BIG ROCK (1,895') AND MT. TAMALPAIS (2,571') November 6, 2004
The weather forecast was fine, so I decided to make this short jaunt out to the North Bay for the two highest Marin County peaks. I tried for Big Rock last winter, but did the wrong peak by the guide I was using. So now, it was time.
I motored west on Interstate 80 to turn off at the Black Point cutoff road, CA 37. Coming into Novato, CA, I looked for a quick bite of food and rest. The fall colors were at peak for the liquid ambar and other trees here. I didn't have much time for non-native species, so continued south along U.S. 101.
Taking the Lucas Valley Road Exit, I motored west up the hill, passing streets named after mountains. I came to the slight trailhead parking along the road, with a few cars already there. There is room here for only 5-6 cars, with "no parking" signs about, along the narrow shoulder.
Starting the hike at 9:23 a.m., I walked up the trail past the "big rock," a thirty foot high pinnacle which seems to be a climbing temptation. Fences and a sign mark it as private land. Probably otherwise, many would-be climbers would get stuck on top, and then the bolts would come in, too.
The dirt was mostly pretty dry, and fine for my boots. This trail is built to a gentler gradient, and the summit communications antennas are seen from about the start, and further along. I was keeping track of whether a wheelchair could do this, for a Net pal, since it is wide enough, but pretty steep in parts. It is rough enough so that it can damage the conveyance, unless it is extremely well-built. I sauntered up the nice trail, and encountered a mountain biker already.
The trail passes through oak woodlands, and crosses over gullies by a couple minor footbridges. There are wooden railings in spots, and even a seep fed by a spring pipe. The trail switchbacks across the plain hills, then comes up to the main ridge. Signs point out private land, and where the public trail goes. Vistas to the populated east are soon seen, then the summit area is approached.
There are two sets of towers, and the further one (to the south) is the highest. I got there by about 10:55 a.m. A ten foot high cyclone fence topped with barbed wire prevents one from ascending the four foot high grassy bump, with building, that seems to be the top. I simply regard this as another (but few) such sort of peak, with an allowable reason to lower my standards by not standing on the top. Due to a work of man, the highpoint is not readily achievable.
Snapping many photos of the view, I tried for a good self-portrait. A sign warns about exceeding allowable limits for exposure to electromagnetic radiation, due to the microwave towers. Fog had rolled in over the land to the west, and I never saw the Pacific Ocean today.
Headed down by 11:13 p.m., I was back to my car by 12:40 p.m. Several more bikers and hikers had passed me, back on the trail.
Tired of Mt. Wittenberg (1,407') so soon again, I motored back to U.S. 101 and got drink at a fast food place. I continued south to exit at the CA Highway 1 road. This leads all the way, with a turn right, up to the top of Marin County's highest peak, Mt. Tam, as it is also known. I don't believe I have been here for perhaps 25 years! Because it is a near drive-up, I don't count it as a peak ascent. I have hiked from Mill Valley to the top a couple times, but as the then (early 1970's) peak section chair declared it wasn't worthy, I didn't include it on my list, or keep good records of my ascents. Now, I would consider it a worthy peak, with some 0.3 mile each way, minimum hiking necessary, but I'd climb it from the bottom to feel better about that!
The parking lot for the higher East Peak requires a self-pay fee of $6. I passed the hot dog stand and restrooms to take the Plank Trail. Many kids were here today. It took several minutes to summit, with a closed-up and razor-wired lookout building atop the rocky highpoint.
I began snapping the first of many photos, with a panorama in mind of the eastern view. The kids seemed to be having a great time. Some rock climbers passed by, with ropes and a ton of hardware. I think some climbing can be done on the rocks here, with good rappel practice possible, too.
I started down by about 2:55 p.m., and passed many tourist types coming up. This is a great viewpoint, and good for a weekend drive. I had come up here many times while I attended school in Berkeley, driven by my brother with girlfriend. I began hiking this peak, having so many trails, with the local Sierra Club back in the early 1970's. This is a great mountain to have so close by!
I got gas (@2.339) back in town, and chose to drive home early. Traffic back on the Interstate was terrible, even with four lanes in each direction. People just like their cars!
I had hiked about 6 miles with 1,600' gain, total. I shot nearly 300 images. I was fine mostly in my polyester T with jeans and light bottoms underneath. I had a vest along, but it was then too warm while climbing. I drank only a liter of water on the trails. I saw a few gnats, again, with some tiny yellow and red flowers, still in fresh bloom, on the Big Rock Trail.
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