Saturday, August 3, 2013

Upper Bootjack Loop

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It's been years, maybe even a decade, since we last hiked to the West Point Inn, so we decided to make a loop that would take us up there and beyond, starting on the Matt Davis Trail at the Bootjack parking area. I wouldn't mind spending $8 to park there if I had a heavy cooler and was going to use the picnic area, but since we just needed a trailhead we parked on the other side of the street.

The picnic area is kind of interesting on its own, although no one was using it when we set out at 8:45 in the morning. I don't think anyone was using it when we got back at around 11:15 either, finding very few cars in the lot and still no one parked behind me across the street. I know that parking lot fills up eventually, and that people do picnic there, but I guess it was still too early. You might think hanging out on the south-facing side of the mountain on a summer day would be crazy hot, but it was supremely pleasant. The fog was close, just below Bootjack, but everything above that was sunny and warm. 

It was 59 degrees when we set out, and the warmest it got during our hike was a mellow 72. I guess we were paying too much attention to the picnic area because we missed our trail, heading to the left of this sign and up the Bootjack Trail. We soon reached the ranger station and ran into a ranger who set us in the right direction.

The Matt Davis was probably the "bridgy-est" trail I've hiked on Mt. Tam. So many bridges. I guess it's appropriate since Matt Davis (d. 1938) was known as "the dean of trail workers" back in the early days of the Tamalpais Conservation Club.

The obligatory manzanita tunnel.

The trail follows the contours of the mountain in a very shallow descent and has lots of great views, even when the long views are obscured by heavy fog.

It's also nicely varied. One minute you're in the woods, and the next you're out in the chamise chaparral.

The trail forks at this bridge, with the Matt Davis continuing on the right toward Mountain Home Inn. But we turned left onto what here becomes the Nora Trail, which takes you up through the woods to...

...the West Point Inn.

There were a few guests, but it was fairly quiet here in the lounge.

Besides finding restrooms, shade, and comfy chairs, Pam even got to tickle the ivories a little. And yes, the piano was even in tune.

A squadron of hummingbirds availed themselves of the Inn's hospitality as well.

On the other side of the Inn, we continued our hike up the Rock Springs Trail. Up at the top of the mountain, you can just make out the white radome (the "golf ball" protecting the radar unit long-since abandoned by the Air Force, but still in use by the FAA). Missiles fired from the nearby Nike Missile Site were guided by electronics placed up there as well.

Again, there were lots of great views and open areas like this serpentine outcrop.

I've hiked out on the north-side trails many times where I hardly ran into anyone. That is not a likely scenario here on the south side. There were large groups and small groups, trail-runners and dog-walkers. And for good reason, since the whole route is fairly easy and a pleasure to behold.

The Rock Springs Trail ended here at the Mountain Theater. The oak tree on the far right of the frame is where Pam and I staked out during the recent Tam Jam rock concert. Shade is scarce, and we were glad to have it on that hot and sunny day.

On the other side of the Mountain Theater, the trail drops down, with the Bootjack Trail going left and the Easy Grade Trail going right. Like the folks in the picture, we also took the Easy Grade.

View of East Peak from the Easy Grade Trail.

And before we knew it, we were picking up the Matt Davis Trail again where the Easy Grade runs into the (paved) Old Stage Road. It was just another five-minute hike from here back to Bootjack and the Jeep.

We're thinking about the next trip being a Lower Bootjack Loop, starting at nearby Pantoll but heading down to Muir Woods.

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