Our final destination on our five-day trek that started just south of LA in Long Beach, the place where I was born, was San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Mt. Tamalpais State Park adjoining the Golden Gate State Recreation Area.
With Kestrel behind the wheel, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge just after one. We’d driven a total of 547 miles before we reached the San Francisco Bay. Once across the bridge, we stopped for a little photo op on the North side at a pull off with all the other tourists. It was windy and crisp on the crest there above the water and clear enough to see Alcatraz Island and shipyards in the distance.
We began our ascent up the Panoramic Highway through Marin Hills toward East Peak, the highest point in the county. East Peak can only be reached by first driving ten miles on switch back roads with 10 and 15 mph marked curves. With every rock hugging bend to the right, there’s an equally treacherous left curve with no guardrail or shoulder between the car and a sheer drop off. The driver doesn’t get to see much of the scenery because he can’t take his eyes off the road to sightsee even if he (or she) might want to.
We reached the halfway point and stopped at a park area to ask some other hikers if we were on the right road to East peak. There weren’t many signs along the way. They assured us we were, but they also had an amazing topographical trail map and they took the time to show us the best places to hike given the time we had.
Needing a break from the intensity of the drive, we took their advice and decided to hike the Colier Spring Trail before heading up to hike the peak. The 3 mile out and back trail set off across a grass field and then dropped down into a wooded area. The terrain was rocky and followed the rolling pattern of the hills and the winding path of the creek bed.
We were on the hunt for the falls which turned out to be such a minimal drop in water elevation we almost missed it. Hidden by giant boulders and a group of fallen trees, we finally found the falls and hiked up into them before heading back to our car.
We drove on another 3-4 miles and finally reached the trailhead and parking area. Climbing Mt. Tamalpais was scary. I’m not going to lie, once we got above the narrow entrance, navigating the rocks along the edge of the hills was tough (at least for me). I stayed to the inside edge of the hills, hugging them with my whole body. To my left, the trail dropped off sharply into rock and scrubby brush.
When we got to the top, we sat on the rocky base of the fire tower and looked out over the hills. The breathtaking panorama from Mount Tamalpais’s 2,571-foot peak includes the Farallon Islands 25 miles out to sea, the Marin County hills, San Francisco Bay, the East Bay, and Mount Diablo. On rare occasions, the snow-covered Sierra Nevada can be seen 150 miles away.
Descending out of Mt. Tamalpais State Park I got my turn at navigating the knuckle gripping, jaw clenching bends in the road. As I rounded a curve I saw a pull off along a grassy bluff and I steered into the gravel, happy to take a short break. We got out and climbed the grass hill to the overlook. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but where the golden grass ends, the terrain drops off hundreds of feet into the conifer forest below.
When we got to the edge I peered over and imagined for just a second what it might be like to fall off. I cringed. You see, I’m afraid of heights, but I don’t like to admit it. I force myself to go to these high places even though my heart is pounding and all I can think of are the tragedies that could occur if someone (me) got too close to the edge. But I do it anyway just to mess with fear, just to put it in it’s place.
So on a windy cliff, I take a little half moon pose knowing there are very few guarantees in life. And you can either sit back and try to play it safe, or you can live it out loud, taking chances and running risks. One thing is for sure, there are no safety nets at the top of the world, only faith if you have it.
Do you have any fears that you want to challenge?
Stay tuned, me and my middle son are going on a cave tour of Southern Indiana with his girlfriend. Can’t wait to share the pics from that trip!