One day, perhaps in our lifetimes, the powers that be will recognize the absurdity of Daylight Standard Time (and the Electoral College). Until then, all we can do is celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel -- the first day of Daylight Savings Time, when the sun won't set until 7:13!
And where better to cast off the pall of winter than the place it all started for the Circle of Trust & Beer Hiking Club: on the breathtaking trails above Muir Beach? For those of you have been clamoring for a Sunday hike -- our first since Nov. 4 -- your time has arrived.
DON'T FORGET ...
Set your clock forward an hour before you go to bed Saturday night ... lest you show up an hour late to our Noon hike on Sunday (see you at the bar!).
And, while we dig dogs, the Circle has a no-pets policy on all of its hikes (but feel free to stick your hampster in your backup).
If you're coming from ANYWHERE in the East Bay, it's MUCH quicker to take the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and head south on 101 then to negotiate the Bay Bridge-Golden Gate Bridge route through San Francisco.
Those of you who attended our Top O' Tam hike on Jan. 19 will recognize these directions: the diversion on the route to this hike occurs where the asterisk (*) appears in the third step, below:
-- Halfway between the Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate bridges, exit Highway 101 at Stinson Beach/Highway 1.
-- Within a half-mile of exiting, you must TURN LEFT at the Marin Oriental Rug House (you can't miss it) to continue on Highway 1/Shoreline Highway.
- Although it seems like you're driving much further because of the serpentine roads, keep an eye on your odometer -- 2.7 miles after you turn left at the Rug House, you'll come to the intersection of Highway 1 and Panoramic Highway -- * Continue to follow Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach (DO NOT turn right toward Muir Woods/Mount Tam as you did on the Jan. 19 hike -- Muir Beach is unrelated to Muir Woods).
-- After an additional 2.4 miles, turn LEFT at Pacific Way -- the iconic, whitewashed Pelican Inn (pictured at left) will be on the corner of Pacific Way/Highway 1. You know you're getting close when you see Green Gulch Zen Center on your left.
-- Follow pothole-riddled Pacific Way 250 yards into the Muir Beach parking lot (parking is free and plentiful).
-- We'll meet at the two benches on the other side of the bridge connecting the parking lot from the beach. There are porta-potties aplenty in the parking lot, so feel free to cast off the morning coffee before crossing the bridge.
The Coastal Trail loop from Muir Beach is not unlike a Xanax-popping prom queen with a scholarship to an Ivy League school, where she'll piss away the opportunity by pursuing a philiosophy degree: stunning, moody, brilliant and complex. If I had only one opportunity to sell a novice on hiking in the Bay Area, this would be where I'd send 'em.
Right out of the gate, everybody gets a circulatory wake-up call with a steep 400-foot climb from the trailhead to a jaw-dropping perch above a temperamental stretch of ocean. Now you're awake.
From there, we glide above the Pacific as the trail falls and rises for more than a mile. Big Sur has nothing on this stretch of the coast, where the waves crash dramatically against rocky outcroppings. The trail then drops as it follows a horseshoe lagoon through a neck-high Eden of flora -- including horsetail, lupine, sticky monkey-finger ... and gobs of poison oak (Go TechNu!).
As the trail makes an abrupt left to start another cardiac climb ("The Steps"), the adrenaline-deprived among us can scramble 120 feet down to the ocean over loose, sliding rock and tricky footing. At the bottom awaits Pirates Cove, Marin County's smallest, most secluded beach, where mounds of volcanic rock provide plenty of climbing and photographic opportunities. The only time I've ever wanted to gag on a hike was in 2007, a few days after the Cosco Busan rammed into the Bay Bridge and spilled 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel. Pirates Cove was dripping in oil -- you can still see remnants on Big Rock. Don't get me wrong -- I'm the last guy to cast aspersions when it comes to knocking back a few cold ones and jumping behind the wheel of a super-tanker. But c'mon.
Even if you're not inclined to pursue the Pirates Cove side trip, there's sweating to be done. Back at the trail, above the Pirate's Cove turn-off, a series of more than 100 steps launch us into another lung-expanding climb (which is even longer for those who choose to scramble down to the beach) to an intersection with the Tennessee Valley Trail. From here, you can glimpse a stanchion or two of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and Ocean Beach stretched our far below to the south.
The beauty of this route is that our more vertically challenged hikers can tackle this gnarly stretch of hill in increments as the Pirates Cove crowd frolics below. By the time we all meet at the where the Coastal Trail meets up with the top of Tennessee Valley, the leisurely hikers will be well-rested for our final surge up the considerably more gentle, rolling hills of Coyote Ridge. As we approach 1,000 feet above sea level, even more spectacular views of San Francisco come into view, framed perfectly by U-shaped hills.
It's at this point that we catch sight of the eastern side of the ridge (technically, we're climbing the northernmost foothills of Mount Tam, which are severed from the from rest of the mountain by Highway 1). Below lies Richardson Bay and the communities of Tiburon and Belvedere; stretching out beyond is the section of San Francisco Bay framed by the Richmond-San Rafael and Bay bridges, including Angel Island and Alcatraz.
With the climb behind us, we veer onto Green Gulch Trail to begin a photographer's dream of a descent down the backside of the foothills. Under the shade of a giant Cypress visible from Muir Beach, we'll stroll past Hope Cottage, a spartan one-room accommodation with one of the prettiest views on the planet (the view from the inside is pictured here). If you're so inclined, it's all yours for $400 a night; Hope Cottage is rented by the Buddhist community at the Green Gulch Zen Center -- the mystical place into which our hike soon descends.
While passing through Green Gulch, the Buddhist monks and lay people on retreat at the center will usually politely nod -- but seldom will they speak. No matter -- we're they're guests as we return to sea-level ground, through the amazing organic gardens of Green Gulch, a horse pasture and into the marshy tidal lands that lead us back to Muir Beach. This is -- hands down -- my favorite home stretch on any hike, anywhere.
This hike is so spectacular and diverse that we chose it to serve as our inaugural hike when the Circle of Trust & Beer was formed in February 2012 -- and again when we became a Meetup group in September 2012. At our Meetup kick-off, Muir Beach was cloaked in in a breathtaking, haunting fog.
Our 6-mile hike is over, rest stops and all, in less than 3 hours.
And since we've pushed the clocks forward an hour, the sun is still high in the sky as we head off in pursuit of ...
The Pelican Inn, right at the base of our hike, is a blast -- and has the coolest beer-drinking lawn in the Bay Area. But it's way to small to accommodate our group.
The Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur Landing has been our trusty back-up spot for hikes on Mount Tamalpais. This time, it's Plan A. We can enjoy the sun on the deck here - and they'll hook us up with heat lamps if the sun alone isn't doing the job. There's beer and food for every palate, and the folks at MBC always do a great job of taking care of us, regardless of the size of our group.
Marin Brewing Company
1809 Larkspur Landing Circle
(directly across Sir Francis Drake from Larkspur Ferry)
Larkspur, CA 94939