Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mount Tamalpais

I’m not sure why I didn't continue exploring Petaluma after I got my tire situation worked out, maybe I was afraid I would spoil it if I looked too deep, maybe I was just addicted to the road, either way I headed off with no particular itinerary. I decided to head to Marin Headlands, although I knew it being a Saturday my chances of obtaining a permit were low. Petaluma is only about 40 minutes drive from Marin Headlands, but I had spent much of the morning waiting for my tire to be fixed and didn’t get to the visitor center until mid afternoon. The ranger informed me of what I had feared, all the campsites were occupied, I would have to find somewhere else to sleep. I booked a site for the following night, unwilling to give up a free nights stay in the beautiful park, and headed into the town of Sausalito. 

I had driven through Sausalito back when i was exploring the bay area and had made a point to return if I had the chance. I drove into town and parked, the streets were packed with pedestrians and bikers, non of whom seemed to be speaking english. It felt like I was in a European city. Bikes out numbered cars and restaurant seating spilled out into the sidewalks. A small path led along the shore, the bay filled with sail boats on the calm water. Houses stacked upon each other to get a view of the water and the San Francisco skyline in the distance. 

I was clearly in a place above my socio economic stature and the hefty prices at the local eateries forced me to grab a banana and an orange for lunch. I didn’t really mind, as one would expect they from a place so uppity the fruit was organic, and the orange may have been the best orange I ever ate. It was incredibly juicy, covering my hands and forearms as I walked trying to eat it with some grace, failing miserably. If anyone was watching me eat that orange they were treated to quite a show, including the finale where i used my pant leg to dry my hands. I don’t belong in places with multiple forks and collared shirts.

I had no desire to spend any money and the day was fading fast and I had still yet to figure out where I was sleeping. All the hostels in the area were booked forcing me to choose between an ultra expensive hotel or finding a camping site in another state park. I drove off in search of a campsite, hoping luck would be on my side, but first I needed to find a grocery store, as I was nearly out of food. 

Luck was on my side and not only did I find a state park with camp sites available but a grocery store was on the way. I stopped in the store and restocked before heading into Mount Tamalpais State Park. I once again found myself climbing up steep winding roads, the campsite located somewhere near the top of the mountain range. Cyclists climbed the steep roads with me, an amazing achievement given the unrelenting steep grade of the road, I drove cautiously trying not to run any over as I ascended the mountain. 

Surprisingly the camp site was empty when I showed up, but I was unwilling to take any chances and set up my tent immediately. Within the next hour the rest of the sites filled in and as the sun set the sound of crackling fires filled the air. I made dinner and spent the night reading at my picnic table, the air was very warm and I was excited to not have to layer up to sleep. I headed off to bed, the whispered voices of distant campers carrying throughout the campground. 

I was awakened at two in the morning by a new group of campers who were setting up and causing quite a ruckus. Other campers repeatedly asked them to quite down, suggestions they ignored feverently. Other than the commotion of the jackasses the forest was filled with the sound of owls and a distant chorus of frogs. I managed to ignore the ignorant group and fall back to sleep. 

A hiss outside my tent woke me, I was unsure what was making the sound, but I heard it again. I peaked my head out of my tent to discover a rafter of turkeys walking through camp. I watched as they strutted across the camp grounds and out into the street. Their gobbling had woken so other campers and the day official began. I decided to take a hike, having an extra handful of hours I had no other way of filling. 

I have to say I prefer starting my hike from the top of a mountain and just walking around the top. I was street to an ocean of clouds covering the low lying areas, San Francisco and it’s neighboring communities unidentifiable under the mass of think white fog covering the bay. I was above the cloud cover and the warm rays forced me to remove my jacket within the first half mile, a pleasant adjustment, as I walked along the mostly flat trail, the warm sun my companion. I hiked around for about three hours, but the landscape rarely changed, a consistent forest of medium sized trees periodically broken to reveal sweeping views of the cloud covered bay and the mountain peaks that poked out of the whiteness in the distance. 

I had lunch at a picnic ground that looked out towards a distant peak, the clouds started to fade revealing ever so slightly the world hiding below. I headed back along another trail, other than a couple fellow hikers the trail was empty. A deer startled me by running up onto the path, staring at me, then darting back into the forest. The songs of a plethora of birds filled the forest with music. It was a blissful morning walk. 

When I got back to the campsite, throngs of people were in the parking lot, all just packing up to start their daily hikes or rides. I was glad I had ventured out so early, avoiding the weekend crowd. I headed out of the park and back to Marin Headlands where I had found out there was a free place to camp, with an amazing view. 

Fog lifting

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