Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mountain Home Loop

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After grabbing the memory card from the camera trap farther up the mountain, we drove back down to hike a loop I've been wanting to do for a while.

Starting at the parking lot across the street from Mountain Home Inn, the loop would take us down Alice Eastwood Road (we were passed twice by motor vehicles heading to and from the campground) to Muir Woods, up the Bootjack Trail to Van Wyck Meadow, then back via the Troop 80 Trail. In this shot of Pam with the giant redwood tree, we're at a spur trail that links the Camp Eastwood Trail to the Bootjack without descending into Muir Woods at all.

We didn't use the spur. We wanted to see Muir Woods. It was only around 9 a.m., so it wasn't yet crowded down there. 

It was pretty down in Muir Woods, thanks in part to all the green of the new elk clover (Aralia californica) leafing out. The creek was still running and birds were singing, so the soundscape was nice too.

I was a little surprised to run into traffic way back beyond the Muir Woods boundary. This chatty group started hiking again as soon as we reached them. Unfortunately, we couldn't overtake them, so for some peace and quiet we stopped to rest and let them get well ahead of us, only to catch up to them and repeat the dance a couple more times before parting ways at Van Wyck Meadow.

I had never hiked the Bootjack Trail up out of Muir Woods before. It's gorgeous. Here, the newly minted canyon maple leaves (Acer macrophyllum) were the stars of the show.

We'll have to remember to bring a snack next time. This huge boulder next to the creek would have made an excellent picnic spot.

I figure this is the bridge whose reconstruction kept the trail closed for so long (after those trees in the ravine below smashed the last one). It's the most substantial bridge I've ever seen on the mountain, complete with steel girders.

The day started out cool, especially higher on the mountain where the north-facing exposure was quite windy. There was hardly any wind at all on the south side of the mountain, though, and none once we were down in the woods. The day became quite warm, and the trail was steep, so it was nice to find this accessible pool for a cool splash.

Parts of the trail were steep enough to require steps, and some of the steps had been made with old trail signs.

Here's a newer trail sign at Van Wyck Meadow ("Pop. 3 Steller's Jays"). According to my old (out of print) Olmsted & Bros. map, Van Wyck Meadow was a "[p]opular picnicking area in the 20's and 30's. Formerly called Lower Rattlesnake Camp. Named for Sidney M. Van Wyck, Jr., president of the [Tamalpais Conservation Club] in 1920-21. As a lawyer, he played an active role in agitating for a state park. The big rock in the middle of the meadow was called Council Rock."

There are many possible routes to continue hiking from the meadow. I'd thought about continuing uphill to pick up and return by the Matt Davis Trail, but I'd never hiked the Troop 80 Trail before and wanted to see it.

Unfortunately, as we soon found out, the trail was part of a race course! They came like this, one or two at a time. The trail is very narrow in most places, and sometimes the drop-off is deadly steep. You would not want to be accidentally bumped into a ravine, so we were glad to be able to let runners pass in wider sections of the trail.

Here, where the Sierra Trail meets the Troop 80, we finally parted company with the racers at an aid station. This junction is about 100 feet from the Panoramic Highway, but most of the Troop 80 Trail was not quite so close to the road. In any event, there was a lot more traffic on the trail than on the road!

We didn't rush the hike, but we didn't dawdle either, as I would have if I'd brought my "real" camera, so the 5-mile loop took us just about three hours. It's a nice hike through beautiful woods and along an interesting creek, but it can be a bit "civilized," especially with summer festivities coming on. Speaking of which, the Mountain Play began its new season today.

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