I can’t imagine there’s more than a couple hot days a year at the Tomales Point Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore. Yesterday, we decided to go hiking on one of them. We also drove back down the coastline, stopping at Point Reyes National Seashore’s Limantour Beach, Bolinas Lagoon and, finally, the Marin Headlands for the sunset.

So if you’re going to be out huffing and puffing through the heat under cloudless skies, there are few better places than Tomales Point — especially at this time of year, when the elk herds on the peninsula are in the midst of the “rut,” an annual orgy of sex and combat. From July through November, and every bull elk worthy of his pointy antlers will be wanting to cozy up with as many elk babes as possible.

Problem is, elk society decrees that only one really big tough bull elk — whichever one’s agile enough to fight off challengers and still find time for a little nookie — gets a harem of elk babes to himself. A few secondary bulls get lucky, but many of the losers in these battles have to wait till the next rut, next fall.

Yesterday we saw two kinds of groups: bulls guarding their harems, and a collective of bachelors. Bulls with harems stayed farther from the trail, but the bachelors we saw seemed less preoccupied with people (and presumably more preoccupied with the sex they either will or won’t get, depending on the breaks) and more inclined to hang out within camera range.

Speaking of camera range, the digicam I picked up last spring has more zoom and megapixels than previous ones, so it allows considerably better close-up action. I was never more than 30 or 40 yards from the elk. You don’t want to get too close to these guys — those antlers have too many points of impalement.

So, the pictures:

Coastline, Tomales Point

The coastline, looking north toward Tomales Point. It’s worth the two-hour drive just to see this.

Top bull

A big bull elk, with some of his progeny. Looks like one half of his antlers has been worn smooth by combat.

Harem members

A couple of his wives. When the gals have mugs like that, it’s understandable that the guys are more preoccupied with other anatomical area codes.

Discovery Channel moment

See what I mean?

Tomales Point

Another look at Tomales Point. That blue, by the way, isn’t the color of the sea, it’s the reflection of the sky above — hence the bluer-than-usual appearance on a clear, cloudless day.

Bachelor collective

Here’s the bachelors’ quarters. All this lovely landscape set aside so large, smelly males can have a safe place to plot their attempts at amorous conquest — gotta love that.

At pond's edge

One of the guys near a watering hole. Somewhere in Africa, a crocodile is booking his flight.

Say cheese

Sometimes they’ll look right at you. They are kind of cute, especially when they aren’t charging.

Because they're guys...

Seeing as how they’re guys, there is of course lots of scratching going on.

Handsome gents

The guy on the left had the most impressive rack in the collective. Word has it he’s been insufferable ever since his audition for that Prudential ad didn’t pan out.

OK, enough large beasts. We hiked and gawked for a few hours, then headed back down the coast. We took a little detour to Limantour Beach, also part of Point Reyes National Seashore. This stretch of coast isn’t quite as wild, rocky and spectacular as the others, but it does get great waves.

Family at play

A family frolics in the waters as a large wave crashes.

Family dog

The family dog has a great time.

Melissa, waves

A wave crashes behind Melissa. We waded in a bit, but had no swimwear so our frolicking was a bit more restrained.

Small deer

Small deer near a waterway near the beach.

After we’d gotten a suitable amount of sand wedged between our toes and into our shoes, we headed back down the road. We stopped for a minute at Bolinas Lagoon outside Stinson Beach.

At Bolinas Lagoon

A bird with a very long bill hunts for bugs in the mud flats.

Last stop on the road trip was at the Marin Headlands to watch the sunset. This is my favorite spot in Northern California, which explains why so many of my road trips include stops here.

Marin Headlands

Late evening glow on the rock face, looking south toward the lighthouse.

Melissa enjoys the fading light

Melissa appreciates the fading light.

Sunset, Marin Headlands

One last look, then it’s off for home.

All this for less than the price of a tank of gas. A bargain if I do say so.