Ramblin’ in Marin

wooden steps used to help hikers ascend the rocks on the creekside

Near vertical ladder on the Steep Ravine Trail

We went to Mt Tamalpais State Park looking for another cool (as in weather) hiking location.
Pan Toll at 10 am was a hotbed of activity. Large groups of people milling around, long lines at the bathrooms and water dripping off the trees giving the impression it was raining.

trail winding on the hillside and up the hill

Outbound on the Matt Davis Trail

Outbound on the Matt Davis TrailTo begin with we were surrounded by these moss covered trees shrouded in fog – giving a slightly erie feeling to the path. I wonder if other people experience the mystery of fog? As a child I used to travel with my father to see my ailing grandfather. This required a two leg rail journey and I still recall late on a November night standing on the railway station and seeing a steam locomotive emerge out of the fog. There was something very mysterious about the whole experience, or perhaps I’ve seen too many Alfred Hitchcock movies.
I’m also reminded that so often nature gives us a metaphor for life. The surrounding fog reminds me that we cannot see into the future and the future may not turn out the way we expect.

The path, twisting and turning, takes us along the side of a canyon. We encounter more people than I’m used to; this is clearly a popular place.

wood grain of a decaying tree

Time lines in decaying wood

One of the fallen trunks has been cut to allow walkers clear passage. The trunk diameter is four to five feet and I wonder how long it stood in this forest. Closer inspection shows the density of rings in the trunk – this was a very old tree when it fell.

morning mist behind the hills

Early morning mist

We emerge out of the wood to meadowland. The fog is thinner but still giving an air of mystery to our surroundings.
Lower down the trail, we are headed down the hill to Stinson beach, we are back in the woods again. The trail has a gentle decline and in comparison with recent walks this seems much more like a ramble until, as we approach the last section of the trail, we are presented with an apparent junction but no signpost. We pick the more likely looking path and head up the hill but the path proves much more difficult and undeveloped than the earlier part of the trail. After about 50 yards I’m convinced we’ve gone the wrong way and we retrace our steps. Now, headed downhill, the formal trail we saw quickly peters out and we have to navigate our way down a 60 degree slope and through some dense growth of shrubbery, including poison oak. Reaching the boundary of private property it’s clear that the second choice really was the wrong one, but we keep going and eventually have to walk out to the road through someone’s garden. Somewhere behind us I think I missed a turning, which just shows that in new places it’s easy to lose your way. I also hate having to walk over someone’s property.

At the head of the Dipsea Trail we snack and pause to enjoy the sound of the surf. The sun is pleasantly warm. People are coming and going; they say hello as they pass on their way. A car alarm breaks the peace and quiet. A Porsche parked nearby has somehow triggered its alarm, but nobody comes to see what the problem is. I reflect that we are still crude with our application of technology, this alarm is at best a minor deterrent to thieves. For an up-market car like a Porsche, why isn’t it transmitting an emergency signal to its owner asking for attention, perhaps with a video of what is happening? In the meantime our peace and quiet is being disturbed by the incessant horn and flashing lights. There are no winners in this situation – poor use of technology!

The Dipsea Trail is surprisingly well engineered. I see there is a volunteer organization that helps to maintain the trails. This seems like a good “Business Model” – have the state or foundation own the land and have the people who use it help maintain it. I realize that I better get myself on the volunteer list for EBRPD.

coastal view from up on the hill

Coast seen from the trail

Ascending the Dipsea Trail away from Stinson Beach we see the bay curving gracefully into the fog and can just make out Point Reyes to the north.

still water reflecting the rich green foliage of the trees

Still water reflecting

We veer left and take the Steep Ravine Trail. The title, I suspect, refers to the ravine, not the trail, because it turns out to be a gradual assent, with only one steep climb up a short ladder.
I’m initially struck by the richness of the surroundings. The creek running down the ravine feeds the growth of trees and shrubs, including some magnificent redwood trees. A dam at the bottom of the trail creates a small reservoir that is decorated by the sound of running water.
Following the trail up the creek we cross numerous bridges that seem aging and weathered, an effect that gives them a certain charm.

Do trolls live under these bridges?

Wooden bridge cross the creek

Straight ahead or turn right?

I can’t help thinking that this place seems idyllic and yet it’s a little hard to be introspective because of the number of people coming down the trail. Nevertheless, the creek is beautiful to see. Large trunks have fallen in many places, and walking alongside them or seeing them bridging from one side of the canyon to the other you get a true sense of their immense size. Water frequently bubbles over the rocks, so when there is no one else nearby and we can be quiet, we are treated to the relaxing sound of running water accompanied here and there by industrious woodpeckers.

the grain in old shows beautiful curves

Beautiful Curves

I’m fascinated by the shapes and patterns that wood produces as it grows. One fallen trunk shows curves that strike me as beautiful. I wonder what it is that captivates me so about these shapes and lines in the trunk. In a way there is no work product here, no output, no obvious added value, but it’s beautiful to behold and captures my attention for a long time.

We ascend the vertical ladder and not too long after that we are heading into the car park. This walk has been about 7.5 miles and offered a variety of beautiful surroundings, but I’m still thinking about how I managed to miss that turning going down the Matt Davis Trail.

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