January 24, 2007

Marin County & Muir Woods

There is an abundance of scenic drives and picturesque destinations in the Bay Area. A favorite route of mine is south along the wind-swept coast of Highway 1. The magnificent vistas are enough reason to get behind the wheel but there are also many charming towns along this way which are irresistible.

I fulfilled one of my dreams in Half Moon Bay many years ago: to go horseback riding on the beach. Boy, was that an exhilarating and unforgettable experience! Further along, is the Santa Cruz boardwalk (where my favorite pair of sunglasses flew off my head while I rode the roller coaster, never to be seen again). And how can I forget the lone cypress and seal island at Pebble Beach or the aquarium at Monterrey and the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea with that adorable B&B that’s made me want to run my own B&B someday too. All this and more awaits you along the scenic 17 Mile Drive stretch of the highway. And I plan to take this on again someday.

This time though we went north, across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County. Our first stop was Sausalito, small quaint waterfront town that has a Mediterranean feel to it. We chose to have brunch at Scoma’s. just because I thought it looked so pretty sitting on the water like that. Inside, the ambience was that of old-time charm. The view of the SF skyline from our table by the window was beautiful even on this cloudy day. Not having had enough of seafood, we feasted on crab cakes, oysters, scallops and prawns. The food was excellent and the service was gracious and friendly.

Scoma's Sausalito

After eating we browsed the many art galleries and used bookstores. It was so quiet. So different from when I was there on a weekend and it was teeming with residents and tourists alike. Even on the weekends though, this is the kind of place where people stroll. You won't see anyone rushing around. There is enough of that in the big city.

saltwater taffy in every flavor imaginable

Much of Marin County is the same way as we were about to find out. Fueled up with coffee and armed with a huge bag of assorted saltwater taffy, we continued on to the Tiburon Peninsula. We encountered another quaint sleepy town with charming restaurants and art galleries in what was once a fishing village. Some of the Bay Area's richest live here, I can see why. Tiburon has sweeping million dollar views and a host of upscale boutiques and restaurants. It was hard to imagine any crime happening here and true enough, Tiburon boasts of having one of the lowest crime rates this side of the country.

At the water's edge

By 2:oo, we left the bay behind us and headed west to walk among giants. Giant redwoods, that is. After about 30 minutes of winding road we reached Muir Woods National Monument, a 560 acre redwood forest in Mill Valley.

The first thing that struck me about this place was how utterly peaceful it is. I walked quietly along the paved trail, careful not to make too much noise lest I disturb the peace. This was nature in it's most majestic form. I was in awe of just how incredibly tall and wide these things were! (Stretching up to over 300 feet, they are in fact the tallest living things on the planet.) Because of their strength and resistance to fire, drought and disease most have been around for over 800-1000 years.

The park has numerous trails of varying degrees of difficulty, but because of (coughcough) the lack of time, we kept to the (easy) main trail loop that led us over creeks, under fallen redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens, for the geek in you), through hollow tree trunks, inside charred trunks of live trees, and past thick ferns. The entire forest floor was covered in wild flowers, fallen twigs, evergreen huckleberry, azaleas, and clovers, among others.

Being surrounded by all that raw beauty felt almost like a religious experience. It was all at once inspiring, humbling and joyful.

The cross-section of a redwood tree trunk on display

This concludes my long overdue posts about my trip last October. As you can see, I enjoyed it immensely. The more I travel, the more I realize how little I really know about this world we live in. I love that I will never run out of new places to discover, people to meet, food to try, cultures to learn about and experiences to live out! :)

P.S. If you would like to get involved with the Muir Woods Volunteer Program, call 415-556-3535.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid my uncle had horses and sometimes we'd trailer them down to Mexico and go riding on the beach. It was so much fun, you just brought back some of my favorite memories. :)

I loved reading about your trip, I want to go and sample some of that saltwater taffy!

Ari (Baking and Books)

joey said...

What a great post nens! I so enjoyed reading about the scenic drive you took and the discoveries you made along the way :) I love this sort of adventure (especially when charming towns and delicious food are involved) :)

Those trees are amazing! Can you imagine if they could talk??? What storied they would be able to tell!

christine said...

Oh wow, lucky you! You know those little girls who wished for ponies? I was one of them! I love horses and wish I had more access to them. Glad I helped bring back some happy memories for you, Ari. :)

You're so right, Jo. They have the most amazing stories to tell for sure, 1000 years worth of them! :)

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

The image of the cross-cut trunk with date tags, is what may be nice to do to Oregon's largest Sitka Spruce tree that broke off in the 2007-2008 winter storm.

In the redwoods, Jed Smith redwoods is my tri-weekly exploring area.

Here's the central page for my photos...

> > Grove of Titans Redwood Trees

Excellent solitude.