On this mid-January day we put a bow on our nine days of coastal hiking in California. It’s been Bluff Hikes up and down the coast: San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and Gualala. Though the snow and ice of Maine will snare us in its evil web tomorrow, this Thursday we will hike a mere three miles from the Pacific Ocean at the crown Jewel of the Redwoods, Muir Woods National Monument.
We have “stolen” an extra day in California by leaving tonight at 11P on the evening red-eye from San Francisco to Boston. Rather than fly today and miss hiking completely or fly tomorrow and pay for a motel room that we would use only til 4A in order to catch the 7A cross country flight, we are flying overnight. Brilliant? Yes and no. The trade-off is a lousy night of sleep in the plane. A small price to pay for another day in paradise.
Leaving the home of our friends Tree and Scott in Manchester, CA just after dawn, we drive inland by way of Mountain View Road heading to Boonville, CA some 25 miles away. No lie, it takes an hour to drive this winding road to get to this one-horse town known for its wine festivals. In need of gas, we have no choice but to put in an additional two gallons at $4.59 per gallon to tide us over til Cloverdale some 30 mountainous miles away.
After Cloverdale, it’s a direct 80 miles down the six lanes of the 101 to Muir Woods. Just three days ago we were caught in the Mother-of-All-Traffic-Jams on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here at Muir Woods. After sitting on the off-ramp for 25 minutes in five miles of car-clogged traffic ahead to the Pacific Coast Highway, we took the alternative six-lane 101 highway north to Santa Rosa, CA.
This Thursday we have no such traffic and cruise into Muir Woods. Parking that can be non-existent on the weekend after 11A is ample and welcoming today. Three years ago we hiked the Bootjack Trail for nearly four hours. Today we are looking for another redwood-strewn hike before we fly to the snowy tundra of Maine.
Taking to the boardwalk through the redwoods, we… But let me let my videographer tell his story.
Named after legendary conservationist John Muir, the Muir Woods National Park has redwoods nearly 1000 years old. When informed that this area would be named after him, John Muir said, This is the best tree lover’s monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world. To that, Hannah and I add Amen! My college roommate Big Steve used the word stunning to describe the spectacular in his life. These redwoods are stunning.
Though this is the rainy season, after a mile on the boardwalk we take the fourth bridge over the now very dry Redwood Creek as the relentless drought of California rolls on. On a quiet Thursday in January we choose the Ben Johnson Trail with its 1000 feet of elevation gain to celebrate our last day in California. Called a moderate/strenuous hike by the trail guide, the Ben Johnson Trail is a steady climb under the redwood canopy. FYI, Ben Johnson lived in a small cabin in what is now Muir Woods. In 1935, he built the trail that that bears his name.
With redwoods here, there, and everywhere, the mile and third climb takes us 45 minutes of purposeful hiking. In Muir Woods there lies the largest stand of ancient redwoods in the San Francisco Area; these trees are the tallest living things in the world. We are grabbing last minutes on this California trail not knowing that this year’s icy and snowy Maine winter will take hostages all the way through April!
Turning south on the Dipsea Trail, we find the trails are well-marked. Unfortunately we are leaving the redwoods behind as we hike through grasslands with pine trees bracketing the mini-meadows. With the Pacific Ocean to our west, the Dipsea Trail is pedestrian and functional, but hardly stunning.
Dipping back into the coastal rain forest of redwoods, we descend rapidly back to the Redwood Creek and toward the visitor center. With two hours of hiking in the books, we want more. We are in denial that we are leaving paradise this evening.
It’s 330P, and negotiating San Francisco traffic to the airport south of the city is on our minds. Traffic, schmaffic. It will be there whether we hike or not. Throwing vehicular caution to the wind, we select the Ocean View Trail as our closing hike of the week (See the blog for May 3, 2014).