Saturday, December 14, 2013

East Peak

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Until today I had never hiked around East Peak. I've always considered East Peak to be more of a tourist destination than an interesting hiking location, and it costs $8 to park there. It seemed like it would be a good place to catch the sunrise, though, so in the interest of exploration I drove on up. The ranger who opened the gate down at Pantoll was gracious enough to be early and to let me head on up before she even had both sides of the gate open. I was the first to arrive at the peak, but I was soon joined by another sunrise photographer who asked me if we were on the right trail (which wound clockwise around the peak, so we had to take it on faith). I said, "I don't know. I've never been here before!" Having been a fan of Mt. Tam for around 20 years, I could hardly believe it myself.

Here's an example of how not to take a good sunrise picture. It was kind of a precarious spot, so I paid more attention to the tripod's footing as well as my own than to thinking things through. I knew the graduated neutral density filters were going to flare out, but I used them anyway, hoping that luck would overcome physics. As usual, it did not.

I was surprised to hear some other people nearby, and was quickly able to spot them on a promontory below me. They must have hiked up from below, well before sunrise.

It's the seventh Spare the Air Day in a row, which I believe one of the weather guys said is a record (and we're not done yet). We've also had record cold temperatures this month and might experience record high temperatures before the month is out. More ominously, we are also wrapping up the driest calendar year since rainfall record-keeping began in 1849.

The Fire Lookout is perched on the very peak, elevation 2,571 feet.

The Gravity Car Barn is open on weekends beginning at noon. 

The Verna Dunshee Trail circumnavigates the peak and offers tremendous views north. Even on a Spare the Air Day I could see Tomales Bay, Black Mountain, Nicasio Reservoir and, of course, 4,342-foot-high Mt. Saint Helena. 

I'm pretty sure you could catch the sunrise and be out of there without getting cited, but I wasn't taking any chances on my first visit. Besides, it's worth eight bucks to be up there.

From East Peak I headed down the hill to pick up the trail camera and was surprised to see a blanket of fog coming down over Bolinas instead of moving in from the ocean.

At the very bottom of the Steep Ravine Trail where it meets Highway 1, I found my first waterfall of the season.... Yes, it's only about a foot tall, but it was refreshing to hear moving water for a change. Maybe it'll start raining next month....

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