Thoughts On Standing With The Elk

by Kittie Bernott


We drove out to Drake's Beach in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore last Friday. It was a beautiful day, and a treat to pause and reset in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Coastal fog drifting over rocky green pasture and California oak trees

Coastal fog drifting over rocky green pasture and California oak trees

We headed out in the morning, which was fun because I got to see the landscape in a different light palate. The drive alone is gorgeous (I spent entire days driving up and down Pt. Reyes after I turned 18). I hoped the entire way out that we would see Tule Elk; it had been years since my last sighting. Luckily they did not disappoint!

A large herd of Tule Elk cows, approx. 20-30 head, grazing on the bluff above Drake's Beach

A large herd of Tule Elk cows, approx. 20-30 head, grazing on the bluff above Drake's Beach

After many photos and much happiness, we drove down the hill to the shore. Drake's Beach remains relatively untouched compared to other Marin County beaches; it looks different every time, as the ocean changes its contours. This winter the beach is tall with sand, with an estuary stream running right down the middle to the sea. 

Water and sand form the most amazing patterns

Water and sand form the most amazing patterns

We walked up and down the beach as far as the elephant seals allowed. There were small groups sunning themselves on either end, and despite their docile appearance, they move fast and are defensive creatures. It was an utter delight to watch them (from a distance) in real time.

That is not a log!

That is not a log!

The water line was decorated with a collection of stones and shells. It was fun to pick them up and examine them, following their path toward the famous white cliffs that reminded early explorers of the White Cliffs of Dover. The seagulls were always a few meters ahead of us, warily engaging in flock activities.

We drove back to city limits, toward lunch with my parents, feeling deeply rested and refreshed by the hour-long interlude with nature. It felt like we hit an emotional reset button; for that hour, the only existence was sand and sea and sky.