Saturday, February 3, 2018

Palomarin Beach Trail: from eucalyptus stands to foreshore cobbles

Foreshore rocks at Palomarin Beach: smooth and mollusk-sculpted cobbles

Palomarin Beach Trail
Palomarin Beach is located at the southern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, California. To get to the beach, hike the 0.6-mile-long Palomarin Beach Trail downhill from its junction with Coast Trail. The junction is found in the shade of eucalyptus trees. See the elongated eucalyptus leaves around the signpost in the picture farther below. Some trees show multi-trunked growth. Once leaving the eucalyptus grove, the trail winds down through coastal scrub and clearings with views of the cliff and ocean scenery. After managing a short, but steep trail section to finally be at beach level, you probably want to switch from hiking into beachcombing and rockstepping mode. At low tide, tidepooling at Abolone Point farther north makes for a great foreshore experience.

A cobble with cavities carved out by mollusks
Along the pebbly beach, one not only finds polished and textured rocks of different size, but also sculpted rocks. Those shale and sandstone rocks have a surface with an often dense coverage of thumb-size drill holes—not made by human sculptors, but by rock-boring pholad clams, which, while holding on with their foot, rhythmically move the toothed edge of their shell back and forth and thus excavate a circular cavity [1]. A boring mollusk finally settles, continues to grow and becomes tied to the cavity. Some of the cavities in the cobble shown above still contain shell parts of once-encased living mollusks.
   
A crab using a turban snail shell for protective armor

While certain mollusks escape predation by boring themselves into a soft rock, a crab such as a hermit crab may occupy an empty gastropod shell for protection. Near Abalone Point I saw a crab with a four-whorl turban-snail house wandering on the ground underneath the surface of the gently forward-swashing and backwashing shoreline water.


Signpost with eucalyptus leaves

Getting there

From Stinson Beach, drive north on Highway 1. At the northern tip of Bolinas Lagoon, turn left onto Olema-Bolina Road and after 1.5 miles turn right onto Mesa Road. Drive to the Point Reyes Bird Observatory bend. Continue on the dirt road section of Mesa Road. Depending on your vehicle clearance and possible wash-outs, you may either want to look out for parking (and walk the dirt road) or continue the last one mile to the end, which is the trailhead for Coast Trail. Start out northbound on Coast Trail and find the signed Palomarin Beach Trail junction after less than a mile.
 
Palomarin Beach
Palomarin Beach: a place for relaxation and exploration

References and more to explore

[1] Jules Evens: In the Splash Zone at Point Reyes. Bay Nature, May 26, 2012 [https://baynature.org/article/in-the-splash-zone-at-point-reyes/]. 
[2] Learn About Crabs & Relatives: http://www.asnailsodyssey.com/LEARNABOUT/CRAB/crabHerm.php.
[3] Point Reyes Mollusks: https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/nature/mollusks.htm.
[4] Jon Erlandson: 12,000 Years of Hunan Predation on Black Turban Snails (Chlorostoma funebralis) on Alta California's Northern Channel Islands [https://www.academia.edu/16892345/12_000_Years_of_Human_Predation_on_Black_Turban_Snails_Chlorostoma_funebralis_on_Alta_Californias_Northern_Channel_Islands].

---

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Take a walk through the Cypress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes and explore the “wireless giant of the Pacific”

Cypress Tree Tunnel to KPH Station

Ornamental work at KPH entrance
Looking for Monterey cypress trees north of the Monterey peninsula? What about the Point Reyes peninsula north of San Francisco? There you can find weatherproof cypress trees branching out next to the trail leading to the lighthouse. And just off the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard—between Inverness and the lighthouse headlands—is the “tunnel” of giant Monterey cypress trees. This is the driveway to a historic wireless telegraph station—the civilian RCA/Marconi Station, also named KPH Maritime Receiving Station [1-3].


Everything intact? The KPH backside (November 2017)

As Morse code messaging declined and new technologies advanced, the station was retired in the late 1990s. It is currently preserved and cared for by the National Park Service and volunteers from the Maritime Radio Historical Society. A flyer posted onto the station's front door summarizes the history of and the current activities at the KPH station:

KPH began providing telegram service to ships at sea in 1905 from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco (thus the PH in the call sign). It continued that service until operations ended at this location on 30 June 1997.

There were hundreds of stations like KPH around the world. KPH was one of the biggest, called by some the “wireless giant of the Pacific.” One by one the lights went out at these stations. Bulldozers were waiting to demolish the buildings and antennas and build condominiums and golf courses. But KPH remained intact.

In 1999 the Maritime Radio Historical Society, in cooperation with the Point Reyes National Seashore, began a project to restore KPH to operation - the first and only a coast station left for dead has been returned to life.

Today KPH is on the air every Saturday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Please join us to see the only remaining civilian coast station in the world in full operation.

For more information call 414-990-7090 or send an email to: kph@radiomarine.org.


Getting there

From Olema or the Bear Valley Visitor Center, follow the direction given to get to the lighthouse trailhead. Halfway between Inverness and the end of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.—past G Ranch—look out for the sign reading “North District Operations Center - Historic RCA Building Established Circa 1929.” Find parking. The Cypress Tunnel is on the right side of the road.


References and more to explore

[1] JoshMc: Cypress Tree Tunnel in Point Reyes National Seashore.  “California through my Lens” blog post: californiathroughmylens.com/cypress-tree-tunnel.
[2] National Park Service: Historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station and Cypress Tree Tunnel. Web-page: www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/kph_treetunnel.htm.
[3] Roadside America: Cypress Tree Tunnel. Web-page: www.roadsideamerica.com/story/55705.