Island in Time

For about 5 years I’ve been obsessed with the idea of walking around the entire Pt. Reyes Peninsula. It’s really an island, in that the San Andreas Fault runs along its eastern side, from Tomales bay down to the Bolinas Lagoon. In 13 million years, geologists say, it will separate along the fault (since this piece of land is moving slowly north).

  I live at the southern end (bottom right here) and the idea was to go on foot from my home and circle the island. I figured it would take a week, with a backpack. My alternate goal was to get to the Pt. Reyes lighthouse, which is the leftmost piece of land shown on this map.

   Before leaving I took a surfboard and stashed it at the end of Limantour beach, the rightmost thin yellow strip on the map, so I could get across the mouth of Drake’s Estero, the inland body of water shown (surrounded by red) here.

   Long story short, I didn’t make the circumambulation, but in 4 days I did get to the lighthouse, ready to drop from exhaustion (or more likely dehydration), but thrilled to have made it that far.

   I’m going to try something different here: I’ll write up the trip and put the photos in a Picasa album, which you can watch as a slide show. To see pics now, click here. For the rest of the writeup, click on

“Read More” below.I started out at sunrise and walked down to the beach.  Went as far as I could along beach, then cut up a cliff to a fire road that goes north along the coast. There’s a large watershed just past Pelican Lake and some spectacular falls on the beach. However getting down the steep arroyo to the beach was sketchy to say the least. When it came time to get back up to the road, I thought I might not be able to make it up this very steep section with my pack. Luckily, a couple of young guys were on the beach and helped me. Kindness of strangers once again. I hiked until about six that night, so with breaks, I was probably on the road for 10 hours. My pack weighed about 32 pounds, and it seemed to be going okay.

   Got a great sleep the first night by a creek, then the next day walked along the shore to Limantour beach. The wind was blowing about 30 MPH in the wrong direction, and I felt I just wasn’t going to make across the quarter-mile or so of water on the surfboard with the extra weight of the pack. Decided to wait for the morning and had about the worst night of my life sleeping out in the open, semi-sheltered behind a sand dune, wind blowing, sleeping bag getting progressively wetter through the night.

   The next morning the wind was still blowing and I gave up on crossing the water. Walked 2 miles back to the beach parking lot, dried out my sleeping bag, ate a freeze-dried dinner for 2 1/2 people, then took a network of trails which went around the estero and led out to the paved road going out to the lighthouse. Found an abandoned building and some trees and spent the night in my tent.

   Had to walk along the paved road (a drag) to get to the lighthouse, and I started to feel really tired. In retrospect, I was dehydrated. I decided to scrap the idea for the circumambulation. It was just too far, and I was too tired. Made it to the lighthouse, which is spectacular, called home, and my son Evan picked me up around 4PM.

There were some great things about this trip:

– Being on foot, with food and shelter on my back, a sense of independence

– Getting away from electricity and email

– 4 days to think, with no distractions

– An ultimate workout.

There were some dumb things about this trip:

– Going too fast and too far; I can’t help it but I seem unable to walk slowly.

– Not being up to speed on backpacking and gear

– Too much weight. I’d like to get it down to 20 pounds for extended hiking.

– Thinking I could make it across the estero mouth with a heavy pack on a surfboard

   I guess like the boy hitting self on head with bat because it feels so good when he stops, I’m ecstatic to be home. A comfortable bed with sheets. A home-cooked meal. Coffee, red wine, a crackling fire on a cold night. The equinox was Saturday, and it feels like a whole new octave around here. Now that I’ve got this over with, I can concentrate on this new book, getting my little boat tuned up, learning to play a standup bass, fixing a bunch of stuff around the homestead, and exploring other parts of the nearby world. Also, I feel like I got toughened up on this trip. A great way to get a workout, I’ll try to maintain this level of fitness.

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11 Responses to Island in Time

  1. Jerome says:

    Nice story Lloyd. Is there a way to accomplish the circumambulation on an off road bicycle? Jerome

  2. Lloyd Kahn says:

    Yes you could do it on a bike, although pretty much all of my trip — except for the paved road part — would be illegal in the national park. Mountain bike on trails, respectful of hikers, eye out for rangers. Yep.

  3. Anonymous says:

    hey now lloyd, how about a stashing supplies along the way, next time you go. anyway you should be please with yourself!!.your fan gary

  4. Always keep that thirst for adventure, however you want to define it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    how about a horse and a pack animal? read of someone going all the way from Ontario to Mexico this way.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just looked at the photos…beautiful…
    some made me go "wow"…

    what kind of camera?

  7. Betha says:

    "I think over again
    My small adventures, my fears.
    The small ones that seemed so big,
    For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
    And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing:
    To live to see the great day that dawns,
    And the light that fills the world." – Inuit song

    I bow to your effort and can imagine the beauty, ruggedness and solitude you encountered on that edge of this earth. Awesome.

  8. Enjoyed the diary and photos very much. Made me recall a short hike out to the lighthouse in the late 90's, when I lived in SF. This part of CA is still half wild – landscape, sea and light are always gorgeous.

  9. Gill says:

    Lloyd, I spend most morning coffee breaks (here in Michigan) checking out your blog. Todays break was especially refreshing. Thanks.

  10. bayrider says:

    Limantour is my favorite beach, so beautiful, so spacious and remote and usually so chilly, it will almost always test you. It gets quite windy there starting around mid February so it's the first site to kickoff the coastal windsurf season each year. A long carry of board and sail from the parking lot down to the beach and then a long series of tacks upwind a mile or so to get to Drake's Estero and the wave there (looking good in your photo!). All that in freezing conditions and after a long winter layoff will leave you bone tired exhausted and vowing to get in better shape yet awesomely stoked to be alive like no other day!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Start up my broken repeating record player – you are an inspiration Lloyd!

    I hope my body and mind are able to tackle stuff like that when I'm your age!


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