This weekend there’s rain in the forecast, which isn’t ideal for a hike, but I’ll for sure enjoy these pics and memories while snuggling inside! And maybe you’ll get some ideas for future outings.
Why Not Go for a Ramble?
A couple of years ago my husband bid a crazy low price at a silent auction for two nights at the Shaw Guest House on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary. We finally cashed in the nights, taking President’s Day and Day-After-President’s Day (that’s a real holiday, right?) for some rambling.
Monday we goofed around in San Rafael, stopping at the site of the Spanish mission San Rafael Arcangel (founded 1817). We hung out for a while in shady Boyd Memorial Park where there’s a nice playground. The kids played while we checked email and made phone calls.
I know—lame thing to do on a holiday. But there it is.
Then we drove up to Mount Tamalpais for the afternoon to explore its East Peak. There’s a short trail that goes around the peak and another one that goes straight up to the peak. We did both.
Put Down the Phone and Pull on the Hiking Boots
Next day we dropped all pretense of email and phone calls and headed out for a more ambitious hike: a 7-miler that combines the Matt Davis, Steep Ravine, and Dipsea Trails. This loop is all within the Mount Tamalpais State Park. You can get more stats on the trail over at Bay Area Hiker.
One note: Bay Area Hiker estimates four hours for completing this trail. Our family—mom & dad age 38 (fit but not what you’d call ripped), son and daughter ages 6 and 10, also fit and not TOO prone to whining—did it in five and a half hours. We stopped for lunch and a few rest breaks, including a good 15-20 minute break at the halfway point.
The trail is long enough and rocky enough that a hiking boot’s extra ankle stability and hardy soles are definitely good to have. Still, there are enough steep uphills in the first mile or so that I was glad of the freedom of movement in my running shoes.
If you do this hike, you’ll warm up and stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendons. A lot.
Here are some shots of the initial uphill. There are steps in a few places, plus lots and lots of switchbacks. We took this section at a no-nonsense pace since we were all fresh.
A little off the trail we found a flat rock with a gorgeous view.
The trail is mostly shaded at first, then it breaks out of the woods to the hilltops.
French Toast Game
One of my daughter’s favorite pass-the-time games is French Toast, which is kind of like 20 Questions. She kept asking me to play but I didn’t quite have the extra lung capacity for it.
In French Toast, the Toaster says, “I’m thinking of something…” to which the Guesser replies, “is it more like French Toast or X?”
X can be “a mouse,” or “a ladle” or anything. The Toaster says which one, X or French Toast, the thing in her mind is more like. Then the Guesser tries to deduce the answer by asking successive “is it more like X or Y?” questions.
Second Half of the Hike
Pantoll Ranger Station, at the 3.9-mile mark, has flush toilets, maps, and a campground. We stopped there and ate some tangerines. A big black bird clicked its beak at us.
Then we started up the Steep Ravine Trail. It is indeed steep in a few spots.
And it features giant redwoods!
Here’s where things started getting a little hairy.
The afternoon was wearing on and we still had a way to go yet. Luckily the husband thought to bring chocolate. He doled it out to the kids (and me!) like medicine. I guess I was getting whiny too.
Finding just the right hiking stick also helped. The one Robin picked seemed a bit spindly to me, but he declared it perfect. And that’s what matters.
Maybe I’ll try the legendary Dipsea trail race one day.
Finally we returned to our starting point—actually the trail spits you out on the road about a tenth of a mile from where it starts. We got in the car for the short drive over to Stinson Beach.
Sand at Sunset
These two are crazy for sand at the beach.
We didn’t bring any sand toys so they took to digging a hole with their hands. They dug cartoonishly, planting their feet wide apart, bending at the waist, and shoveling small handfuls straight into the air behind them. Into my eyes.
I yelled at their skyward-pointing butts to cut it the heck out.
They changed tack to building instead of digging. They made trips down to the shore for wet sand. Gradually the material they brought back up the beach got wetter and wetter, until mud dripped through their fingers and their structure started to resemble what I like to call a doo-doo castle.
Then their feet—oops!—started getting wet too. The cotton in their jeans seemed to drink the water right up from hemline to waist.
Finally I finally got up to “practice” at the bath house, agreeing to meet the family by the car. They never need to practice. So they claim.
Ivan came down the path, kidless, a few minutes later. They went to rinse their feet at a spigot and got lost somehow.
While waiting for my lost children to turn up (they eventually did), I noticed this beautiful calla lilly.
What is your family’s favorite hike? Leave me a note in the comments. I’d love to check it out!