trails

You are currently browsing articles tagged trails.

Almost two years after my first hike on Mt. Tamalpais, Closet Granola and I headed out to relive the day when the Matt Davis trail kicked my butt. It was wildflower season then and it’s wildflower season again now, so if you’re looking for a gorgeous hike strewn with wildflowers and not too much sun, this is a great one to do NOW.

I won’t recap all the details about the hike since you can read about it here, except to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad this time around as it was last time. It just makes me realize how out of shape I was back then. Even with the little exercise from skiing and biking, this hike was fairly manageable.

Here’s what you can expect in terms of wildflowers if you go now…

And the icing on the cake…ocean views from Matt Davis and a little waterfall on Steep Ravine

Overall rating: Trailblazers

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.

Would anyone dare to take Hiking Diva backpacking? Closet Granola did…and lived to regret it. Granted we had already technically camped at Wildflower when he did his triathlon, that was car camping complete with a brand new enormous tent that all our friends nicknamed the Palais Royal, an air mattress, a canopied area where I could cook Cuban Steak and Skillet Pasta in a Calphalon nonstick pan on a table stove, and bathrooms (disgusting as they were, they were still bathrooms).

Before the first snowfall, Closet Granola and another couple, J and EJ, decided that they better go backpacking before it was too late. And since J and EJ have a 10-year-old Sheltie named Forbin who was going along, there was no way I would leave my precious dog, Bianca, at home. She’d never been camping, or even hiking other than Land’s End, but it’s only 5 miles to the campsite, so how hard could it be?

Well, it was record heat and that doesn’t mix well with a Samoyed or with a Hiking Diva who hates to sweat. And the dusty two miles had a not-so-nice effect on Bianca’s beautiful white coat. Carrying a 35 pound pack was just too much for me, especially since it was slightly too big. It’s very important for a backpack to sit comfortably on your hips. Mine was just a tad big for my hips so the weight was on my shoulders. And poor Bianca! She didn’t have to carry anything, but each time we stopped, she plopped down on the ground on her side, panting heavily and looking like she was ready to die. I was very worried that she might die of heat exhaustion.

The path was very exposed, or perhaps it just felt that way since it was so hot, and rocky, which made for slow progress. It took about 4 hours to make the 5 mile trek from the parking lot to Lake Tamarack. But it was so worth it! The lake was stunning - crystal-clear waters surrounded by granite rock with a small island in the middle. When we arrived, we set up camp and were the only people there. The dogs roamed around the lake and Bianca even walked into the water to cool off her paws. Unfortunately, this just made her white paws messier.

After we (well, actually I didn’t do anything) set up camp right next to the lake and had some snacks, I wanted to take some pictures. The sunset over the lake was virtually non-existent, so I went off in search of a better view. I found it and lost track of time taking pictures. I tried to find my way back to the campsite, but took too sharp an angle, and got a bit lost. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find your way back on a lake. You just keep walking and eventually you run into your campsite. But I did give Closet Granola quite a scare!

When I arrived back at camp, we cooked dinner. I was skeptical of dehydrated food, but our Mountain House packs of Beef Stroganoff and Chili Mac ‘n Cheese made me a believer. Not only was it edible, but it was delicious! Highly recommended from a food snob like me.

As is typical with camping, we went to bed early and given the heat wave, the temperature was pretty comfortable at night. Unfortunately, the sleeping mats weren’t as comfortable as an air mattress and Bianca was a bit restless. She had never spent a night away from her home in the suburbs, so sleeping in a tent without her sister, Sorcha, was definitely a new experience for her. We didn’t sleep well that night, so woke up early. The view of the lake was spectacular. The magic it lacked at dusk, it more than made up for in the morning. The reflection of the granite rocks in the water made the lake look like a mirror. I’ve never seen a reflection so perfect.

After breakfast, the boys went off for a hike to a nearby lake, and EJ, the dogs and I hung out at the campsite, napping and reading. When it was time to pack up camp, that’s when the drama started. Forbin, the Sheltie, all of a sudden couldn’t walk. He was in so much pain. His back was arched and he looked like he was in shock. By the time we finished packing up camp, he still couldn’t walk, so Closet Granola built a stretcher out of my tripod and a sleeping bag, and the boys carried Forbin out while carrying 50 pound packs. It took us even longer to get out, stopping every quarter mile but we have a motto, “No dog left behind.”

After we got out, J and EJ took Forbin to a vet in Placerville. The poor doggy got a catheter and drugs and was transported back to San Francisco. It took a few more days to discover the cause of his pain…a tear in his bladder through which urine was leaking into his abdomen and causing his kidneys to fail. After surgery, Forbin made a full recovery.

