Over 500 miles of trails

Someone said that there are over 500 miles of trails in Marin County. I'm going to hike all of them. Want to hear more? Read on...

Location: Woodacre, California, United States

Well, I hike, obviously. I read, without retaining, lots of stuff but mostly classic and contemporary fiction, history, and science. I look at birds and plants. I play my guitar far less than I ought, and watch movies far more. I like to ask people questions, but only if they ask me questions in return. I aspire to honorable behavior and am mostly successful. I'm on the cusp of a career change, with bird research in my past/present and academic librarianship in my future. Occasionally I bust out and cook six course gourmet meals for my friends; for some reason it's always six and never seven or five. Enough about me. What about you? Stranger or friend, drop me a line!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sunday, November 27, we went on another hike, this time just Victor and I because according to my hiking book dogs were prohibited on this trail, though I think they were actually allowed on leash. The hike was 9.2 miles, nearly to the top of the East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais. We started at Lake Lagunitas ($7 fee to get in! Can you imagine?), hiked up the Eldridge Grade out to Ridgecrest Drive, which is the auto route to the summit. We had the option of walking next to the road the rest of the way to the summit, a paltry .2 miles or so, but were repulsed by the amount of auto traffic so decided to leave that for another day. We took the Middle Peak Fire Road across to (surprise) the middle peak of Mt. Tam, then Lakeville Trail to Collier Springs Trail (a narrow and steep descent) to the Lower Northside Trail to Lagunitas Fire Road back down to the lake.

The best part was the hike up Eldridge Grade. It was switchbacked, thus the ascent was never insanely steep, and there were great views of the Bay all the way up the hill. Towards the top you could see the Richmond, Bay, and Golden Gate Bridges simultaneously (admittedly you could only see the very top of one of the towers of the Golden Gate. But still...) It was necessary to dodge the occasional mountain biker hurtling downhill, but the bike traffic was surprisingly light for a weekend.

Victor really got me. I have to admit I got a little verklempt. It was while we were hiking down the Collier Springs trail. He said, "Thank you for starting this project, Kelly." And I said, "You're welcome. Why?" And he said, "Because this is what I always loved to do, and I've gotten away from it in the last few years, and now I'm remembering all the things I loved about just being out in the woods." Of course, he's the one that got me going on this project in the first place. He's a good one, that Victor is. And there's my sappy, lovey-dovey anecdote to counterbalance the conflict in my previous post.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

This will be a little more personal, because Victor and I had a fight on this hike. We went to the Gary Giacomini Open Space Parcel this past Sunday, walked up Bates Canyon Trail to Conifer Fire Road to San Geronimo Ridge Fire Road to Deer Camp FR to Sylvestris. Then walked back along San Geronimo Valley Ave for about .5 miles back to our car. 5.4 miles all told. Arty roamed free for most of the hike, except of course for the part along the road.

We didn't see much wildlife. It was windy. There's an awesome view from the top of Green Hill over to Kent Lake, which I didn't even know was there before this hike. There were a shit-ton of mountain bikers, which leads us to our argument. We were passed by one posse of mountain bikers, maybe 10 or so, all men except for one woman. They rode fast down a hill, then overtook us on an uphill, riding their momentum to get to the top. It was pretty cool, cause they were all working hard, and it was good to see that. Victor made a comment about the woman, and it wasn't in admiration of her athleticism. It was a sexual reference, which annoyed me because why does this have anything to do with sex in the first place? And he thinks I'm taking it way too seriously cause it was just a joke. But he makes these sorts of comments about lone women, or women in an activity traditionally dominated by men, frequently. It bugs me. They don't need to be glorified: they're just doing what they're doing. But what they're doing has nothing to do with sex... they are just minding their own business doing what they enjoy, or what they need to do, so why even bring it up? Why are women so sexualized that their mere presence elicits these sorts of comments?

So then we got into why we had been arguing a lot lately, and didn't come to any satisfactory conclusions. It was just one of those things. We're not arguing as much this week, which is fine by me. It was my birthday yesterday, and we actually had a bang-up time, going out to dinner and then hanging out with some friends afterward.

This weekend we're going on a longer hike. I'll let you know how it goes.


