Archive for the ‘Hikes’ Category

At Last, a Good Dog-Friendly Hike

March 7, 2015

It took about a year, but we finally discovered a great dog-friendly hike. And it’s on Mt. Tam, of course.

tamview2015

Mt. Tam is one of my favorite places to hike (particularly in the winter and spring — it’s just unbelievably beautiful). But many of my favorite Tam hikes, like the Steep Ravine or Matt Davis trails out of Pantoll, don’t allow dogs. In fact, dogs aren’t allowed on any of the trails in Mt. Tam State Park.

beaTam

But what I had failed to notice until recently was that Mt. Tam State Park only covers some of the trails on Tam. Most of the other trails are part of the Marin Water District, and these trails allow dogs on leash. This wasn’t mentioned in my book on dog-friendly hikes, and it wasn’t obvious on the online trail maps of the area (it’s not like the maps of Point Reyes, which specifically highlight the two areas that allow dogs). But once we were on Tam, the trails were very clearly marked.

TamSign

We made a roughly five-mile loop out of Water District trails: heading up to the West Point Inn via the Nora trail and looping back via Old Stage road to the Matt Davis trail. This loop had nearly everything I like in a hike. It took us across wooden bridges, over creeks and up stairs that had been cut into the rocks. It went through damp, shady redwood groves and along drier, exposed trails lined with manzanita. It had views of the Pacific and across the bay, where we could see the white sailboats by Sausalito.

tamdogtrail

This is not what most dog-friendly hikes are like, at least from what I’ve experienced so far. The other dog-friendly hikes I’ve taken were often on fire roads or even paved roads rather than actual trails. These hikes didn’t go by creeks, and they didn’t have such beautiful views. They were perfectly fine hikes, if you just want to take your dog somewhere new, but they weren’t what I was looking for.

tamdog-trees

I wanted the sort of hike that really feels like you’re in the woods. The kind of hike that makes you feel like you’re finally taking deep breath, that unwinds something in you that you didn’t even realize was tight until you were out on the trail. I wanted the kind of hike that drew my attention to the way the sunlight cuts through the trees or glints off the ocean or to the sound of water moving along a creek even during the drought. That might sound strange coming from someone like me who really loves living in a city, but I’ve found that as much as I crave the energy and beauty of a city, I also need time outdoors — and these days, ideally, time outdoors with my dog.

 

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What I’d Been Missing

July 31, 2013

My family’s annual Tahoe trip has really changed for me over the last few years. Although I still enjoy getting some time in the sun (especially in July when SF is often gray and cold) and I still love swimming in the lake (especially taking evening swims under the stars), the trip has become a vacation I take each year, not the best vacation I take each year.

And this year at the lake, I felt like doing something new, so on Monday morning, after the chumps left, Mr. WholeHog, my dad and I headed around the lake to hike up Ellis Peak.

tahoe-ellishikeIt had been a very long time since I’d done any hiking in the mountains. The coast is easier for me to get to and it’s available year round, while the Sierra often feels inaccessible– cold and snowy in the winter, and dusty and buggy in the summer. But the Ellis Peak hike showed me what I’d been missing.

The six-mile out-and-back took us through the often-strange beauty of the Sierra. It took us through alpine meadows full of wildflowers and butterflies, alongside craggy rock formations and under the shade of tall lichen-covered pine trees. While so much of California is dry and yellow by July, the Sierra was still blooming.

tahoe-ellistrees

We’d chosen this hike because we’d read that it offered memorable views of Tahoe, the views of the lake weren’t nearly as memorable as the views from a ridge we reached just a mile into the hike. We could see down into Desolation wilderness, with its granite slopes and its dark-green lakes. Beyond that, we could see a line of snow-touched peaks, which my mountaineer dad identified as the Crystal Range.

My dad has spent a lot of time in the Sierra and he pointed out Pyramid Peak and Price Peak. He told us how back in the 1970s, he and an old friend got snowed in at Loon Lake, one of the largest lakes we could see from the trail, and the rescue team showed up with a bottle of whisky and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

tahoe-ellisview

From that first magnificent ridge, we descended into the forest again and soon ran into another new sight: dirt bikes. Thankfully we only had to dart out of the way of oncoming dirt bikes twice, but they were definitely a downside of this particular excursion.

ellis-treespath

But I’d wanted to do something new and this hike – even with its noisy, dust-spewing dirt bikes – fit the bill. It gave me some distance from the usual family Tahoe experience. It took me to a different side of the lake, up a new trail with new views. and it reminded me how beautiful hiking in the mountains can be.

Buttermilk Trail

April 21, 2013

I make a point of visiting my old home town in the summer to swim in the Yuba river, and the last few years, I’ve tried to also visit in the spring to walk on the Buttermilk trail.

buttermilk

It’s an easy and mostly flat walk in above the river (it looks down on where my family and I used to swim in the summer months), and it’s a good hike for people like me who don’t know much about wildflowers because there are signs along the trail that identify the many different wildflowers in bloom.

April is high season for wildflowers, but the weather can be iffy. One year it snowed the day after we’d walked on the Buttermilk trail; this year it was so warm that people were already swimming in the river.

river-lupinepoppy

Last year we didn’t get a chance to visit during wildflower season; by April, our remodel had taken over our lives. The year before, I’d walked the trail in May, in a daze, still confused and stunned about the end of my sister’s marriage. That year we were too late for wildflowers, but flowers were the least of our concerns. This year, though, made up for it: the weather was lovely and there were many, many flowers.

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