Carolyn Campbell monitoring plovers

Our Stories

In the over 50 years since Point Reyes was officially designated a National Seashore, millions of visitors have been inspired and awed by its charm and wonders. Explore stories of what the Seashore means to some of its biggest fans and even share your own.

Carolyn Campbell, Snowy Plover Biological Technician

(pictured above)

Carolyn first came to Point Reyes as an intern in the elephant seal monitoring program in 2010. She had just finished graduate school and had never been to Point Reyes, but had heard wonderful things about the park. It was love at first sight! “My favorite part of the park is its variety of ecosystems and wildlife…in one day you can go from tide pools, forest, wetlands and see pinnipeds, elk, and birds," she says.

Today Carolyn monitors the Western snowy plover population, one of the threatened species that make their home in the park. Her seasonal position is funded by PRNSA and supervised by the park’s Natural Resources Division. Plovers have had a hard couple of years, but this year was successful with 21 nests between Kehoe Trail and the North Beach parking lot—triple the number from 2012. Eleven of the nests hatched, resulting in 30 chicks, half of which survived to fledge. These 15 fledges make 2013 the best fledge year since 2007. Carolyn attributes the success to extra docent efforts and additional fencing to keep people and dogs from entering the plovers’ breeding areas. The park hopes to continue these extra protection measures next year.

In her job Carolyn spends a lot of time outside in the park and she recommends the Chimney Rock trail to visitors. “I love seeing the bay on one side with the rolling bluffs and the ocean on the other with the dramatic cliffs.” Another favorite is a beach walk - standing at the base of the lighthouse cliffs and looking north up the long stretch of beach gives you a true sense of the scale of the landscape. She also recommends volunteering in the park, especially as a plover docent from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Carlos Porrata, PRNSA Volunteer and Peter Behr Circle Member

I first set foot in the Point Reyes National Seashore in 1977 and fell in love with the beauty of the area and the community within it. My first assignment as a State Park Ranger was here in Marin. I joined the ranger staff at Samuel P. Taylor State Park in 1978 and by 1980 my family and I had moved to Tomales Bay State Park, located within the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore.

 For the last 35 years my family and I have called the Point Reyes peninsula our home. It has been 10 years since I retired and have been able to wholeheartedly enjoy the Seashore on an even deeper level. Regularly hiking the trails, learning more about the natural world that surrounds me and using photography as a way of sharing the wonders of it, I hope that through that medium I can lead friends and others to appreciate it and value it as much as we do. We have always felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to settle here for good with the Point Reyes National Seashore surrounding us.

What I like the most about the Point Reyes National Seashore is not just what you see, but what you do not see. In this case, that includes thousands of private residences, hotels, condos and a planned four-lane highway as a gate to the Point Reyes peninsula. The Seashore would have not survived as it is today for many future generations to enjoy were it not for Legislation that created the National Seashore just before development was about to engulf it. The creation of PRNSA to head the running of the Field Institute, Visitor Center's bookstore, the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center, and general support for park research and other projects has made the visitor experience as wonderful as it could possibly be, here on the one and only National Seashore in the mainland's West Coast.

I continually struggle with trying to come up with what I could call my favorite trail in the Park since each one of them has their own special treats to offer. Also the natural cycles and the seasons draw you to different ones at different times throughout the year. But if you insist… I would have to admit that in general, I am partial to the area of Drakes Estero and the trails surrounding it.

Hope I run into many of you out on the trails soon.


Michael Ellis, Field Institute Instructor

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...the list goes on and on. You could spend a lifetime exploring this park.

Hmmm. I think I will.

Joan Hoffman, Field Institute Instructor

Joan Hoffman is an artist and teacher specializing in oil, watercolor and acrylic painting classes with emphasis on outdoor painting techniques such as en plein air painting classes. She also teaches traditional woodblock printing classes. One of her favorite places to teach is at the Point Reyes National Seashore through PRNSA’s Field Institute program.

Joan discovered Point Reyes in 2000 after moving to Petaluma. PRNSA’s Field Institute classes fascinated her and opened a special relationship with the park. “It is as wonderful today as it was when I walked into the PRNSA offices and found they offered art classes, birding and hiking adventures,” she says.

Joan loves the park’s wild landscape, hiking trail system and wildlife experiences. She also appreciates that the park is free, accessible and hosts a wide variety of opportunities. She remembers fondly the goodness she found here such as when winter wildlife docent volunteers at the Life Boat Station offered her class coffee while students read the history placards about the place, and when a ranger pointed out a baby gray whale near the lighthouse that she had not yet spotted.  She enjoys being a student as well, especially when attending weekend classes at the Clem Miller Education Center, which allow her to stay overnight in the park while learning something new. The incredible wildlife sightings are also top picks. “I enjoy the birds, including a peregrine falcon pair living at Chimney rock, resident seals surfing at Limantour Beach and abundance of shore birds, including Marbled Godwits, at Drakes Estero,” says Joan.

Joan feels most connected to Point Reyes when she is visiting the Life Boat Station, and her favorite trail is the Chimney Rock Trail because of the great wildlife viewing opportunities. Once, when she was driving to the trail she saw three Barn owls playing near the side of the road. She watched them for a long time because they paid her no attention. “I consistently see numerous seals lounging on the beach below the overlooks, or one hanging out at the Lifeboat Station greeting visitors, as well as the resident Great Horned owls by the Ranger’s house, California gulls, pelicans, and cormorants on the boat’s never a dull moment!” muses Joan.