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!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hey, guess what? That last post that I just posted, just the other day, was my 30th post. Of course, my friend tjic easily posts 30x per week, but his posts are a lot shorter, usually (though his blogging achievements are in fact prodigious...let's not mince words). But I have to hike every time I post, so that should count for something (though I've got a few posts that don't actually have any hikes in them, so 1 post <> 1 hike). I feel like I'm making some progress on this project, which is a good feeling.

So this seems to be a good time to do some descriptive statistics. Including the hike that I'm about to blog, I've done 28 hikes so far for this project. Average hike length is 7.375 miles, and I've hiked a total of 206.5 miles. If there are indeed 500 miles of trails in Marin, I'm about 40% of the way there. But, this doesn't take into account the fact that I've done some out-and-back hikes, so every mile I've hiked hasn't been a new mile. Combining that fact with just eyeballing my maps to see how much ground I've covered, I'd say that I'm more like 30% of the way there. I've been working on this project since last November, so 10 months. At this rate I should be finished in another 24 months. Since I graduate from my library program in 21 months, and since Victor and I don't plan on sticking around for very long after that, I shall have to pick up the pace a wee bit, but my average hike length is getting longer (average hike length for 1st 14 hikes = 6.08 mi., for last 14 hikes = 8.67 mi., 7.83 mi. without the 19.6 mile hike outlier), so that will probably help out.

Enough with the facts and figures. That is not what you came here for.

Last Sunday (7/30/06) I hiked up to the top of Mt. Tam, which is the highest point in Marin County at a towering 2,571'. I started at the parking area across from the Mountain Home Inn, which I arrived at before 9am, as per the instructions in _Hiking Marin_, and found to be nearly deserted (bonus). Fog still lay over the peak and crept in tendrils down the various drainages, but it cleared up within an hour. I started up Hogback Fire Road. The Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station is right there, and they were testing their equipment. As I hiked up the ridge, I was serenaded by 'Woot-woot!' and 'WAAAAUUUUGGGH', and by loudspeaker messages, 'PULL TO YOUR RIGHT. TO YOUR RIGHT.' I hopped onto the Matt Davis trail, which after .7 miles or so intersected the Nora Trail, which climbed to the West Point Inn, where I stopped for an early-hike snack at the picnic tables out front. The inn is apparently historic and yadda yadda blah blah blah. Took the Rock Springs trail over to the Mountain Theatre, where they just finished up with the 2006 run of their summer play. They did _Fiddler on the Roof_. Next year they're doing _Hair_. The outdoor theatre is a steep semicircle of (rather uncomfortable looking) stone steps for the audience to sit on... I guess folks bring cushions and such. It's steep enough so that it looks like everyone would get a pretty good view of the stage below, as well as a lovely view of the Bay and such beyond. From here I crossed Ridgecrest Blvd and hiked up the Lagunitas-Rock Spring Fire Rd to Rifle Camp. The Fire Road continues past Rifle Camp all the way back down to Lake Lagunitas, and it's pretty much the only trail I have left to hike in that area south of the Lagunitas-Bon Tempe Lake region. Here's a map so you know what I'm talking about... the area I'm referring to is in the lower right quadrant of the map.

So from Rifle Camp I joined up with the Northside trail, which contours along about 300-500' below the West and Middle Peaks of Mt. Tam, and took that clear across to the Eldridge Grade, right below the East Peak of Mt. Tam, which is the highest one. I plopped down in the shade for a snack, and as I was eating a man came up another trail and was settling in to take a break right across the trail from me, completely oblivious to my presence. 'Hello,' I said, and then noticed that he had earphones on, and so didn't hear me. Right at that moment, he looked up, noticed me about 8 feet away from him, and may have shat his pants right then and there. This has happened to me many times before. If people can't see a whole damn hiker within spitting distance, I wonder how many birds, mammals, and cool plants they're missing along the way? I think a lot of folks that I encounter along the trails are out for exercise rather than 'nature study', which may also explain the seeming preponderance of mountain bikers over hikers. I'm happy to get the exercise, too, but there's a reason why I'm hiking rather than using a treadmill, and that's to see things. But I guess there's also a reason why I'm a biologist rather than an investment banker, and I suppose I must make allowances for the fact that others have different interests than myself. It's not their fault their interests are lame.

Continuing on the obliviousness theme, as I climbed Eldridge Grade toward the top (mind you this is a very busy trail, with *lots* of bikers and hikers) I came upon a man getting ready to unzip and pee, right on the trail, not even a modest 10 feet into the trees or anything. I whistled to let him know that I was coming up so that he could wait till I went by, but apparently he didn't hear me. He whipped it out, and as I was stopping and turning around to examine the scenery in the *other* direction, his wife spotted me and cried out, "There's someone there!" But he continued peeing anyway... I guess it's hard to stop once you start, and judging by the duration he had to go pretty badly. I loitered around, eyes averted, a modest distance away until I deemed it safe, then continued up the trail. As I passed the couple, I said, 'Don't worry. I didn't see anything but stream.' which the woman was amused by, but which the guy didn't seem to appreciate very much. He couldn't even look at me as he went by. Oh well.

