After spending Saturday hiking around the Marin Headlands with my pal Steve, I
went home and started looking at other peaks in Marin County, surprised out how
many peaks are listed there and how few days I'd spent chasing them down. The
primary detraction is its location at the opposite end of the Bay Area from
where I live in San Jose. There's no getting around the unpleasantness of
driving more than hour through urban areas on one side of the bay or the other,
something I avoid if possible - like driving through LA County on I-5 or I-405.
It location also makes it one of the more scenic areas of the Bay Area, and
for this I needed to make a return visit. To
minimize the traffic concern, I planned to leave San Jose around 10p the night
before and sleep at the van near the first summit in the morning. This worked
so nicely that I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before. Most of the day's
summits are located in various open space areas in the southeast part of the
county. A few others are located in heavily developed neighborhoods with homes
occupying the highest point. In these cases it was a silly exercise in driving
up to someone's home, taking a picture and driving away. It was not by chance
that these happened to have been first visited by Laura Newman. If I was going
to have any chance to catch her, I'd have to play by her rules...
Though surrounded by development, the Ring Mountain OSP
occupies much of the actual mountain with numerous access trails from five
directions. I picked the shortest option, from Taylor Rd to the north. Though
a suburban neighborhood, it was quiet and dark where I parked for the night.
I was up shortly after sunrise, which was a bit muted this morning thanks to
low and high clouds that seemed to hang about everywhere. It would not be a good
day for sunny vistas. I followed the from the
cul-de-sac to the start of the OSP trails, really just old ranch roads that
criss-cross the mountain. It took a little over ten minutes to find my way to
among some large oaks overlooking Richardson Bay to
spent all of 20min on the hike, not nearly as much as the place really deserves.
The peninsula highpoint is saddled in an old neighborhood atop the ridgeline
between a couple of homes. A few report a use trail between two properties that
lets you get close to the highpoint. That seemed a little too creepy for me. I
took a picture of
atop the ridge and called it good. Better was
the nearby Old St. Hilarys OSP
to the south that can be by either Heathcliff Dr or Lyford Dr.
A short trail takes you out along the of Tiburon
Peninsula for views overlooking SF Bay, Angel Island, and
, among other places. The gently rolling hills were
covered in new green grass with unobstructed viewing. Way better than a use
trail between two homes.
I used Google Maps to get me to the end of Crest Rd atop Belvedere Island. The
cul-de-sac at the end makes as good a highpoint as any in this high-end
neighborhood. As boring as it gets.
Corte Madera Ridge / Blithedale Ridge / Knob Hill
These three can be combined in a single 4-6mi outing, the distance depending on
the starting point. I drove to the top of Summit Drive in Corte Madera, as
high as one can drive. The winding, one-lane paved road is ridiculously steep.
One gains an immense appreciation for the power of the internal combustion
engine going up such roads. Going past each house along the way, I wondered how
they manage to make this a daily drive. I guess you can get used to anything.
Once at the (enough for about two cars off the pavement),
it is through the open space areas east of
. of Corte Madera Ridge is found
just 5min past the TH, a use trail going from
the fire road conveniently up to the highpoint. Down the other side, the use
trail rejoins the fireroad and continues northwest where it merges with
Bithesdale Ridge. The LoJ highpoint
is found where the two ridges merge, facilitated by .
Though the summit itself has poor views, there are nice views from along the
fire road atop the ridgeline, especially west to Mt. Tamalpais. More
ups and downs
continue northwest for another mile, leading to Knob Hill, the highest of the
three. This one is a little trickier because the firebreak that once ran over
the summit is badly overgrown. The easiest way to reach the top is to follow
the fire road around to the west side and push
from there. I
tried to follow the firebreak down the east side but soon ran into poison oak
which forced a retreat.
from this summit as well. There are many
trail junctions along the way and one can continue up to Mt. Tamalpais as well,
but I headed back the way I'd come, returning shortly before 11a.
A drive-up in Corte Madera found at the end of Elm Ave. The highpoint sits
somewhere under . Not so much fun, this one.
West of Palm Hill in Larkspur is King Mtn Open Space. I found no real parking
where I started from the end of Cedar Ave. It would seem that this entrance
is intended for local foot traffic only. There are a few spaces available off
the side of near .
