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November 5, 1862: Tomales Point

November 5, 2012
Tomales Bay Pre-Dawn 2

Tomales Bay before dawn; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[This] morning we were off early, went to Tomales Bay, and crossed to Tomales Point. The bay is a long narrow arm of the sea that runs up into the hills, surrounded by picturesque characteristic Californian scenery. The bay is pretty, and the number of waterfowl surpassed belief—gulls, ducks, pelicans, etc., in myriads.

We were set across in a small boat, after getting some bread and meat for a lunch, which we carried along. The point is a long ridge which rises to the south, where it forms mountains, cut by deep canyons, and covered with an almost impenetrable chaparral. We footed it up south all the afternoon. The whole of this point, as well as Punta de los Reyes, is one ranch. There are a few houses on it—dairy farms, which are rented—for the chaparral peaks are only a small part of the whole, the rest is mostly fine pasturage.

Pierce Point Ranch 02

Pierce Point Ranch, Tomales Point; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Here let me give you a morsel of California ranch-land history. A Spanish grant had covered two leagues (less than nine thousand acres) which was confirmed by the United States. Although the grant was for but two leagues, mention was made of certain privileges on the sobrante or “outside lands.” Well, the lawyers (those curses of Californian agriculture), after getting the grant of 8,800 acres, then went to work and got all the rest, the sobrante, of the entire point, amounting to over forty-eight thousand acres additional, and now hold it! Before this last was confirmed to them, squatters had settled on various parts of it, especially along the bay, near its upper end. They were ejected, and the houses are now unoccupied.

Pierce Point Ranch 01

Pierce Point Ranch, Tomales Point; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

This we did not know at the time. We attempted to get to a certain ranch, which at 4 P.M. was three miles distant. We got on a wrong trail in the woods and chaparral, which at night brought us down to the bay, about six miles from the head. All this part is skirted by high hills, which come down to the water, covered with an almost impassable chaparral and furrowed by steep ravines.

We came to a cabin—it was deserted and locked up. We started up along the shore—were in decidedly a bad fix. It got dark; we could not get back, for we had come over bad places we could not pass in the night. We knew not how far we could get on, but resolved to go as far as we could, for we could not camp. The tide was down, and when it rose it would cover the whole available space to the bluff. Sometimes in the soft, black, treacherous mud and water, sometimes on the sand, we pushed on. At last we struck the mouth of a canyon, saw a light in it, and found three men, woodchoppers, who had just come there, and had got into a deserted cabin. They gave us some cold potatoes and cold meat, all they had to eat, and we slept on the floor. A miserable night, but better than to have been out, for a heavy fog rolled in from the sea, and then it rained violently.

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