Eldridge Grade comes out on Ridgecrest Blvd. right below the parking area for the peak, so it's necessary to walk next to Ridgecrest to get up to the peak area. The peak itself is attainable from the parking area via a .3mile, decently steep trail. This trail ramifies into a half dozen or so little trails climbing all around the peak. You can see pretty much everything from the top. It wasn't a particularly clear day but I could see all the way across to East Bay, north to Petaluma, west to the ocean. The Golden Gate Bridge was partially obscured by the Marin Headlands, but you could just see one of the towers peaking over the tops of the hills.

Took the Verna Dunshee trail, which circumnavigates the peak about 150' below the top, to the Temelpa trail, which switchbacks steeply down the east side of the mountain, to the Vic Haun trail to the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo trail. This route back to the Mountain Home Inn was probably only around 3 miles down, as opposed to the 9 miles or so I took to climb up to the top. As you can imagine, it was a bit hard on the knees. I was feeling beat up by the time I got back to the truck.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Arty, Arty. I love my dog. There, I've said it. Arty came with me on a short hike last Saturday, his first since his paw injuries of a couple of weeks ago. It was good to have his company on the trail again. It wasn't a hot day, but it was sunny, and I was continually feeling the trail to experience what he was experiencing. The trail was pretty cool, and the air temperature was perhaps only 75 degrees or so, but Arty nonetheless seemed uncomfortably hot on this hike. His paws were fine, but he bopped from shady spot to shady spot along the trail, and was in extreme panting mode, you know, when the dog's eyes are nearly shut because the tongue is out so far? I guess it was just the black dog on a midday hike syndrome. He seemed to enjoy himself, though I on the other hand was pretty much wholly preoccupied with observing his condition throughout the hike. I still had a good time too, though.

We hiked at the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve, just 5-10 minute drive from my house. There are a couple of access points; one is right on Sir Francis Drake, but the one that seemed preferable to me was up Glen Drive near White Hill School... the access trail seems nicer, and you can park in the shade. We hiked up the Smith Ridge Fire Road to the edge of the Open Space Land... a decent climb through open oak woodland with some nice local views of Mt. Tam et al. The trail continues on private land on an easement all the way over to Lucas Valley Road, then crosses Lucas Valley Road, skirts Skywalker Ranch(George Lucas' place, for the out-of-staters) and hooks into the Loma Vista Open Space preserve all the way up by Novato. I'm pretty excited to do a shuttle hike, or just get dropped off at one end and picked up at the other, to hike this trail... it feels like you traverse a fair bit of Marin County in doing so, though it's probably only 10 - 12 miles or so. It's a project for this fall. Anyway, we backtracked to Gunshot Fire Road, and took a breather under a big spreading oak. I poured water on Arty's back and neck and waited for his temperature to go down, as we had just completed a particularly sunny stretch. Fortunately the rest of the hike had more shady spots. We continued down Gunshot Fire Road into a canyon-y, oaky area and came out on Pipeline Road. There's a waterfall here during times when it's not bone-dry and the middle of the damn summer... it looked like it would have been pretty nice. Pipeline Road took us back to the truck, though not before first stopping at a conveniently placed mud puddle for a refreshing high-noon wallow. Arty, dear to my heart that he is, got to ride back in the front seat despite his mud-encrusted exterior. All told the hike was a brisk and pleasant 4.7 miles with a 1200' elevation change.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This hike is from last Thursday, 7/27. I'm starting to run out of hikes at Point Reyes National Seashore- I think I have maybe three or four major hikes left there, and a couple of out and back to the beach hikes still to complete.

Thursday was my short day at work. We had a meeting that day that was productive overall but that was marred by what I perceived as foolishness on the part of one of my coworkers- he was making assertions based on his own wishful thinking rather than on the available facts. I called him on it, probably a little too sharply. My other coworkers perhaps didn't think much of it, but it stayed with me the whole time I was hiking and I kept replaying it in my brain (I'm unused to confrontation... can you tell?). I thought about it so much that I gave myself a headache. It was one of those times that it would have been nice to just have an off-switch in my head. Grrr.

The hike was nice despite my preoccupation. I started from the Sky trailhead, hiked down the Fire Lane Trail, down to Coast Camp, and back up the Laguna Trail,which goes by the youth hostel and some sort of environmental education center. It was a greyish day on the coast, which was quite welcome after all the damn heat we'd been having. The hike was 8.2 miles, all told.

Young California quail are out in force. I probably saw six or seven families on the trail between Coast Camp and the youth hostel. The quail are a lot easier to get close to when they've got babies around.

I also ran into a group of six or so 14-year-olds that appeared to be backpacking on their own. They were doing really well... they seemed like they were keeping a good pace, their packs looked to be in good order, and all the kids seemed like they were happy to be there. The lead kids shouted back to the kids coming up behind that someone was on the trail and that they should stand aside. Nice to see manners in the young folk. I was thinking how cool it was that these kids were entrusted with the responsibility to do an overnight trip on their own, but then a mile or so down the path I ran into the rest of their group, which had adult supervisors. Oh well. If I ever have a kid I think I would like to send it on solo or small group (with other kids) overnights at a youngish age (preteen to teen), if that's something that they were into. I think kids in a lot of cases can handle more responsibility than we give them, and develop responsibility by being entrusted with things.

I made a cake for my boss' birthday, which we are celebrating at work tomorrow. Now I am going to go frost it. There are two more hikes in the hopper... I will report upon them soon.