Stinson Beach to Mt Tamalpais and Back

Steep Ravine Trail
Steep Ravine Trail

I KNOW, it’s been really quiet for far too long around here. But, it’s with good cause. We bought a house at the beginning of February and have spent the past few months busying ourselves with moving and freaking out whenever we look at the bank account. And although I’ve had to sacrifice a few weekends of hiking and time with calipidder.com, I don’t think we could have picked a better time to move – the crappy weather winter hasn’t exactly had me motivated to be outside.

Calypso Orchid
Calypso Orchid

We’re now getting settled in and I’ve been able to slip out for some wildflower hikes and photography over the past few weeks. I hope to be back to my normal routine here shortly and I’ll go back and feature some trip reports from those hikes.

First up is last weekend’s outing to Mt Tamalpais. Some friends proposed a hike I’ve always wanted to do – the round trip hike to the summit from Stinson Beach. There are a lot of trails to choose from on Mt Tam and our route ended up being around 16 miles for the round trip. Starting up the Dipsea Trail, we joined Steep Ravine and took it up to Pantoll. From here it was fire road all the way to the summit, but on the return trip we took a parallel single track that took us to the really cool outdoor Mountain Theater and eventually back down to Stinson Beach via the Matt Davis (Damon) Trail.

Matt Davis Trail
Matt Davis Trail

The variety of terrain and scenery on the mountain is great, from drippy and wet redwood forest to sunny and green rolling hillsides. We saw a lot of flowers, including the rare Calypso Orchid. I think we timed the trip perfectly – any other time of year it would have been either too muddy or too hot. Lots of flower photos to be found in the gallery!

Links

Stinson Beach to Mt Tam and Back at EveryTrail

Big Basin Waterfall and Mt McAbee Loop

Berry Creek Falls
Berry Creek Falls

A new house purchase has had me quite busy lately so I’m a week late on this post, but better late then never, right?  With all of the recent storms we knew the waterfalls in Big Basin would be great, so we took the first good-weather opportunity to get out there and hike.

Our route was decided upon at the park headquarters once we learned that the Skyline to the Sea trail was closed due to downed old-growth redwoods and washed out bridges. We decided to take the Sunset Trail to the waterfalls (about 6 miles), then come back via Mt McAbee, a ~1300 foot climb from the creek. In all, about a 12 mile loop with around 3000 feet of gain. A good, but not killer, workout.

The trails were muddy and covered in a lot of fresh fallen trees and branches which made the going slow at times. The air smelled fresh and the wildflowers were just starting to peek out – we saw milkmaids, trillium, and adderstongue.

The highlight of the day were the waterfalls and cascades along Berry Creek. They were rushing with the water from all of the recent rains and made for some great photography, even with my little camera.

If You Go

You can approach the falls via many different trails, but all will require a day’s commitment unless you are moving at a trail runner pace (hmm, I bet the trail from Waddell Beach would make a nice run – maybe next time). See the links below for a map.

Check with Park HQ on trail conditions – some are very muddy, others have a lot of fallen trees, and others are just fine. The info we received was a bit outdated – it turns out that the Skyline to the Sea trail was passable that day, but we didn’t hike it.

Links

Big Basin Waterfall and McAbee Loop

Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail

Sweeny Ridge View
Sweeny Ridge View

Growing up, I always learned that it was bad to give into peer pressure when it comes to drugs, smoking, etc. They didn’t warn me about hiking. Some friends have gotten it into their heads that they are going to complete the Bay Area Ridge Trail one way or another, and I’ve been mercilessly sucked into their evil plans for world domination again and again. Now I MUST complete the same challenge or risk becoming one of the uncool kids.

This past weekend’s segment was the Fifield-Cahill Ridge (and part of Sweeny Ridge), a thirteen mile stretch of the trail on the peninsula between San Bruno and Belmont. This segment presents a bit of a logistical challenge due to the fact that it passes through SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission) land which does not allow public access except in very restricted ways.

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High Peaks and North Wilderness Loop – Pinnacles National Monument

http://photos.calipidder.com/Dayhikes/Bay-Area/Pinnacles-National-Monument/DSC5884/701660310_MAmSL-S-1.jpg
High Peaks Trail

I managed to squeeze in a long dayhike, finally! Since the Sierra backpacking season ended I haven’t gotten out on a lot of long hikes and I’m definitely missing it. On Sunday I headed down to Pinnacles National Monument with David, Antony, Sammydee, Laurent, Jeff and Pang for a nice long 13 mile loop through the High Peaks and unmaintained North Wilderness trail.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to hike every trail I’d like to in my lifetime, but at least I have Pinnacles off the checklist. It’s the only park in which I can claim I have hiked every mile of trail, most of them more times than I can count. But that doesn’t make it any less fun or interesting – Pinnacles feels a lot like the desert hiking I love so much, yet it is less than a two hour drive away from home. Much like the desert, Pinnacles is best avoided during the hot summer months, but it has great hiking once the temperatures cool off to a more comfortable 75 and lower.

High Peaks Steps
High Peaks Steps

So on Sunday we headed down for a nice long hike. On paper it didn’t look so bad – 13 miles, less than 3000 feet of gain. We started off from the west side Chaparral entrance (don’t believe maps that show a road going through the park – pick a side and commit to it – you won’t be driving through) and decided to get the hard part of the day over with by heading up to the High Peaks before the sun broke the ridge.

