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, May 29, 2006

In addition to lobotomizing my yellow shirt yesterday, I went hiking. Arty and I went on a hike that I've been eyeing for a long time. I've been eyeing it for so long that it became a bit of a bete noir in my mind, you know how you build things up over time? And then they aren't nearly as big a deal as you thought they would be. Don and Kay Martin of _Hiking Marin_ describe it as 'strenuous but spectacular'. The elevation gain is around 2100', not all at one go but rather dispersed throughout the hike, as the trails traverse several ridges with only a slight attempt to follow contour lines. So I thought I was in for a killer, but actually it wasn't really that bad. The distance was around 8.5 miles, all told... hard to say exactly since there are a couple of inconsistencies in distances in the book and the map.

The hike is a lollipop: a loop with a trail coming off it to from/to the trailhead. The crowning glory and most challenging section of the hike was the stick of the lollipop, the Cataract Trail, which starts near Alpine Dam on the Bolinas-Fairfax road. Cataract Trail follows the shores of Alpine Lake for a brief spell, then climbs the steep drainage of Cataract Creek, which cascades down a rocky gully with many smallish drops and a couple of falls around 30' or so. So all the way up the trail, pleasing waterfalls distract you from your toil and offer ample opportunity to stop and admire/catch your breath.

Cataract Trail is joined by the Helen Markt trail (the return route on the loop) at around .6 miles, and continues along the drainage of the creek, levelling out a bit. I encountered more fledgling winter wrens (here's an adult winter wren- they're generally darker in redwood forests, probably because they get less sun) on this section of trail; one landed right between my feet. I admired it for a second or two before realizing that, if it caught Arty's attention, it would be a goner for sure. So I moved onward, climbing toward Laurel Dell, a picnic area at 1640' near Ridgecrest Boulevard, the auto route up Mt. Tam.

Short jaunts on the Laurel Dell fire road and Bare Knoll trail (which is a slightly more roundabout but worthwhile route because of its views out toward the ocean) joined me up again with the High Marsh trail. The High Marsh trail traverses some of those ridges I was talking about earlier, so there was a lot of up and down. We passed what I guessed to be the high marsh, a murky mudhole that Arty nonetheless took the opportunity to immerse himself in, and shortly thereafter took the Kent Trail steeply down through a classic redwood forest to the junction with the Helen Markt trail.

I spied not one, but two, women peeing at this trail junction. They were hiking with a group of around 8 folks and had ducked around the corner from their group to take a piss on opposite sides of the same bush. 'Peeing on opposite sides of the same bush'-- that sounds like a euphemism for something. At any rate, I grabbed Arty's collar and ducked back around the corner before either saw me and waited for a tactful interval before proceeding. I wonder how many of my outdoor urination 'near-misses' were not, in fact, misses at all?

I'm sure Helen Markt is/was a very nice person, but her trail has some significant ups and downs that weren't entirely welcome 7 miles into the hike. There's a brief view of Alpine Lake near the junction, but after that it's obscured by the forest. This was probably the least interesting part of the hike, but doing the loop as a whole was well worth this section.

As Arty and I neared the trailhead he decided to take a plunge in the lake, which (despite rules against it- public water supply and all) I was glad of since he had rolled in something foul further up the trail (even better; rinsing off carrion in the public water supply! Not that deer, squirrels, etc don't die in streams that feed the reservoir all the time). Arty's not much of a swimmer, nor is he much of a stick man, but for some reason a post sticking out of the lake about 30 feet off-shore caught his fancy. He swam out to it and gnawed on it briefly before realizing it was attached to the bottom of the lake. He gave up and swam back. A small anecdote, but significant in Arty's biography as it's probably the furthest he's ever swam.

Drove home sticky, sweaty, dehydrated (2 liters wasn't quite enough) with Arty carrion on my hands, only to discover that the water at my house was shut off. My landpeople were working on a home improvement project only to discover vines eating the water pipe that services both their house and mine. Distressing. It was back on by that evening, though.


Blogger AphotoAday said...

Hi Kelly,
Yup, that's a beautiful trail, alright... But it's a killer, in my book... Instead of Cataract Canyon, I always call it Cardiac Canyon...
And I'm going to have to try to forget about those two ladies and the one bush, but that sure does conjure up some sort of image...
Love reading about Arty... Dogs can be such good companions...
And by the way, Kelly, have you caught wind of my new Dixon Trail area photos yet? They're rather nice, if I do say so myself...
Best regards, Don and Kitty

2:48 AM  

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