Monday, November 10, 2008
A tale of two trails
With winter approaching and bad weather on the horizon, hiking partner Alice and I planned for the last big hike of the year. It would be a loop along the slopes of Mount Tamalpais.
The plan was to head out from Stinson Beach to the Pantoll ranger station along the Steep Ravine Trail and then head for home on the Matt Davis Trail. The total hike would be just about 8 miles with a climb of over 1,800 feet.
Hiking Mount Tamalpais has a different feel than the trails at Mount Diablo. Diablo has a rugged beauty to its grasslands and rocky trails. Tamalpais has a forest mystique to its twists and turns. So with the sound of ocean waves crashing to the shoreline we headed up the mountain.
If Mount Tamalpais has one flaw it is the steps. Where Mount Diablo works the elevation gains mostly with switchbacks Tamalapais uses stairs and steps on the climb. Not the most fun thing on your knees and feet. But the beauty that surrounds us on the trail overshadows that minor inconvenience. We started our trek from the Dipsea trail where it soon joined the Steep Ravine path.
Sounds of ocean waves are soon replaced but the gurglers and splashes of streams and waterfalls. A lush forest of ferns and redwoods line our route up. The trail gets steep at points as we climb and at one point we take a ladder to continue our climb. After a few hours we reach Pantoll station where we feast on salami and French bread.
The return trip is a 4.1-mile trip through the olive groves; moss covered tree and grasslands of the Matt Davis trail. The streams and creeks are few and far in between as we head down. An almost jungle look almost jungle look beckons us forward on the descent. At times the light fades in the thick canopy of trees and brush for an almost twilight scene. Other areas have an eerie quiet feel with tangled tree branches and shafts of light breaking through.
All too soon we hear the ocean again as we near the end of the trail. Our time on the trail was five and half-hours as we ventured into mystical trails of the mountain. With a year of hikes nearly finished I can’t wait for the start of the next hiking season and the adventures they will bring.