Bianca also didn’t come out unscathed. She was on bedrest for a couple days as she rested her paws, which were raw and red. My poor baby! In the end, both dogs and four humans made it out alive, but there were moments when it seemed like a wilderness drama on Fox where it’s 4 city dwellers and 2 dogs vs. nature.

Tip #1: You can rent backpacks and other camping equipment from REI . Next time, I’ll do that instead of wearing a backpack that is too big.

Tip #2: There’s an REI in Folsom on the way from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, so if you need last minute supplies, you’re covered.

Tip #3: You’ll need a permit to camp at Lake Tamarack, so call ahead.

As a special post honoring the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I’ll be putting on my psychology hat and analyzing the heck out of the Ano Nuevo hike. I wrote about this hike a couple months ago and suggested that anyone who wanted to go see the baby elephant seals book their tickets. On the day that Closet Granola and I had reservations, his roommate and her boyfriend also wanted to go. They called Ano Nuevo State Park to see if they could get tickets and all they could hear on the other end of the receiver was laughing. So if you haven’t made reservations, remember this lesson for next year: Good Things Come To Those Who Plan. Or read my special comment below.

This docent-led hike lasts about 2.5 hours and is pretty easy. Upon arrival at the state park, we picked up our tickets and waited for our tour to start. There a few picnic tables if you want to grab a quick bite before heading out. Food is not allowed once the tour starts, so better eat now. The tour begins with a quick introduction from one of the volunteers at the visitors center. The group of 20 or so hikers head out towards the ranger station by themselves, passing a lake meant for bird watching. Closet Granola and I didn’t stop as we’re not the bird-watching types.

At the ranger station, there were some exhibits that I found too creepy - the skull of an elephant seal, fur from a sea otter, etc. A docent picked up the group and started the hike and heading towards the beach where the elephant seals were. We stopped at several points along the way where the docent could address the group and relay facts about the elephant seals. Many people asked questions along the way as well, which were sometimes interesting and sometimes not. This was definitely the most educational hike we’ve been on.

Here are a few things we saw/learned on the hike along with Dr. Hiking Diva’s interpretation:

  • There’s an alpha male for every 40-50 females, known as the harem. (Loosely translated: Men aren’t meant for monogamy. In their ideal world, the dominant males would have a harem and all the other men would get nothing.)
  • The beta males roam the outskirts of the harem trying to sneak in some action, but the females only want to mate with the alpha male. (Loosely translated: We know the best men are taken, but we want them anyway. We don’t want no scrubs.)
  • The mama elephant seal weans her baby after about 25-28 days by abandonment, and then mates with an alpha male again. (Loosely translated: No good man is going to want me while I’m saddled with a kid. Time for the kid to grow up on its own.)
  • Males fight to gain dominance and the right to breed. They rear up and slam their bodies against each other. (Loosely translated: They still haven’t learned to use their words.)
  • The elephant seals come ashore to mate but rarely go back out to sea for food and water. They may fast for several months. (Loosely translated: (The only time you should be this fat is when you’re not planning to eat for the next 3 months.)

Special Note: I overplanned my trip to Ano Nuevo and bought two tickets for two separate weekends, in case the first weekend was a bust. It’s hard to plan these hiking trips around ski weekends, which depend on the fickle weather. But since Closet Granola and I did this hike a couple weekends ago, I’m giving away my backup tickets for this Saturday, Valentine’s Day, February 14th. If you want the 2 tickets for a 2 p.m. hike, leave a comment or send me an email if you have my private email address.

Overall Rating: Flip-flops

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.

Golden Gate Bridge

Here in San Francisco is one of Northern California’s treasure, a hike so stunning that it’s hard to imagine that it’s in right here in our own backyard. Without leaving the city, you are tranported to nature’s finest with views of the ocean, dramatic cliffs, cypress trees, and views of the Golden Gate bridge that rival Crissy Field or Marin Headlands.

Coastal Trail

We started this hike near Seacliff and parked on El Camino del Mar near 32nd Avenue. It was very easy to find the sign for Land’s End and the Coastal Trail, especially since so many others were also entering and leaving the hike. The only downside to this hike is that it is rather crowded. One of the best things about this hike, however, is that it also crowded with dogs. To that end, we had come prepared with one half of the Fluffy Puppies. It was Bianca’s first hike (while Sorcha stayed at home getting ready for the dinner party scheduled for later that night) and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Coastline

Within minutes of starting this hike, we had beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning from San Francisco to Marin. We thought the views couldn’t get any better, but there are benches from lookout points and cypress trees that perfectly frame the bridge further along on this hike.

