Just last week, I took myself on a little jaunt in Marin… part errand and part planned hike, but in the end, it was unexpected adventure that left me exhilarated and alive…
The day got off to a leisurely start as I took my time waking up and enjoying my morning tea. But by the time I was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge with the window down and the cool refreshing breeze on my face, I was pumped with what I was setting out to accomplish today: get my car tires replaced by the same shop as before (which had offered me a great deal and only took 30 minutes before) and then head out on one of my favorite classic Marin hikes: the Dipsea trail from Muir Woods to Pan Toll ridge and then back down via the Ben Johnson trail. I figured I’d have plenty of time to enjoy the hike, take pictures, and write a bit on top of the ridge… I had a vision for this first blog post and wanted to put pen to paper…
I exhaled slowly as I crossed the bridge… the anxiety of city traffic faded away and the carefree attitude of just enjoying a day out in the sun took over.
Driving through the Headlands and seeing the green cling to the hillsides with bright spots of yellow and orange wildflowers interspersed, I kept saying to myself, wow, this really is my favorite time of year. Spring… a time of rebirth and renewal and lushness and longer days. The drive was smooth, no traffic, and the sky was sunny and clear. Lots of happy thoughts ran through my caffeinated mind as NPR quietly broadcast in the background.
Yeah road trip!
I arrived at the tire shop all set to spend 30 minutes skimming through those glossy magazines that I would never buy, but happily read when I have time to kill. Then the nice tire shop guy said it would take 2 hours to complete the job today. Whoa! Two hours! What am I going to do for two hours? Not be stuck inside and reading magazines I thought! I asked the guys what was around besides the Denny’s and the mall. I had no intention of setting foot in either. “There’s a real nice consignment shop around the corner” I heard, and then “well, there’s the marsh nearby across from the mall”. Well, that piqued my interest. I had never been to this marsh before, but vaguely knew it existed. I mean, we are right by the bay…
For those of you who don’t know, Marin County is just north of the famous Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco. It has small cities, quaint towns, and plenty of open space with some of the best hikes ever.
The county hugs the coast with dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches, its redwoods are magical, and there’s a strong “local and organic” agricultural component to the the county’s livelihood.
It has a special place in my heart. I lived in Marin for just over two years when I first came to the Bay area. I’ve gotten to know its trails and backcountry roads very intimately over the years. But walking through the Corte Madera marsh that’s behind the mall… nope, hadn’t been on that trail yet!
As I crossed the busy intersection in front of the mall, I must have looked a bit out of place in my hiking gear, but I walked with a purpose… to take a peek at the marsh and then walk to the Trader Joe’s north of the mall. I was low on trail mix so picking up some cashews for a the ‘real’ hike ahead sounded like a great way to kill time.
At first the marsh looked super boring, but then I spotted the egret maybe 10 minutes into my walk. It was feeding in one of those rust-colored pools of water. Its bright whiteness stood out among the brown hue of the marsh. I thought, “well, I have some time to kill, might as well play around with my camera a bit“.
From the moment I took my camera out of my backpack, this “walk” took on a whole new purpose. It was not just a scenic detour anymore. It was exploring a whole new place. I thrive on these kinds of adventures!
My energy level goes up and a smile breaks out across my face, I know I started saying “wow”, out loud. I was happy. Here I was not even half a mile from the mall, and I felt like I could have been in the wilderness (if it weren’t for the constant freeway noise).
I started scanning the marsh further and decided to forgo the cashews and wander around a bit. In true “Sam gone exploring” fashion, I had my camera at the ready, and I somewhat clumsily squished through the mud as I gazed around me at this new environment taking it all in.
There were multi-colored layers of grass dotted with the yellows, blues, purples, oranges, and whites of spring wildflowers typical to the area. There was an earthy reddish hue to the ground where the grass was very thin and the earth met water to create mud. Mount Tamalpais to the west of the marsh was in clear view and stood towering over the area. The strong breeze swayed the pampas grass and sent a ripple through the tall weeds.
I stopped to take many, many pictures. I saw more egrets and some beautiful mallard ducks. I came upon a funky tree with an odd kind of leaf/flower thing coming out of its branches. I’m stumped on what kind of tree it was, but I sure enjoyed my 20 minute photo shoot to capture this leaf thing in focus.
It was quiet and peaceful and a world away from the mall just a mere half mile away.
Before I knew it, my cell phone rang and my car was ready. As I walked back to the shop, I knew I had a decision to make. Jump in the car and head for Muir Woods to power through my originally planned hike? Can I get out of the Woods by dark? Or just call it a day and head home?
It was way too beautiful to call it a day on being outside and on a rare day off work! And I wanted to test my stamina a bit. I’m preparing for a big karate test (more on my martial arts practice later) and I wanted to push myself. Well, I did.
I powered through the Dipsea trail like I never have before.
I made it to the top of the ridge in an hour. Now for 2.5 miles of mostly uphill in 70 degree bright sun, this was pretty good for me. I stopped to take a few photos on the way, and I was rewarded with a glorious view on top. I could see Mt. Diablo and the East Bay and the City with Land’s End, Golden Gate park, and Ocean Beach easily recognizable on such a clear day. There were three wild turkeys who greeted me with their funny squabbles as if to say “Welcome to our ridge, isn’t it a great one? Now leave us alone to nibble this luscious green grass”.
As I bounded down the mountain heading back to Muir Woods, I kept thinking how lucky am I to get two wonderful hikes in today: one planned and one a total surprise! To cap it all off, I had the whole trail to myself the entire way back to the parking lot as I raced the impending shadows that strike the redwood forest way before the sun actually sets on the horizon. Yes, I did have my headlamp with me, just in case!
I took advantage of a tourist-free Muir Woods and played around with my camera some more:
Back at the parking lot, I got in my just-got-brand-new-tires Sierra (yes, my car’s name is Sierra) and began the journey home very satisfied with how my day turned out.