August 2008

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Steep Ravine Trail

The ever-popular Steep Ravine-Dipsea-Matt Davis loop in Marin County’s Mt. Tam took my breath away…in more ways than one. This stunningly beautiful hike is perfect during the wildflower season, when the trails look like they have been dusted in glitter or fairy dust.

Wild About Wildflowers

There are two ways to do this hike. The more-sane people opt to start at Stinson Beach and hike up the Dipsea Trail and Steep Ravine Trail and walk back down the Matt Davis trail. My hard-core Closet Granola though prefers to start at Pantoll Ranger station and go the opposite direction. The route we took is ideal for a midway break at Stinson Beach for a picnic lunch, but the hike up Matt Davis afterward may make that lunch your last meal.

Make a Wish

The Steep Ravine Trail requires that you climb down a ladder, which is the least of your problems once you realize that what goes down must come up. The trails are well kept and the vegetation is lush. There are so many flowers of different colors that a photographer should leave ample time for photographic distractions.

Garden of Paradise

On the way back up from Stinson Beach, we passed a house with a garden that made us wish there was a hidden trust fund somewhere with our names on it. Once we passed this house, though, we couldn’t catch our breath for the next couple hours. The elevation gain was enough to knock a girl off her feet, but luckily the switchbacks helped a little.

Ocean Views

On the climb up, we stopped many times to admire the view of the ocean over the wildflowers, or at least I pretended to as I have huffed and puffed and tried not to see stars in the middle of the day.

Carpet of Flowers

Caveat: This was one of my earliest hikes and I may have been seriously out of shape. Perhaps this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal after the Big Basin hike. However, when I returned home, my roommate did say that I’ve never looked so bad in my life.

Overall rating: Hiking boots (in the moment), Trailblazers (in hindsight)

Fairy Dusted Path

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Redwood Trail

When I think of wine country, I think of indulgence - from the famous chefs cooking seven-course meals to the wine-tasting at world-famous vineyards. Unfortunately all that indulgence comes with a lot of guilt. A quick stop and hike at the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park will let you indulge guilt-free.

At just 4.6 miles and roughly 1,000 ft in elevation gain, this rather easy hike right in the heart of wine country will help you burn some calories in under two hours. Even with a heavily packed wine-tasting agenda, you can stop here and race through the hike. That’s what we did this weekend before grabbing some gourmet pizza.

View from Coyote Peak

My favorite part about this hike was that it was almost completely shaded. Napa and Sonoma are usually much warmer than San Francisco and Point Reyes, and therefore represent a problem to those of us who are climate-control-challenged. But despite the warm temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s, this hike was quite comfortable. On the way up to Coyote Peak, the highest point in this hike, the breeze is like sangria…cools you down and makes you smile. Before we reached the top, we stopped to take a few pictures of the view and good thing we did because the views from the peak are pretty obscured (no good picture opportunities).

The creek was on the parched side in mid-August but it seems like it would be lovely when it’s full. We scrambled over rocks to cross the creek on a few occasions and had to dodge horse souvenirs on the first mile or so. Other than these small obstacles, the path was well maintained and the climb quite moderate and doable.

Wine Country Sunset

Overall, I would recommend this hike if you’re up in Napa or Sonoma and need a break from the wine-tasting, gourmet dining, hot springs-soaking lifestyle, but otherwise it’s not worth the drive from the city.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty and duration

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Redwoods

Redwoods

The very big Big Basin Hike kicked my ass. Complaining for days afterward that I needed a hip replacement, this city girl was ready to hang up the hiking boots for good after this hike. But after the all-over soreness faded, the memories (and photographs) of this beautiful hike will last. Without any ocean or coastal views, I knew it was going to be difficult for this hike to make it into my top 10, but sure enough it did not disappoint.

How old is this tree?

How old is this tree?

