Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wildflowers and Ocean

Out of all the beautiful places in California, one of the most under appreciated has to be Mount Tamalpais. Located just north of San Francisco, this beautiful mountain is a spectacular place to spend a few days, exploring the mountains, the oceans, the forests, and the grassy fields. Plus, with its proximity to San Francisco and Wine Country, it makes the perfect place to spend some time. This place has always been so special to me, and is where my husband and I ended up getting married in 2010, on one of those beautiful fields, with views of San Francisco, the ocean, and the whole Bay Area. 

Our last day of April was spent up on Mount Tam, taking advantage of the promise of spectacular weather. The day certainly didn't disappoint. Though it was windy, the vibrant colors more than made up for the wind chill. 

On account of the weather, I planned out a route that would give us some nice ocean views that are often somewhat obscured in the summer fog. 

We started at Rock Springs and headed up Old Mine trail towards Pan Toll. Of course, we had to stop and admire the views. Last year, we had a picnic lunch on this hilltop (there are benches to the west of here)

We were afforded with a spectacular view of our wedding spot. It really looks so different in spring, with everything green. It's hard to decide what I like more (but I think I might be partial to the golds of summer)

While on Old Mine, we saw something large dart out of the grass and across the trail. It took a few moments to realize it was a giant turkey! It hung out trailside for a bit while another hiker and I snapped some pictures of it. We ended up seeing another turkey a bit later.

I remembered this part of Old Mine from when I used to do circumnavigations of Mt Tam back in my ultra days - just a beautiful.

After about a mile of good downhill, we reached Pan Toll and headed out on Matt Davis/Coastal trail. It was more wooded than I remembered in the beginning, but soon we reached the singletrack and ocean views I was hoping for.

Unfortunately, along with those views, we ended up with a crazy amount of bugs! Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I'm a bit phobic about bugs. Luckily, I was able to convince myself that none of these bugs were dangerous (just flies) and just kept my head down. I only shrieked when they buzzed in my ears or flew close to my eyes. They made it a bit harder to focus on the scenery, but they were worth it for views like this.

Soon we reached the split for the Matt Davis (which heads down to Stinson). At this point, Ed hadn't gone further down Coastal before, so he was excited about some new trail. 

After a bit, we finally got a view of Stinson Beach. 

A bit past here, my feet started struggling with the narrowness of the trail. Now, singletrack I usually love, but this is maybe a foot wide (or so it seems), and my feet are out of trail practice. The slope is pretty steep going off this trail, so it's not something you want to misstep.

I did actually end up falling, but luckily fell into the "up" side of the trail, which gave me probably my cushiest fall ever, onto the grasses. Not a scratch on me, I was happy to have fallen the right direction.

Quite by accident, we stopped to take in a view and decided to check the map while we were at it. We discovered that we had already hit our next trail, so we went off on that, and said goodbye to the ocean.

(Look at our trail here. Doesn't that look narrow?)

As we headed up to a parking lot and then down out new trail, we kept hearing the tapping sound. We finally figured out that it must be a woodpecker - very cool to hear. 

As we got to the bottom of the Laural Dell trail, we came to a creek! Ed ever so nimbly hopped across on a tree branch and some rocks, but balance has never been my strong suit (said the girl who fell off a bike last summer). I made it across the first half using a tree, but knew that hopping along the rocks just were not in the cards for me. Falling would possibly hurt me or my camera, so I decided to just suck it up and go through the water. 

It was lovely! Plus I was entertained for the next 10 minutes hearing the squishing of my water logged shoes. My feet also felt refreshed (though I was glad I wore my ininji socks). 

When we reached Laural Dell, I realized that I had totally messed up planning our route. For some reason, my mind told me that reaching Cataract Falls trail equated with seeing the falls. Instead, we came to the trail about a quarter mile up frm the falls. Not wanting to miss out, I voted we just do a little extra and Ed happily agreed. 

It a short span of time, we reached the bottom of the first set of falls, a lovely place even if the water wasn't as strong as it is sometimes. 

We took a quick breather (and ate some margarita flavored shot bloks - delicious and salty!) and then headed up the trail. 

This section seemed harder than I remembered it in my mind (my recollection was that it was all flat fairly wide singletrack/fireroad). Instead, lots of short steep uphills, rocks and roots. At this point, we were well past the 6 miles we had planned on doing, and I hadn't done more than 5.25 in at least a year. My legs were hurting and I was ready to be done. 

But, I forced myself to run when I could and, eventually, we reached the car. All told, we did about 7 miles (some Garmin issues meant that we didn't have exact mileage). I was very happy to be done (and have some more water). 

Ed quickly changed out a few things and then headed out to do his "real" run - 12 miles at almost double our pace. 

I changed into clean clothes and headed to Trojan Point (where we got married last summer) to soak up the sun and views while I waited for Ed to finish. 

It was so spectacularly clear that I had perfect views of Diablo.

O'Rouke's Bench (where Ed proposed 2 years ago this Sunday) looks beautiful with the wildflowers in the foreground.

I set up my chair at the end of the point (just past the ceremony spot), where I could see the Bay Bridge, SF, Twin Peaks, and, of course, the Pacific. While I was reading, I had to periodically stop reading The Kite Runner and just stare at how perfect the world looked from here.

An hour or so later, I packed up, and snapped a few more pictures on my way back to the car. I could see a group of hikers was just returning from their own adventures. 

I drove over to Mountain Home Inn were Ed was going to meet me and a few minutes later, we headed down the mountain.

I'm so happy that we got a chance to enjoy the wildflowers and views of our favorite mountains.

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