Sunday, May 11, 2008

Samuel P. Taylor State Park

"This is the foundation of all. We are not to imagine or suppose, but to discover, what nature does or may be made to do."
-Francis Bacon

Locale: Samuel P Taylor State Park, Laguintas, Marin County, CA
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2008
Duration: 7 miles (4 hours)
Price: Free
All in All: A rainforest-like hike to the peak with glorius sunny views to the bottom.
Rating: ****

Getting to this trailhead is fairly easy. Go onto Hwy 101 from San Francisco or 580 from East Bay, past the San Rafael Bridge and take the Sir Francis Drake exit. Follow Drake for about 17 miles through small towns, after Laguintas you will see Samuel P Taylor Park entrance, keep going one mile until you see Devil's Gulch Camp on the right. There's a small dirt lot on the left, park here, admire the swimming hole/creek then cross the road to the camp to start the hike. The first .1 mile of the trail is paved blacktop and the creek will below on your right. Turn right at onto the wooden bridge. Now turn left onto Bill's Trail. This is the trail that will take you to Barnabe Peak. Over one hundred years ago, Samuel Taylor inhabited the area where he set up one of the first papermills in California alongside his wife and eight children. He also invented the first paper grocery bag. Barnabe Peak is named after his beloved mule Barnabe. The 4 plus mile climb to the peak is easy (until you reach the fire tower area).

The climb to the summit is filled with wildlife surprises as well as cool comfortable shade. The 4 miles to the summit are forthe most part quite easy. There are quite a number of small foot bridges and switchbacks but the trail is graded ever so slightly and you don't even notice you're gaining altitude if it wasn't for the hills levelling off with your point of views and the creek getting lower beneath you.

After a mile or so you'll see the step waterfalls trail, take this for a short dead end to see the waterfalls which when we went were just above a trickle. We could see where the water flows through and makes a crevace during the winter months but on our hike, just a long trickle of water flew down to us. After stopping here, return to Bill's Trail and go left to continue onwards.
We saw many lizards, garter snakes and a few squirrels on the trail.

After about 4.2 miles, you reach a wide open area with nothing in front of you but some grass, a wide dirt trail and a breathtaking view of forest lands, San Pablo Bay, and hills. To the left the trail continues up to the fire tower station. This part is optional, you may either climb the moderate stretch to the top or continue down back to the trailhead. We continued to climb up to the tower. From now on there will be very little shade so put on the sunblock. The short rest of the climb to the tower was much steeper but brief. The tower was closed up but here we found better views. A 360 angle of lush landscapes surrounded us. If it wasn't for a small parking lot below full of cars, I'd say it was perfect. Continue back down the wide trail. The somewhat steep descent will bring you to Samuel P. Taylor's gravesite on the left. Stop here to read more about him and his wife. I mysteriously have been choosing state parks with cemeteries on them lately, hmm. After stopping at the bench, return to the trail and follow it back to the wooden bridge you crossed earlier, turn left onto the paved road and cross Sir Francis Drake to your car.