It was a nice and cool climb and we celebrated gaining the ridge in such a short time. The sun was now on us and we continued along to the High Peaks. The ‘trail’ is made up of steps that have been blasted into the rocks, with small rails to guide you and keep you from falling 1000 feet and becoming a condor snack. It’s a lot of fun, and certainly nothing you’d find the park service doing now. Pinnacles was declared a National Monument back in 1915 so we’ll cut them some slack for the destructive nature of the trail building.
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Sonora Peak, Kirman Lake, and Golden Gate Mine

A Cairn on Sonora Peak
A Cairn on Sonora Peak

On Wednesday we will be leaving on a backpacking trip that will have us above 10k for six days, so we decided to head to the mountains this past weekend and get in some hiking and sleeping at altitude. Our Saturday goal was to hike the duo of Sonora and Stanislaus peaks, a 12 mile round trip hike with big views, a county high point, and a scrambly summit.

Unfortunately, the Big Meadow Fire in Yosemite quickly put a stop to those plans, as halfway up Sonora Peak (the first one, and only ~2.5 miles in) the smoke began to burn my throat and eyes. Once on the summit, we decided to scrap the remaining hike to Stanislaus Peak and spend the rest of the day at lower elevations doing a decidedly less strenuous activity – fishing.

Smoky Late Afternoon
A Smoky Late Afternoon

Down near the intersection of 108 and 395 is Kirman Lake, a nutrient-rich lake with supposedly enormous brook and cutthroat trout. From 108 it’s a 3 mile walk along rolling ranch roads, and we took our time on the easy walk so as not to irritate our already smoke weary bodies. Upon arriving at the lake, we were surprised at the shoreline grasses. In retrospect, it makes sense – the nutrients that these grasses provide are what helps the fish grow to such enormous sizes – but we were only prepared to fish from shore and the grasses made this very difficult. Neither of us got so much as a nibble, but we watched two fly fishermen on float tubes pull out some fishies.

We left the lake around 6 pm (fishless) and got to enjoy the walk out amid the glowing yellows and greens of the pre-sunset high desert. The smoke in the air only enhanced the colors.

Golden Gate Mine Stamp Mill
Golden Gate Mine Stamp Mill

Sunday morning came with a smoke-free sky. We drove up 395 through Walker and grabbed a greasy-spoon breakfast, followed by a visit to the Golden Gate mine ruins. There is still a stamp mill standing, complete with the enormous stamps and ore bin. We explored for a while, but it was getting hot so we drove up Monitor Pass and down to Silver Creek to fish some more. Finally we had some luck – I pulled several rainbows out of the creek, but they were a little small to keep. David got one that was decent sized so we brought it home and he’ll make a good dinner tonight!

On our way down 4 we stopped at the Snowshoe Brewing company in Arnold for a small lunch, then stopped at Twisted Oak winery in the Rubber Chicken National Forest of Vallecito – a must stop! Good wine with a great sense of humor – an experience that can’t be missed.

In retrospect, I really should have saved my lungs from the smoke and stayed home this weekend to catch up a bit on life before my next week long backpack, but as far as I’m concerned any weekend spent in the mountains is a good weekend, smoke or not.

  • Photo album from this trip is here
  • Download KML for Sonora Peak
  • Download GPX for Sonora Peak
  • Download KML for Kirman Lake
  • Download GPX for Kirman Lake

Sonora Peak at EveryTrail

Tuolumne to Agnew Meadows, Day 4 & 5: Nydiver & Iceberg Lakes and hike out

Middle Nydiver Lake
Middle Nydiver Lake

On the morning of Day 4 we had a break from packing up camp. Instead we prepared for dayhiking to some of the other nearby lakes. With no rush, David decided to head back to Ediza to try for some breakfast fish, and sure enough, he came back with one for each of us. My own personal breakfast brookie mmmmm.

Our morning destination was Nydiver Lakes, another area that was possibly approachable by trail, but I wasn’t sure. It turns out that the trail was pretty easy to find, and we really needed it, too. The hike along the drainage of the lakes is steep, but the trail is nice enough to switchback up the steepest part, keeping us out of the thick bushes and jumbly rocks. Towards the top (when my GPS had us within 500 feet of the first lake), we found ourselves running out of trail in front of a wall of rock. The water coming out of the lake’s  drainage tumbled down the rock in a waterfall, so that wasn’t the approach. I knew it shouldn’t be that difficult, so I just started scrambling up towards the only direct possibility – a notch in the wall – feet slipping and sliding on the steep scree surrounding an old tailings pile.

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Tuolumne to Agnew Meadows, Day 3: Thousand Island Lake to Shadow Creek

Banner Peak reflecting in 1000 Island Lake
Banner Peak reflecting in 1000 Island Lake

We had an easy day ahead of us on Day 3, so we took our time packing up in the morning. Pavla went for a swim, I wandered around with my camera looking for wildflowers, and David fished a bit. I think we hit the trail around 10 am and headed south along the JMT towards Shadow Creek. When I went through here in 2007 I was flying and barely noticed how amazing this stretch is. Ruby lake is a stunning deep turquoise color, Garnet Lake has a million little things that make it unique and different, and the wildflowers were just popping.

Once at Shadow Creek we left the JMT and headed up the Lake Ediza trail. The plan was to find a campsite somewhere in the area and stay for two nights, dayhiking some of the less popular lakes in the area. We found a nice legal site just before Lake Ediza where we could have campfires (so we could cook any fish we caught!), and set up.

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