Big Basin State Park is located in the Santa Cruz mountains and is a great place to see lots and lots of redwood trees. Some of the redwood trees have been around since the Byzantine Empire and the Mayan civilization…quite unfathomable to someone who thinks being thirty is just way too old. Around the trailhead, there were a lot of tourists…too many tourists. But luckily, a lot of them seemed to be there to get a quick glimpse of the redwoods on a half-mile loop. But alas, my boyfriend is way more hard-core than that. We were

Strenuous Hike

Strenuous Hike

off on a 12 mile hike through the redwoods to search for 3 waterfalls - Golden Falls, Silver Falls, and Berry Creek Falls. This was our mission and I even bought a brand new neutral density filter for the camera for this hike, so I was not going to waste my new filter on a 1/2 mile non-waterfall version.

Throughout the hike, there was quite a lot of elevation gain/loss which accounted for the hip replacement desire. Halfway through the hike, we came to the falls. We stopped for lunch at Golden Falls and dined on our Whole Foods sandwiches - prosciutto/brie and caprese…yum! And of course, we spent plenty of time taking pictures and figuring out

Silver Falls

Silver Falls

how to be creative with a long shutter speed and makeshift tripods from whatever materials we could find nearby. But save the best for last because Berry Creek Falls was the most spectacular of the three. With a platform and a bench extending out towards the waterfall, this was the easiest to shoot.

The rest of the hike back to the car was just painful, knowing the best of the hike was behind you and yet there was still 6 miles to go before you rest. Despite the pain and the length of this hike, the waterfalls here were seriously underrated (only Alamere Falls is better in my

Berry Creek Falls

Berry Creek Falls

opinion, and Castle Rock doesn’t even compare). There were very few people on this hike, so it was less crowded than Point Reyes. I would definitely do this again in the spring to try to capture an even fuller waterfall, or I might try the bike-and-hike version.

Overall rating: Hiking boots…This hike totally kicked my ass.

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip: Carry your own water pack if you can. It gets pretty nasty if you sweat a lot, but it’s nice to have your own source of water you can sip from instead of asking your boyfriend when you want water. But make him carry your 10-pound camera!

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is fast becoming a city girl’s favorite out-of-the-city spot. The views on the Tomales Point hike are stunning and the difficulty won’t kill you, so it’s a good value for your feet. This 10.5 mile out-and-back hike exposes you to full sun (wear sunscreen lest you look 40 when you’re 25), fly-me-away-Mary-Poppins winds, and a trek through sand to reach your final destination.

A bit further north than the the Alamere Falls hikes, the Tomales Point hike may be

Coastal views

Coastal views

even easier if longer. Like it’s sister hike, it has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills rather than steep climbs, and a very climactic ending that makes the first couple hours worthwhile.

Elk Preserve

Elk Preserve

In order to get to Tomales Point, we hiked through an elk preserve and saw many herds of elk along the way. They were grazing, sleeping, resting, running, and playing. We saw two young males standing on their hind legs as they tried to show each other who was boss; we saw another two using their antlers to initiate play; and we saw an elk prancing around in front of another like dogs do when they want to play/attack. It was all very cute and Nature channel-y.

Tomales Point

Tomales Point

Towards the end of the first section, the dirt trail becomes sand, which was much more difficult to walk around in and slowed our progress. But we persevered and continued out to the very end of the point, where we had views of the ocean on one side, views of the bay on the other, seagulls and pelicans overhead, and wildflowers at our feet. We were the only two people out there (probably because we always get a late start) and we marveled at how wonderful it is to be able to leave the city after noon and be in such an idyllic location.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

It took us 5 hours to complete the hike with a half-hour stop for a late lunch picnic that we picked up at my favorite place, Cowgirl Creamery.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty, Pumas for duration (hiking boots if you don’t want sand in your shoes)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip: On the way back to San Francisco, stop at Sorella Cafe in Fairfax, where the locals dine delicious, home-style Italian dishes, snack on bread with chunks of Parmesan cheese, listen to the pianist, and chat with the hostess. As much as I love the anonymity of the city, sometimes it’s nice to be at a place where everyone knows your name…not that they know my name yet, but one day.

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