine and immediately headed to the window hoping to see some clearing of the fog that had plagued me the day before… to no avail. If anything, the fog was thicker. I was quite disappointed, as this was the day where I would drive down the Pacific Coast on California Highway 1, famed for it’s beautiful vistas and incredible scenery. About an hour south of Eureka I had a decision to make- since it was cloudy and overcast I could save time and take US101 toward San Francisco OR I could follow the CA1 and hope the skies would clear at some point in time. I threw caution to the wind (and clouds) and stayed with the original plan of driving CA1.
The first twenty miles after leaving US101 were some of the curviest roads I’ve ever been on. I knew instantly that if the clouds & fog didn’t clear, that I was going to spend a long, slow drive cursing myself for not taking the faster route.
I followed a side road out to the Point Arena Lighthouse. When I got there, the fog was so thick that I couldn’t even see the ocean from the top of the bluff. Since I wasn’t able to see anything, I decided to forgo the expense of the lighthouse tour itself and headed back to CA1 and continued moving south.
As much as it was spoiling my day, I came to appreciate the fog, It has a real physical presence. The most amazing thing is that every time the road meandered inland, the fog would clear within a mile. I tried to take photographs that show the fog’s ‘presence’ but I do not feel like I succeeded.
The most disappointing part of the day was the fact that I could tell what a spectacular drive this would have been on a clear and sunny day. Someday, I’d love to come back and drive the whole Pacific Coast, from San Diego to Vancouver.
Late in the afternoon, I made it to the turnoff for Point Reyes National Seashore. The road had been inland for a while and I was driving around in blessed sunshine. I hoped that when I drove out into Point Reyes that it would also be sunny there, but I had enough experience during that day to know that it probably wasn’t going to happen.
I stopped in the visitor’s center, which was really well-done and informative. After looking at the exhibits and watching the film, I asked the ranger at the desk if there was any chance that it would be clear when I drove out to the lighthouse. He replied “Sure, in the spring.” I’ve been a big fan of 99% of the many rangers I’ve interacted with on my tour of the National Parks, but this one’s sarcasm really got under my skin, especially since I’d spent a very disappointing day in the fog. I wasn’t asking for him to work miracles and make the fog go away, I was just looking for him to show a little sympathy for someone who come a long way from home only to find the park essentially closed because of the fog.
So I drove out to the lighthouse anyway, not because I expected to see it, more because it’s what I do. I drove past Point Reyes’ historic ranches, most from the mid-1800s and some still functional to this day.
The coolest thing I saw out at Point Reyes itself (about the only thing I could see) were the trees picture above, slanted as they were, from years of being blown by sideways by the strong winds off the ocean.
And now, my long anticipated picture of the Point Reyes Lighthouse….
I can’t describe my disappointment at the time this picture was taken. The walkway down to the lighthouse was even closed, so I wasn’t even able to get a picture from up close. Grrr….
While I hadn’t succeeded in capturing the movement of the fog on film, I did capture this short video which shows the incredible movement of the fog as it rolls in off the Pacific. (Please excuse the heavy breathing- I’d just done a fairly long hike uphill from the parking lot…)
I promised myself that if the weather cleared, I’d drive out to Point Reyes and take a proper picture, but I never did get around to it.
That night I got into my hotel for the next six nights in San Rafael, just north of San Francisco. I was excited to finally get around to exploring this city so many people raved about.
Click here to read about Day Eight or Day Ten.