Tarweed on Chileno Valley Road

My family and I experienced the hills between Sebastopol and Inverness intimately on our recent local vacation than on our average jaunt to Point ReyesNational Seashore — and there are a lot of them. We decided to take our main vacation close to home and self-propelled this year. My wife especially wanted to stay out of the car entirely and with limited options for hiking, that meant bikes. She arranged four nights at a VRBD (Vacation Rental by Owner) cabin in Inverness, I checked over the bikes and filled the tires, and we packed as lightly as we could (my nine-year old son, on his small mountain bike, carried only a few very small items in his seat bag).

Lunch stop at Marin Cheese Factory

Lunch stop at Marin Cheese Factory

We set off early on a foggy Saturday morning. I chose an inland route to avoid riding on Highway 1, albeit a hillier and longer route via Chileno Valley Road and the Petaluma-Point Reyes Road. We relished a whole morning with almost no cars on the road, but a great many other cyclists, especially once we reached Marin County. The one glaring exception was a Ferrari club racing at high speed along Chileno Valley Road — fortunately we had pulled off when they roared through. Sharing the road with the other cyclists made the ride feel so much safer than our typical Sonoma County Ride. The Marin roads seemed  in better shape as well.

Inverness Ridge cabin

Inverness Ridge cabin

After a welcome lunch stop at the Cheese Factory, we climbed the last hill before Point Reyes Station and continued westward. We stocked up on groceries in Point Reyes, then made a final push to Inverness, where we had a 500 ft. climb to our tiny cabin on Inverness Ridge adjacent to Tomales Bay State Park. We had traveled 48 miles and had climbed over 3700 feet on our way, so we were very happy to arrive.

Our cabin clung to a steep hillside less than 100 yards away from an entrance to the park.  During our stay, we hiked down to each of the beaches, from Heart’s Desire to Shell Beach. Though the trails were deserted and we had all the huckleberries, salal and California blackberries we wanted (including enough for pancakes), plenty of others flocked to the beaches. Tomales Bay can be windy, particularly in later afternoons, but we had calm conditions and the water was warm enough for brief dips (we did our best to avoid the Aurelia  (Moon) jellyfish and a smaller jelly that we didn’t identify).

Since we had rented that cabin for four nights, we had time to explore beyond the state park. We got

Tomales Bay State Park

Tomales Bay State Park

back on the bikes for our second full day and headed west to the Point Reyes Light all the way the western tip of the peninsula, with a stop at Drakes’ Beach for lunch. Although the trail into the state park followed Inverness Ridge to Pierce Point Road, bikes are prohibited on the trails and we had to drop all the way down to bay and climb back over the ridge on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Fortunately traffic was light and so was the wind (mostly) after we crossed the ridge.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd. east of the Point Reyes Light

Sir Francis Drake Blvd. east of the Point Reyes Light

I have fond memories of visiting Drake’s Beach as a kid and hunting for fossils — the visitor’s center has some great ones on display. After lunch, we made our way along the base of the cliffs, scanning rocks as we went. Sure enough, we stumbled on half a dozen fossil bones embedded in sandstone.

Point Reyes Light

Point Reyes Light

The remainder of the ride to the lighthouse involved a lot more climbing, but we made it in time to descend 308 steps to the light before it closed for the day. The ride back to our cabin was considerably harder because the wind had kicked up and we were riding directly into it much of the time. I ended up riding ahead to pick up groceries in Inverness so we would have something to eat for dinner. We all agreed that the ride was a lot farther and more challenging than it looked on the map, even without the 500 ft. kicker of a climb back up Inverness Ridge at the end.

For our last full day, we had originally planned another ride to the northern end to look for the reintroduced tule elk herd, but after our lighthouse ride, I was the only one who wanted to climb back on the bike. The rest of my family took it easy with plans for another short hike  down to the beach while I biked off with only snacks in my seat bag and water — my bike felt amazingly different not loaded down with overflowing panniers that contained,

Indian Beach, Tomales Bay State Park

Indian Beach, Tomales Bay State Park

among other things, cool rocks my son picked up.

Bikes are prohibited on most of Point Reyes National Seashore trails, but the route from the Mount Vision Road intersection on Sir Francis Drake to Sky Camp includes several miles of single and doubletrack. The weather was glorious — not too hot and fog cloaking the shore to the west. I had the 8 miles each way nearly to myself  before heading back on to Inverness via Sir Francis Drake. I joined the rest of my family at Shell Beach for more jellyfish and water play, then we took a barefoot hike back home to the cabin.

We got a moderately early departure the next morning. Since we were traveling back home to

Heading Home

Heading Home

Sebastopol on a weekday, we decided to go on Highway 1 to cut the distance and climbing (only 2700 ft. this time). We chowed down on scrumptious pastries from Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station, then hit the road. Another clear morning and traffic was light all the way through Tomales, our lunch stop. We knew we were back in Sonoma County when we got to Petaluma-Valley Ford Road and heavy traffic with a high percentage of large pickups and RVs.  We were rolling down our home street almost too soon — five great days of entirely self-powered vacation!

 

Inverness Ridge and Tomales Bay

Inverness Ridge and Tomales Bay

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