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Pam heard about a wild edibles walk on Mt. Tam that left from the Mountain Home Inn at 1:00 p.m. Their destination was a natural spring I've never been to, so it sounded like an interesting hike (which we might try next week, in fact), but I never start a hike that late in the day and suggested we do an earlier jaunt of our own and explore a new trail.
We headed down the Gravity Car Grade but somehow missed the trailhead. As we backtracked, we asked several people if they'd heard of the Zig Zag Trail (created in 1914), and no one had. I wondered if the trail had been decommissioned since the map came out. Luckily, though, the trailhead was much easier to find on the way back. It's just a short distance north of the Inn.
The Zig Zag Trail might be the steepest half-mile of trail I've ever hiked on Mt. Tam. Luckily, we wouldn't have to hike back up it. The temperature was a cool 57 degrees on the way down, but even though the sun would come out by the time we headed back up, it never got hotter than 67 degrees thanks to thick fog on the windward side of the ridge.
Fat solomon berries.
I thought this plant was a strange form of elberberry until I learned it was called spikenard, or elk clover. It's in the ginseng family, Araliaceae, along with English ivy (which the canyon sported quite a bit of).
We explored a bit where the trail bottoms out in a residential area along Cascade Drive. Someone had tacked a couple of signs onto a redwood near a no-name dam. The signs read, "Progress Stops Here, For Here Nature Rules All".
I scrambled up to check out the no-name dam, and a kingfisher swooped up the canyon and landed on a nearby tree where it chattered loudly before swooping farther upstream and out of sight.
This is the bottom of the Zig Zag Trail, looking back toward the way we came down. The roof in the background covers a small water reservoir. The sign on the railing marks the Mill Valley Steps-Lanes-Paths trail #305.
From the bottom of the trail it was a short walk down the narrow, paved road to a spot along Old Mill Creek called Three Wells. I'll have to visit again after the rains get started.
Back toward the trailhead we took the short hike up to the falls at Cascade Park. It'll be good to see these falls after some rain, too. Instead of hiking back up the steep grade of the Zig Zag Trail, we took the much easier Tenderfoot Trail. There's a fork near the start of the trail, and you can take the thinner right fork (heading north) back to Panoramic Highway. You actually strike pavement before you get that far, since there are rich folks' houses built among the woods near the top. I thought a couple of the places must be resorts. One was a huge, multi-level unit, and another had a full-size tennis court. The road topped out right at the Mountain Home Inn, and we might have been tempted to stop for a beer, but Pam needed to get back to the city before the farmer's market closed at one o'clock....
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