The trail is well-trodden and there are steps to help you go down to the beach and lookout points. If you skip these optional parts, the hike is relatively flat and easy. As you approach the second half of the hike, the trail is paved as it heads to Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. Before we reached the destination, we saw a sheet of rain and storm clouds approaching and decided to call it a day and head back to the car. After all, Sorcha and a dinner party awaited.

GG Bridge

This is the perfect hike for this city girl/hiking diva. It’s not far, it’s beautiful, and we can get a hike in and still have brunch and dinner in the city. Perfection!

Overall Rating: Flip-flops (although I did the hike in Pumas)

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 #1: If you have time before or after the hike, stop by the Palace of Legion of Honor. Even if you don’t go into the museum, you can still see Rodin’s Thinker in the courtyard.

Tip #2: Take a drive through Seacliff before or after your hike and see how the rich and wealthy live in San Francisco.

Coastline

Coastline

The weather this weekend was just glorious…one of those days where you’re so happy to be living in California and not somewhere in the Northeast. Notice how quickly we attribute 80 degree weather in San Francisco in the middle of November to living in California rather than global warming. Even the hippies can’t complain when the weather is this spectacular.

To take advantage of this unprecedented state of affairs on our one and only hike in the month of November, Closet Granola surprised me by suggesting a hike in Point Reyes. Normally, I am arguing for a Point Reyes hike and he is adamantly opposed, but even he believes that the weather will be nice up there. And it is!

Bear Valley Trail

Bear Valley Trail

I’ve been bugging him to go on this trail since April, but he’s always found an excuse to go somewhere else. The Bear Valley to Arch Rock Trail is also a bike-and-hike, but we weren’t certain if my cheap commuter bike with its thin road tires could handle the trail. After hiking the entire trail, we’ve decided it would have been fine. A mountain bike would be better, but my little bike could have made it.

With bikers and hikers and strollers, the trail can get very crowded. And since this is a really easy hike with only 300 feet in elevation gain, it doesn’t scare off the weaklings (like myself). This may have been the most crowded hike I’ve been on. Luckily, the trail is very wide for passing people as well as engaging your significant other in forced conversations regarding where the relationship is going. You may be in the great outdoors, Closet Granola, but there’s nowhere to run! <<insert evil laugh>>

Meadow

Meadow

But I digress…on the trail, we passed a meadow along the way, where we stopped to eat a little snack. We wanted to save the true picnic for when we reached our destination, Arch Rock. Incidentally, there are those dreaded toilets available if you need to make a little stop, but beware the horrendous odor. You’ve been warned.

The first leg of the hike is about 3.5 miles of a mostly shaded, sometimes muddy, but very well-kept trail. At the end of the bike trail, there’s a bike rack for parking your bike (so bring your lock if you plan to make this a bike-and-hike). After that, it’s less than a mile to the destination.

Coastal views

Coastal views

Arch Rock juts out into the ocean providing beautiful views of the coastline up and down from where we were. There are a few other rocks out at sea that make the views even more picturesque. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people also picnicking, but I’m pretty sure we had the best spread - bread, smoked salmon, four types of cheese, and turkey pepperoni. The scenery makes up for the lack of privacy.

At around 3:30, we decided to call it a day. Closet Granola was not going to be tricked into a night hike like Eagle Lake, so we packed up and headed back the way we came. A little over 9 miles total and four hours including picnic time, we were ready to head back to our city life.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

On our way back to the city, we stopped for dinner at Guaymas in Tiburon.  We drank margaritas, snacked on tortillas and salsa, ate chile poblano and arroz con mariscos on the outdoor deck with a to-die-for view of the San Francisco skyline. It was the absolutely perfect ending to the perfect day.

Overall Rating: Heels for difficulty, flip-flops for length

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 #1: A city girl’s necessity equals a hiking diva’s luxury. I’ve learned to dread hikes where the guidebooks mention pit toilets at the trailhead. Luckily, the restrooms at Bear Valley are not only clean with functional toilets and running water, but the hand dryers are Xcelerator. Nice touch! (or actually no touch!)

Tip #2: For more serious hikers, bike out to the end of the Bear Valley Trail and hike some of the more strenuous trails rather than sitting on your butt at Arch Rock like we did. When I’m back in shape, we might have to try that.

« Older entries

Backcountry.com Gift Guide