A few days after our return home from Point Arena and Fort Ross, my son and I decided to return to Bodega Bay. We weren’t able to see the light above the harbor entrance and thought that taking a drive back during the week would be the best way to see the light. We also decided to take a trip to Fort Baker.
Fort Baker is one of the best kept secrets in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is an old military Fort and gun battery on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. When the Presidio was decommissioned, the fort was converted to a national park. The officers’ quarters and many of the buildings were then leased to a hotel group who turned them into a luxury hotel and restaurant. Other buildings are used as an incredible children’s museum, a spa, a yacht club and a US Coast Guard Station. The rest of the grounds contain military fortifications, some of which date back to the Civil War.
During our drive to Bodega Bay went through a series of roads winding through rolling green hills and farmland. When we arrived, we drove through the small town and made our way to the state park at the point. The park is set on a small mountain and some coastal land and the drive up is short and beautiful. At no point were we out of sight of the ocean or the harbor.
At the end of the road is a large dirt parking lot with a bathroom. Next to the bathroom is a trail that runs in a loop around the top of the mountain. If you decide to make this journey, you should give yourself about an hour for the walk. It is not long but the views are spectacular and not to be missed. Our goal for this part of the trip was to find the Post Light that marked the harbor. The trail runs for about a half mile before we reached our destination.
The light itself stands about 20 feet high and is marketed by a navigation symbol. There is a small side trail that we had to take to get there.
When we arrived, we spent about 10 minutes admiring the light and about 20 mesmerized by the view. We saw seals and whales off in the distance and across the water, we could just make out Point Reyes. Point Reyes is another lighthouse that we have visited several times. It was closed at the beginning of the pandemic and there has been no solid plan to re-open it.
After admiring the view, we continued along the path as it wrapped around the rest of the mountain top which was very green and dotted with trails. Because of the view, there were a lot of hikers who had paused there.
After about 10 minutes, we continued onward to complete the trail and make it back to our car.
My son and I had driven through Bodega Bay before but did not take the time to enjoy this view. It really was the best part of the town and I would recommend it to anyone.
After Bodega Bay, we started the 45-mile drive to Fort Baker. Driving to Fort Baker can be a bit confusing. To get there, one has to take the first turn off before getting onto the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. After that, there are a series of winding roads and switch backs supported by NOT ENOUGH road signs to get there.
My favorite part of the drive is the last quarter of a mile of roads as you wind down into the valley that holds the fort. You are rewarded by an amazing view of the buildings and the bay on the way down.
For this visit, we planned on getting lunch at the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately for us, a reservation was needed (days ago) but they did allow take out. My son ordered a chicken sandwich, and I had a burger. I know that the food sounds a bit mundane, but this is one of the best restaurants in the Bay Area and as comfort food goes, they will never disappoint. We had our lunch in our SUV, enjoying the view of the buildings and the surrounding woods. I then drove us down to the boat docks and easily found a space.
From there, we had a hike up to the lower point (the area below the main gun battery). This is an outcropping of rock that affords an amazing view of the city, Alcatraz Island and the Angel Island.
My son pointed me to Angel Island and asked me to take three photos. The first was Point Bunt which is part of US Coast Guard site on the part of Angel Island that is closest to the Bay Bridge.
The second is Point Knox. This started its life as a small, one story lighthouse but was later expanded into a two-story structure. It now houses a fog bell.
The final picture was of Point Stuart. This light station sits on a rock face midway down a cliff.
Taking these pictures was a bit of an experiment for us. I have recently purchased a new camera (Nikon z7ii). As I was only using a 300mm lens, we knew that the pictures would have to be enlarged. One of the many features of the Nikon z7ii is that it supports 45.7 MP. This allows us to blow up images although I had my doubts given the range. I have included the original image and the enlarged images so you can see what we could make out.
I was somewhat happy with the blown-up image but as you could probably see, there is no substitute for a really power telephoto lens. Nikon will release a 200-600mm lens later this year and I am hoping to return to the same site.
After snapping some pictures under very windy conditions, we made our way up a set of stairs to the gun battery (Battery Yates). Battery Yates provided the Army with an excellent vantage point to pound enemy ships into oblivion should they venture into the bay. Like many coastal fortifications however, they never found a use in battle, only as a deterrent.
We stayed by Battery Yates for 20 minutes to enjoy more views of the bay before pushing on to our final objective, the light at the on top of Yellow Bluff. This is a US Coast Guard aid to navigation and is known to be very difficult to spot. To get there, we followed Center Road by foot, past the first bend. On the bay side of the road, there is a small parking lot and a thick group of trees. If you continue walking slowly on the road from the parking lot, there is a small gap in the trees where you can see the light.
This was a very similar find to the one we saw in Bodega Bay, but it was exciting, nonetheless. It was the final destination in our journey. Afterwards, we walked back to the car and drove the 35 miles home. This entire trip took about 5 hours and was more about having a day out then about what we would see. It was a great day for both of us.
Hopefully you have been able to leave your homes a bit during the pandemic and enjoy some scenery. I hope to hear about what you have seen.