January 7, 2013 by Deborah W. Trotter
The word lagoon invites the imagination to conjure visions of clear blue water, abundant wildlife, gentle lapping waves, sandy beaches, peacefulness. I suppose it could also make you think of pirate ships and their cargo, but you won’t find any of those at Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore.
What you will find if you visit this northern California coastal lagoon is an easy mile and a half trail that takes you from a parking lot off of Pierce Point Road past a freshwater pond to the brackish Abbotts Lagoon,
and from there to the beach at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way you will be reminded by the nearby cattle of the mixed use status of the Point Reyes area,
and you will see many birds and wildflowers, while being drawn on by the sound of the surf and the smell of the sea in the air.
The last time we were there was on a gorgeous spring day ten years ago this year, Mother’s Day to be exact. The beach was deserted except for birds playing freeze tag with the waves, and salty curiosities deposited on the sand by the tide. The air was clean, the onshore breeze stiff, the sun bright, the afternoon a gift from nature. A beautiful day to remember.
But Abbotts Lagoon and the beach beyond are accessible all year round, not just in springtime. In fact, according to the Park Service website, the area is one of the best winter birding sites in the Park.
A multitude of shorebirds and waterfowl, hawks and osprey are commonly seen. If your timing is fortuitous, you might even see a golden eagle or peregrine falcon. And no matter how many birds you see, the feeling you get while standing at the edge of the continent with nothing but the vast waters of the Pacific between you and Asia to the west is worth the hike.
So check out the trail to Abbotts Lagoon and the seashore. Just remember the wise advice of folks who know the ocean way better than I do: never turn your back on the waves. They are more powerful than you might imagine, not always predictable, and it’s better to stay safe than to find yourself helpless in the chilly ocean.