With a local volleyball tournament coming up at the weekend, I was more or less
tied to the Bay Area for the coming week but still wanting to get out for
a few days. I decided to head up to Marin County again now that we've had 4-5
days of sunshine to help dry out the wet hills. There was a scattered group of
9 summits that I wanted to tag in a long day that would take in 22mi and
more than 4,000ft of gain for a pretty beefy outing. The highest of these,
Pine Mtn, is a P1K that I had visited seven years earlier with my kids. Today
would take in the surrounding summits that I had missed on that first visit. My
wandering, all through publicly accessible lands, would cover portions of the
Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, the Cascade Canyon OSP and the Gary Giacomini OSP. All
but three of the summits required some amount of cross-country travel with
bushwhacking ranging from none to moderate amounts. The one summit, Dutchmans
Rock, that I thought might have a horrible bushwhack judging from the satellite
view, turned out to have a swell use trail to the summit - nice!
I had driven up through SF the night before, reaching the Mt. Tamalpais
Watershed above Fairfax along the Fairfax-Bolinas Rd around 9:30p. The road is
currently closed to through traffic due to storm damage, but
conveniently it's closed just past the TH I planned to use. Because the
watershed is extensively signed for No Overnight Parking, I parked just outside
above the Meadow Club Golf Course,
and was able to sleep unbothered
the whole night. Unbothered by local law enforcement, anyway. I had to get up
a few times to pee in the night and was startled by the cries of coyotes
prowling outside that I apparently disturbed. Luckily, no coordinated attacks
which could easily have taken me out while I had my pants down. In the morning
it was 37F outside which had me rising ever so slowly, not getting to the TH
until after 7a.
This is the only summit of the group located south of the road, a mere quarter
mile from where I parked at the Azalea Hill TH. skirts the
summit on the east side, but any of several use trails can be found to take one
to the open summit. Views of Mt. Tamalpais to , San Pablo Bay
to , and the higher peaks I was heading to next to
. About as easy a summit as it gets.
I headed back to the TH, crossed the road, and followed the gravel/dirt Pine Mtn
Rd to the northwest, turning south when I got to the
in a mile. The fireroad follows a pleasant
ridgeline separating Alpine Lake from Kent Lake, two of the reservoirs managed
by the Marin Water District as part of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.
is the first summit encountered along this ridge heading
south, about 3/4mi from the junction. I would like to say
that one simply follows the road to the highpoint to find the use trail leading
to the summit, but sadly, I found none. From the road's highpoint on the south
side of the peak, all is thick chaparral and not recommended. Better is to
climb up the slopes from the east where the trail passes nearest the summit.
This is fairly easy at first in , but the top requires
about 100ft of navigation through some pretty thick chaparral to find the
highpoint. This was the toughest of the lot, though not terrible. The reward
for one's perseverance is some pretty across shoulder-high
Located about 1/5mi west of the fire road,
has a distinguishing rock
outcrop that undoubtedly is the source of the name. The brush looks rough, but
there are several use trails that lead to the rock outcrop. Despite the name,
it isn't really a cliff and can be climbed at class 2. If the summit were at
the top of the outcrop it would be more honorable, but in fact its a little
further to the northwest. Again, the intervening brush looks rough, but there is
that helps make this far easier and only slightly brushy.
on this one.
The road continues southeast from near Cliff Peak, another mile to Oat Hill. A
junction is reached shortly before it, warning that the road/trail dead-ends
ahead, but not before turning off for Oat Hill. All of the cross-country on this
one was in oak understory, fairly easy, but it's good to watch for poison oak.
No views whatsoever from the summit. So sad that I didn't take a single photo.
I returned north on the Oat Hill Rd, stopping near where I had turned off for
Cliff Peak. Dutchmans Rock can be seen to down Lily Gulch
on the east (left) side. An unsigned trail, better than your standard use trail,
starts down . The trail improves just where you expect
it to collide with the brush below, weaving deftly through the brush and then
into forest understory. The trail and then traverses
out on the east bank to a clearing where Dutchmans Rock is seen nicely
. The trail re-enters the oak forest, branches at least once
(follow the obvious fork towards the summit) and then climbs steeply up to the
summit, finishing with another nice cut through the brush. This was the
most unexpected of finds and consequently I thought it the best summit of the
day. The summit is a collection of rock and grass with that
would make a lovely . I liked it so much that I spent some
time on the way back clearing downfall from the trail. It looks like a trail
branch continues downhill to the Fairfax-Bolinas Rd in about a quarter mile. I
didn't explore this however, leaving it as an exercise for the reader.
Interesting and disappointing at the same time. It might have better been named
Happersberger Ridge since that's really what it is, descending east from the
main crest down to Cascade Canyon OSP. LoJ depicts a point high on the ridge
with maybe 5ft of prominence, buried in chaparral and wholely unsatisfying. A
better point, and quite possibly what was intended by the confusing labeling on
the 7.5' topo maps, is the open, lower down. Still not much
prominence but at least nice views. The Happersberger Trail is unsigned at its
junction high on the main crest. I had to hunt around some to
(I knew it existed from the satellite view), then decided to follow it all
the way down to the bottom (where oddly declared it closed due
to storm damage though I saw none) where it joins in
Cascade Canyon. I turned north and soon crossed over Cascade
Creek, intending to take
the Cascade Canyon fire road back up to the main crest, having spied it during
my descent of Happersberger Ridge (this loop section was unplanned, but worked
out nicely). Right after the bridge is another junction with the San Anselmo
Trail which I thought might make a good alternative to the fire road.
Unfortunately, the trail was ripe with fresh and soon ended
without much warning. I backtracked to the fire road and took that back up.
Back at the crest I turned north and followed the San Geronimo Road for 2.5mi to
, a small, forested summit overlooking Kent Lake. The fire
road goes within about 50ft of the summit on its west side, the short bit of
cross-country quite easy but leading to another summit with .
Better can be had from the road. One can follow the fire road
northwest to Sir Francis Drake Blvd in less than two miles, but this was as far
as I would head in this direction and it was time to turn back.
Another 3mi back along the crest brought me to the Pine Mtn/San Geronimo
where I turned west. Pine Mtn is not the first hilltop
encountered to the north of Pine Mtn Rd, but , where the
road passes closely on the south side. There are several use trails here, the
shortest being directly up from the saddle on the east side. At first glance
there may not appear to be a trail, but a closer look reveals a break through
the brush. The summit is one of several rocky locations, the
with a steel post embedded in the rock the likely
highpoint. Best to visit both. , as one might expect from a
P1K, are pretty good in all directions. I descended another use trail of sorts
heading off the west side.
Pine Mtn Ridge
This is a dubious LoJ construction, as summits go. Strictly speaking, by my
reckoning at least, Pine Mtn is the highpoint of Pine Mtn Ridge. LoJ had
identified a point 2/3mi west of Pine Mtn as the "summit", though it sported
but 40ft of prominence. In perusing the map a few days before, I noted a higher
point with twice as much prominence just to the east. LoJ agreed that this
is a better location for the so-called summit and it was this point I visited
after Pine Mtn. It turned out to be a nice, with
on three sides. A short, steel pole almost works as a
survey marker. Maybe it did at one time. By now it was 3p and I was out of
summits. The last hour was spent retracing my steps back to the main crest and
then southeast back to the . The parking lot, empty when
I had arrived in the morning, sported almost a dozen vehicles and several large
parties could be seen along one of several routes up to Azalea Hill. One of
these was a small class of elementary school kids on a grassy cross-country
jaunt. They looked to have had a ball when they returned back to the road. I
didn't see him/her, but I already like their teacher...