The real problem here is that the entire summit area, many acres of it, is
fenced off as private property.
The King Mtn Loop Trail circumnavigates the summit, a nice, well-maintained
single track trail through lovely second-growth redwoods. I found an alternate
use trail on the north side of the summit that parallels the Loop Trail
closer to the ,
but it offers no advantages (as in, a way
through the fence) over the maintained trail, requires some modest bushwhacking
and was generally a mistake. The Loop Trail intersects a fire road northwest
of the summit where the locked and video-enhanced
to the property is
found. The only structures actually on the property are a couple of shipping
containers used for storage and large water tanks. There is no evidence
that a home or other building has yet been built, and
to suggest one
is coming any time soon. Maybe they're locked in protracted negotiations with
the county to sell it for additional open space - one can only hope.
Cascade Canyon OSP
The last four summits I visited were all located in, or on the boundary of this
nice open space area found north of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and the
Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. Immediately north of the OSP is the BSA's Camp Tamarancho
with its own set of trails not generally open to the public. I found upon my
return that it was possible to visit all four summits without stepping foot in
the BSA camp, but didn't know this ahead of time. My starting point was near
the end of Toyon Dr, another
super-steep, narrow road winding through the adjacent neighborhood. There is
no parking at the end of the road but some spots are available off the side of
the road just down from the TH.
is reached within 15min of starting out, about 2/3mi to the
goes over the summit through a forest of oaks and
madrones, eventually reconnecting with the
I had started on. At the boundary with Camp Tamarancho, there are
indicating that visitors
are required to carry annual or day-use permits issued by the Marin BSA Council.
Without such travel papers I was undoubtedly trespassing as I plied the main
road through the camp, but I didn't think my discovery would cause much concern.
is used primarily in the summer months and all was quiet today, almost.
As I was walking along a path by the archery range, I heard a dog backing in
the distance behind me. I could see it up the hill where some vehicles were
parked at what looked like the camp workshop or similar. I didn't watch long
enough to see if anyone came out to see what Sparky was barking at, but I heard
no one shouting to me and better, the dog never took more interest than from
a distance. I soon enough found my way to the west side of camp and a road
leading up to Blue Ridge and the camp boundary.
Once at the boundary ,
I turned northwest and headed for White
Hill, about a mile in that direction. The Blue Ridge Fire Road follows along
the ridge nicely (going over the highpoint of Blue Ridge along the way),
descending some to a saddle before climbing up and over
the other hills in the area that are all, or partially covered in forest, grassy
White Hill is completely open on all sides with few trees of any kind. A
goes more directly to the summit up the southeast side, bypassing a
portion of the fire road. I used this to good advantage going up and down. Views
from the summit take in Loma Alta to
(one can also reach White Hill from the north starting in the Loma Alta OSP)
and to Mt. Tamalpais.
I returned back along Blue Ridge and the fire road, making my way to Cascade
Peak at the far southeast end of the ridge, a little over a mile from White
Hill. Lichen-covered rocks form
at the end of a use trail that
forks off the fire road. It was here I learned the Burnt Tree Trail makes for
a much faster return, bypassing the BSA camp by dropping to a 4-way junction
at a stream crossing between Blue Ridge and Pams Blue Ridge. An easy climb
back up the opposite side of the creek leads up and over the latter ridge and
the return to where I'd started, a little over two hours after starting out.
Done for the day, I took some time to look for a semi-private place to shower
somewhere nearby. My exploration took me west along the Bolinas-Fairfax Rd where
I discovered the road was closed further west due to a slide.
I had planned to hike
out that way the next day so I would need to find other options. I ended up
driving into Lake Lagunitas within the Marin County MWD Watershed to find a
place in an empty overflow lot to rinse off. I spent the early evening in a
Starbucks in downtown San Rafael looking over maps to find enough stuff to keep
me busy the next day. Afterwards I drove up into the nearby suburban
neighborhood around San Rafael Hill where I found a dark place to spend the
night. I decided watching a movie or reading inside might draw the attention and
ire of the neighbors, so I hit the sack early.