Monday, July 31, 2017

Point Reyes and Drake's Bay

It is 308 steps down to the
lighthouse, and 308 back up!
One of our recent day trips was to Point Reyes National Seashore which is about an hour's drive north of San Francisco. We had never been to this area before and were not disappointed with the beautiful views there. Even though it was a weekday, there were plenty of people visiting. There is a nice visitor center there, but really, the star of the show here is nature. Plenty of walking and very little in the way of services. The highlight of the visit is a walk down hundreds of steps to the lighthouse. Unfortunately you have to walk back up!

So what does this trip have to do with history? Well, it's not about the lighthouse, although I do love them. If you look at a map of Point Reyes (Google Maps will do), you will see that the point wraps around a body of water named "Drakes Bay." Remember the story of Sir Francis Drake from elementary school? From 1577 to 1580, Drake and his ship, the Golden Hind, sailed into the Pacific to raid Spanish shipping, with the full
Waysides at the visitor center tell the
story of Drake's stay in California.
consent of Queen Elizabeth I. On June 17, 1579, Drake sailed into this bay on the northern California coast to make repairs to his ship before continuing across the Pacific ocean and eventually home. Drake and his men stayed for thirty-six days and by all available sources had pretty good relations with the local Miwok. Oh, yes, and he claimed the land for England. A brass plate that is believed to be made by the crew was later found in Marin County, along with other archaeological evidence to support journals kept by members of the crew.

The cliffs along this bay supposedly
reminded the English sailors of home.
On the day we visited, the only beach goers on this fairly remote beach was a number of elephant seals. So as not to disturb them, the humans didn't mingle. Regardless, it was a bit of a thrill for me to come to this place. First, there are very few places where you can go in California to see what the area might have looked like when Europeans first arrived. The remoteness of this seashore makes it one of the few. Also, Drake claimed this area for England nearly two hundred years before the Spanish would found a settlement on land that would become California and forty years before the English started colonies on the east coast.
The only visitors to the beach on the day
we visited were some elephant seals.
This makes Drake the first European to claim lands that would become any part of the United States.

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