Point Reyes National Seashore: A Wild Paradise

An outdoorsman discovers his new "happy place": a calming stretch of flowers, berries, and the rocky Pacific Ocean

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Life has been a whirlwind lately, and things will only get faster in a few weeks when my book tour begins. I am getting headaches, something I don't normally suffer from, I got my first cold in more than two years, and, on especially fun occasions, my right eye has started twitching. Lunches on most days have been triple-decker stress sandwiches. Hold the mayo.

Last week on a particularly eye-twitchy morning, I decided I needed to escape from my computer and drive away. I needed to go to my Happy Place. And while fans of Happy Gilmore all know that a man's happy place does in fact involve women in a merrywidow carrying pitchers of beer, that's not what I was thinking of at that particular moment. No, I needed to see the ocean. I needed to smell salt.

All of us, not just foragers, anglers, and hunters, have our own Happy Place, and it's usually outside somewhere. It is a spot where we become children again, wide-eyed and wondering, eager to follow whatever zig-zag trail our whims lead us down. It is a place we know intimately, yet discover newness each time we visit. It's where we dream about being whenever we are down.

My true Happy Place is 3,000 miles to the East of where I sit. It is Block Island, part of the chain of islands that include the swankier Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard—which, for the record, is not in fact named after Martha Stewart, as one young person insisted to me the other day.

But as stressed as I was, I was not about to jump in my truck and drive 3,000 miles; road trips of that magnitude will come soon enough. Thankfully, I have a new Happy Place: Point Reyes National Seashore, on California's North Coast.

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The ocean is etched into who I am, at a cellular level. No matter how far from shore I find myself, I ache for it. I yearn for the chill caress of its fog, the throb of the surf—even the stink of low tide.

Point Reyes salves that ache. Even well inland, I can still feel its closeness, from the birds to the wind that tore through the hillsides I walked last week. The peninsula, an hour or so north of San Francisco and two hours from where I live, is more than just a pretty place. It is alive with Nature's bounty. Mushrooms in fall and winter, quail everywhere—although, like all game animals, they are protected on Point Reyes—and berries in summer. Spring? Spring is a crazy-quilt of flowers.

Wild iris are a commonplace, blue beacons dotting the countryside. Underfoot, carpets of wild violets blanket sheltered spaces.

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The violets are edible, the iris poisonous. These are plants I know well from the East. They are old friends. But as I walked, the peninsula revealed to me other sights I had not seen.

Presented by

Hank Shaw runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. More

A former line cook, veteran political reporter, and fisherman, Hank Shaw is a freelance food writer who runs the website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which chronicles Shaw's search for what he calls the Forgotten Feast: The seasonal foods--mostly wild--we once delighted in, but are now curiosities at best. Game, wild mushrooms, seafood, and wild plants all have a place in modern cooking, and Shaw spends his days exploring their possibilities on the plate.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook was nominated for Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in both 2009 and 2010 and by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2010. He is the author of the recently released Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. His work has appeared in magazines such as The Art of Eating, Field & Stream, and Gastronomica. He hunts, fishes, forages, and gardens in Northern California with his girlfriend--and photographer--Holly A. Heyser.

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