Tomales Point

Running Hiking United States

On my search for running trails in California, I come across Point Reyes, an oddly shaped peninsula stretching into the Pacific Ocean about 50 kilometres north of San Francisco.

The trail to Tomales Point would have made for an epic 15-kilometre trail run. Unfortunately, a few days before the trip, my ego forgot how old my body was, and I felt something pop like bubble wrap plastic in the back of my leg at the end of a 60 metre sprint. For the next couple of days, ice packs became faithful companions and life slowed down as I went through it at a limping pace. Things improved quickly, though, and on the last day of my stay I drove up North, bought some water and snacks at Point Reyes Station and made my way to the trailhead. I wasn’t ready for a run (hamstring tears need to be given time), but a gentle hike seemed like a perfect fit to ease back into my routine.

It’s been a bright day in the Valley, sunny in San Francisco even, with a gentle breeze blowing under a cloudless sky. A mere minutes after leaving Point Reyes Station, though, I enter a layer of fog growing thicker as I get closer towards the coast. Only occassionally, the sun peeks through, and a strong wind blows over exposed Tomales Bay.

A small dirt path leads northwards from Pierce Point Ranch through an intricate landscape of bush lupine, wildflowers and the shape of skeletal trees muscling the strong winds in the distance. I hear waves pounding against the cliffs below and inhale a fresh, salty ocean breeze. It’s a welcome relief for my nose, plagued by the allergens and pollutants of the city life.

Today is my first hike in a while and a welcome opportunity to slow down. My inner monologue soon picks up, and the wind begins to carry my thoughts out at sea.

After an hour, I reach what’s designated as an “unmaintained” trail. It’s narrower and a little overgrown with bushes here and there, the only challenging parts being some sandy stretches that take extra energy with each step. Imagine walking on a beach, just upslope. The truth is, that this type of path maintains itself, simply by having people walk on it.

From Tomales Point, I finally get a good view at the ocean. Mighty Pacific waves powerfully unload themselves on the sharp cliffs below. The trail loops around the Northernmost part of the islet, opening up - still foggy - views in all directions.

You could probably scramble down to the shore here, but it doesn’t look too safe, so I give it a pass. Instead, I marvel at the lupine bushes, their yellow flowers a bright contrast to the earth tones of an otherwise rough landscape as they reflect the rare beam of sunlight permeating through a stubborn layer of fog. Listening to the sounds of the birds and the ocean, I enjoy a few well-needed moments of solitude.

Soon, my restless mind starts reminding me of the many things left to do until taking a night flight out of San Francisco. It’s the small price I have to pay for coming here at the last possible moment. I bade farewell to the ocean and hike the 5 miles back along the same trail.

The parking lot at Pierce Point is now filled with cars as more and more hikers embark on the trail. A short drive later, it’s the sunniest of California days again. I soon roll past postcard-worthy ocean views along iconic Highway 1 back to San Francisco. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge one final time, I enter the city in style, run my final errands and make my way to the airport.