Monday, November 21, 2005

And then on Wednesday I went on a hike after work; I guess that would have been November 16. Pretty much the best part of my job is that I only have to do it 30 hours a week. As a result I get a free afternoon each week and I get Fridays off. So last Wednesday I went after work to the Bear Valley trailhead, Point Reyes National Seashore.

Here's the hike: Bear Valley trail to Meadow trail, .8 miles. Up the Meadow trail, steep in parts, to the Wittenberg trail. Take that up to Mount Wittenberg, 2.9 miles, 1407 feet. The top of Mt Wittenberg is overgrown with young pines... it's actually better, view-wise, lower down the trail. You can see the ocean, of course, and the spit of land that the Point Reyes Lighthouse is on. Then you take the Z Ranch trail to the Horse trail, back down past the Miwok Village (always makes me think of Return of the Jedi) to the trailhead again. 6.1 miles total.

I was thinking about a couple of things on the hike. I saw a fallow deer, a buck, with a huge palmate rack. It was fearless. These are the white deer (though some are black or mottled) that are locally famous round Point Reyes. Controversy surrounds the fallow deer... they are introduced from Europe, where they were the king's deer that Robin Hood poached from Sherwood Forest, and apparently are munching on endangered plants in the region. People write heated letters to the local papers, espousing these three main viewpoints:
"The fallow deer don't belong here and are threatening native plants and animals. They should be eradicated"
"The fallow deer are part of the heritage of this region and are innocent animals that don't deserve to be destroyed."
"The white deer cries in my dream//Dance, o spirit brother!!//I dance with my brother deer."
Compelling arguments, all. Since I've not even been here a year, I feel no call to get involved with this debate.

I also got a really good look at a varied thrush, common in that type of habitat but not always really visible.

I thought about Thanksgiving dinner too. Me and Victor and Arty. Here's the menu, straight out of the November issue of Bon Appetit: Cheddar puffs and champagne cocktails for starters, turkey, gravy, cornbread, ham, and chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes with leeks and mascarpone, maple syrup glazed sweet potatoes, squash casserole with cheesy bread crumb crust, green beans and mushrooms. Dessert is pumpkin cheese cake with bourbon pecan sauce.

And then I thought about how all male biology grad students are the same. Fleece wearing, mountain biking, microbrew swilling goddamn liberals. I still like you, but you're all the same. Same, same, same.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hello. This is a chronicle of a journey, or several small journeys, however you choose to look at it. The project is to hike all the trails in Marin County. The goal is to become expert in something; to complete something; it almost doesn't matter what. I'm going to hike, but I'm also going to look and think. And to write about it, because this way I formalize it and guard against cheating. And I'll tell you about what I think about and what I learn, cause someone else has already written a trail guide to this place.

So apparently there are over 500 miles of trails in Marin County; this according to a book I have titled something like _Best Hikes in Marin County_ (it's a good book and I'll cite it properly soon). There are clearly over 500 miles of trails. There might be a lot more than 500 miles of trails. We've got the 33 separate Open Space parcels, each with their own little networks; there's Point Reyes National Seashore, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Mount Tamalpais State Park, and, I'm sure, more. I've only been in the area for 8 months. There's a lot I don't know.

I've done three hikes so far... that's 15 miles down. Over 485 to go. The first was Deer Island Loop at the Deer Island Open Space parcel. This was back on November 13, last Sunday. It's tucked away in a little semi rural area, like a lot of other open space parcels, and seems to mostly be used by folks out to walk their dogs. 3.1 miles. Bordered by county flood control lands; good waterfowl habitat and lots of raptors. It's cute, and pleasant, and we (being myself, Victor, and Arty the dog) found this lone tree with mysterious large nut-like fruits on it. By the time I've hiked all the trails in Marin County I'll probably know what it is, cause I'll be an expert. Right? The thing with Deer Island, is that you don't so much get away from it all there. You hear traffic noise the whole time, and you can see 101 and 37 for a good chunk of the hike. But it's easy, which was good cause Victor and I were both getting over being sick. Arty roamed free, mostly, like the other dogs we encountered: not legal according to Marin County Open Space regulations, but apparently not enforced. Dogs are supposed to be leashed on trails. On fire roads they may go leashless if under voice command.

I'm going to get some maps, and put them up on my wall in the living room, and higlight the trails I've been on. That will be satisfying, to see the map slowly turn yellow.

I'll tell about my next two hikes soon. I just want to get this up. If you're there, thanks for reading and welcome.