Pt Reyes National Seashore Anniversary

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 US taken by Robert Persig 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 then 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 Pt 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 had been continue to South America on my bike but once I found Marin, I knew I was finally home. And a major part of home has always been the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. For the last 35 years I have never lived farther 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 protected forever for all of us. It is the best place to see gray whales migrating, elephant seals birthing, tule elk bugling, snowy plovers nesting, working dairy ranches, regenerating Bishop pine forests, a 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.

Francis Drake



Francis Drake
By Michael Ellis

Francis Drake left Plymouth, England late in 1577 with 164 men and five vessels. By the time he returned three years later he had traveled 36,000 miles, he had one ship left and only 59 men. Drake had been very busy plundering the Spanish ships and settlements in the New World. The Spanish, in turn, had been robbing and plundering the natives of the Americas. Drake trebled the value of the Royal Treasury and was promptly knighted by Queen Elizabeth the First.
Drake had been operating as a privateer, undercover if you will, for England. Because blatant attacks on the Spanish would have been construed as acts of war had he been representing England officially. Drake moved north along the west coast raiding colonial outposts. He was searching for a right hand turn to head back to Great Britain. We now know you can’t sail east through Canada in the so-called Northwest Passage. In July 1579 he encountered severe weather and ice storms in Oregon and his ship badly damaged.
Drake then turned south and hauled into a protected bay to repair his ship. The local inhabitants came out to greet these white strangers. Admittedly there was a communication problem but Drake was pretty sure those Miwok Indians wanted to be governed by his Queen. So he christened the area Nova Albion or New England by affixing a brass plaque to a tree on the Pt Reyes peninsula and continued his westward journey.
The first stop was the Farallons to gather sea bird eggs and salt some sea lion meat. These sailors were probably the first humans to visit those islands. The locals referred to those isolated, distant rocks as the Islands of the Dead and never ventured out there. Drake continued his voyage back to England becoming the first sea captain to completely circumnavigate the world. Magellan gets the credit but he was killed in the Philippines – only his ship and crew made it back to Portugal.
Today Sir Francis Drake’s name remains all over the place in Marin County er make that New Albion. This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.


By Michael Ellis
As an educator I try to reduce the complicated to simple components and then build from that base of knowledge. Geology is a very complex subject and to make it a bit easier all one has to remember is there are only three kinds of rocks on our planet. Yes only three – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.
Igneous from the Latin “lgni” meaning fire. When you turn on your Ignition, you fire up your car. Basically any rocks created directly from the pools of hot magma – from the Earth’s mantle, which lies 5 to 70 miles below the surface – are igneous. Hot liquid rock that flows up in plumes but does NOT make it all the way up to the surface but cools at depth is called granite. This simple name drives geologists nuts because there actually are many different kinds of granite depending upon the parent material of the magma. Too bad.
However, if the magma manages to make it all the way up to the earth’s surface, it is then called volcanic rock. It can be the same exact magma but simply cools more quickly and at the surface. Now wait a minute you say. Granite is all over the Sierra and it is not buried at depth. True, but that rock originally formed far below and was later uplifted and is now exposed to view.
Sedimentary rocks are formed from -duh -sediment. Sediment that is derived from rocks that are weathered eroded and deposited. This cemented together material can vary in composition from small boulders to very fine silt. Sandstone, shale, siltstone, and conglomerate are some common sedimentary rocks. Biological action can also result in sedimentary rocks. Seashells of trillions of ancient marine invertebrates create huge layered beds of calcium carbonate known as limestone. And coal is the accumulation of organic matter, mainly trees, from 300 million years ago. .
The final type is metamorphic – literally to change shape. This change is brought about by tremendous heat and pressure driven by the Earth’s constant tectonic activity, as surface rocks are recycled back into the mantle. The parent material can be igneous, sedimentary or even older metamorphic rock. Sandstone under heat and pressure becomes quartzite. Limestone becomes marble.
See how simple that is? This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.


I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for over 30 years and there are only three things that I miss from my birthplace in the Southern US – dramatic electrical storms, warm humid summer nights and last, but not least, fireflies. But last weekend I got a real good dose of our local offering of bioluminescence – dinoflagellates. Dino what?
On Saturday evening I went kayaking in Tomales Bay in west Marin. It was perfect – the temperature mild, the wind light, and the tides just right. We paddled west toward the setting sun; western gulls and double crested cormorants flew from all directions into their tree roosts on Hog Island. As darkness descended and the stars appeared, we began to see it. Shimmering lights as our paddles stroked the water- thousands of bioluminescent organisms glowing in the disturbed sea. WOW!
Bioluminescence is simply the creation of light by living organisms. The basic chemical reaction involves a compound called luciferin, an enzyme called lucerifase and the addition of that great fiery compound common on our planet–oxygen. When this chemical reaction occurs, light is emitted without the accompaniment of heat–a rare event in nature.
We were watching dinoflagellates called Noctiluca, which literally means “night light.” These one-celled organisms have nearly a worldwide distribution but are more common in warm tropical waters. In Tomales Bay they begin blooming when the sea warms up a bit in late summer and early fall.
So why do they light up like that? They don’t even have eyes, so have no idea how cool they look. Well there are some predaceous crustaceans called copepods that just love to eat Noctiluca. Fish that feed on these copepods are attracted by the light emitted by the disturbed dinoflagellates and then head on over and eat the dinoflagellates major predator. Bioluminescence at work!

I hope I have shed some light on that subject –har har.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Rock Bottom


Rock Bottom

By Michael Ellis

For the past 18 months, I have been struggling with a loss. It really doesn’t matter the nature of my loss. All of us suffer them, sooner or later, big and small. It might be a job loss, a severe illness, a death of a loved one, a divorce, depression, loss of a pet, maybe even the passage of your children to college. Change is the nature of things. But it often takes us by surprise, our assumptions are shattered and suddenly we are broken and raw and on our knees.

I have been struggling to take this “brokenness” and connect to that place of certain wisdom that dwells in all of us. You may call this spirit. But it had been a labor, until life delivered another unexpected change. This time it was a way up..

At a party I accidentally combined two different prescription drugs I was taking for anxiety. While driving a friend back to San Francisco I began to feel vertigo, dizziness, light-headedness, confusion. Fortunately a major traffic jam on the Bay Bridge had brought cars to a complete standstill. I told my friend “you have to drive” and got out of the car to change seats.

The next thing I remember is looking up into a circle of faces around me, staring down with concern and compassion. And I actually said, “wow angels”. I had fainted in the left lane of the Bay Bridge. You could say I’d hit rock bottom, and there were my fellow humans — all strangers — coming to my rescue. I felt loved and safe in that moment. I recovered quickly but I also understood my life had to change in a simple but important way.

The support I needed would not come from medication but from the angels that surround us everyday. I needed to reach out to friends and family in an honest, vulnerable way and say, “I am hurting and need your help”. This was contrary to my entire pattern of doing everything for myself, but what a difference it’s made. I feel more deeply connected now to everyone that I encounter.

Since that rock bottom moment on the Bay Bridge, now everything — literally and figuratively — is looking up.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective