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Crown Jewel
Michael Ellis got lost in Point Reyes decades ago and found a world of wonder to last a lifetime.

By Michael Ellis

October 7, 1977 was one of those perfect early fall days. Warm and sunny. Clear blue skies. I was nearly done with my cross-country motorcycle trip. I had been puttering along for five months on my little Honda 350, a bike designed for weekend trips, not grand adventures. I had accidentally followed the same path across the northern U.S. taken by Robert Pirsig who wrote "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." I happened to be reading that book, and it was a perfect introduction for my journey into California.

I was in a wonderful mood that day cruising down Mendocino County on Highway 1 -- that glorious, winding, perfectly banked road just made for a motorcycle. There was Salt Point in Sonoma County and Bodega Bay, where suddenly Highway 1 goes far inland leaving the coast. HEY!!! Wait minute. I want the ocean back. So in Marin I saw the right turn identifying the Point Reyes National Seashore. Cool. And off I went searching for the sea.

I will never forget that ride out to Chimney Rock and to the Lighthouse. It was at that moment I decided my journey was over. The plan was to continue to South America on my motorcycle, but once I found Marin, I thought, "I am finally home." And a major part of home has always been the Point Reyes National Seashore. For the last 35 years, I have never lived more than a one-hour drive away from the park.

John F. Kennedy established Point Reyes as a National Seashore on September 13, 1962. And what a great day for America. 71,000 acres of diverse habitat was protected forever, for all of us. It is the best place to see gray whales migrating, elephant seals birthing, tule elk bulging, snowy plovers nesting, lost migrant warblers in the cypress trees, working dairy ranches, regenerating Bishop pine forests, a Kule Loklo-reconstructed Miwok village, the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and it goes on and on. You could spend a lifetime exploring this park.

Hmmm. I think I will.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who lives in Santa Rosa and leads tours throughout the world.

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