Friday, April 4, 2008

Muir Woods - Dipsea Trail

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn
what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out
all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like
as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath
and shave close, to drive life into a corner,
and reduce it to its lowest terms."
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Locale: Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Marin, CA
Date: Saturday, March 22, 2008
Duration: Took us about 4.5 hours to do six plus miles (plus some of this was just from where we parked to the entrance)
Price: Approx. 5-10 dollars (I'm totally blank, it is a small fee to enter, if you go through the main entrance as the picture illustrates.)
Rating: ****
Maps & More Info:

Ah, Muir Woods. This was our actual first hike. Ok, first off we made two mistakes - 1. We came on a Saturday, and 2. Spring Break. Wait, three mistakes, we didn't get there until after 12pm. If you want to have a peaceful and relaxed experience at Muir Woods do the exact opposite of what we did. In fact it was soooo busy that day that traffic was backed up temporarily off of Hwy 1 getting off of Hwy 101. Muir Woods has a series of small parking lots. All of which were plum full. We ended up parking on the side of the road over .5 mile away from the entrance.

We were disappointed by the touristy crowds full of families, foreign tourists, fellow dayhikers, and even people who seemed as if they were just taking a short stroll in their flipflops. The first mile or so following the entrance is well maintained and this is where the majority of tourists are found. If you want to bypass this, on the left of the parking lot there's the trail (which we ended at, but some people can start there). The redwoods here are ancient. Some are up to 1000 years old. Looking up at the trees made me feel like my place in the world is quite small. Once you get past the first mile, you cross over a narrow plank over a small creek (this is important beause now you will see less tourists and more hikers). Going through the redwoods made me feel much more relaxed - getting away from society and civilization is the point of hiking (at least for me) and getting back to nature. As we were walking I was wondering how long parks like these are going to last. The way things are going in California, who knows. But at least Muir Woods is still here and people can enjoy it presently.

Backstory of my life (not very interesting so may bypass this section to next paragraph to get back to the hike). My boyfriend and I are from the midwest orginally. He from the Iron Ranges of Minnesota and I from the dairy farms of western Wisconsin just 45 minutes east of the Mississippi River and an hour from Minneapolis/St. Paul and my alma mater (the U of MN). We both grew up in the working class small towns of the midwest. And I grew up in the countryside wanting to one day move to the big city and travel and gain some more perspective. So just over 18 months ago, I found out I got into grad school and we moved out west to California. Now I find myself so fed up with big city life that sometimes I just want to drive to places like Big Sur and Muir Woods to get the hell away from endless traffic, busy lifestyles, a crappy job, the crumbling economy, my lack of funds, and just the noise of it all. I think we all tend to just forget that there are these pockets where places exist where we can sit and get the hell away without things getting too drastic. And hiking provides that along with good exercise and a way to de-stress.

Since this was my first hike and I am... I guess a bit on the portly side and I haven't been in the gym in a few months, after about mile 3 I was starting to hurt. I was wearing my gym shoes because I hadn't gotten my hiking boots yet. Our initial plan was to turn back to the trailhead once we hit the junction where the trail went up a steep hill and acted as a loop. I was leaning towards heading back the way we came but my boyfriend decided we should press on through the loop. The climb up the hill was a bit rough on me in my cheapass gym shoes, I had to take a few short breaks, but it was the last big hill of the trail. After we walked along the top of the hill we saw a nice flat area that was outside of the woods. This had the best views of the trail. Here you could see part of the bay, San Francisco, redwoods, Mt. Tam, and a small grove. When I walked a bit down further I could see a small deer so I got a couple of shots (with my camera, not a gun).

The remainder of the trek was downhill which hurt my toes because of my cheap shoes and my toenails rubbing against the side of my toe (I now have done my research and know I need to get moleskin). So the last mile I was kind of complaining about my foot pain and was nearly running to get past to the trailhead. We made it back to the parking lot and had to weave our way around the visitors to the woods. A day well spent.

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