Dan and Hannah Hike the Marin Headlands at Golden Gate Park, California

GG Natl Rec Area mapLet’s begin with a shout out to our friends, Scott and Tree. They turned us on to both the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore as primo northern California hiking destinations. With Muir Woods, these two make a Golden Triumvirate of San Francisco area hiking venues. Muchas gracias.

As country mice we have a well-grounded respect for driving through big cities. Have you been to Maine? Our biggest city Portland has 66,000 people. It’s the Tea Cup ride to Thunder Mountain in Los Angeles. But today we have no way around another of the Big Bad Leroy Brown of cities – San Francisco. So like a big boy and girl, we suck it up and drive in.

Waking to the king of motel breakfasts with mouth-watering biscuits and crispy home fries at the Comfort Inn in Santa Cruz, we wait for the morning rush hour to settle down before we drive the 80 miles to San Francisco. Rated the third worst city for traffic in the United States, San Francisco traffic is not to be messed with. Taking I-280 towards the city, we have Beast Mode traffic as we crawl north. Traffic jams, in fact, make the driving easier as there are no crazed Californians zipping in and out. And then for no discernible reason, things open up and we are doing 65 mph.

GG bridge itselfTo get to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take I-280 which dumps us on 19th Avenue into the city. This Wednesday morning in mid-January we sail through the eight miles of city streets with no problemo. Ahead lays one of the seven man-made wonders of the United States, the Golden Gate Bridge.

The bridge’s two towers rise nearly 200 feet higher than the Washington Monument. Officially an orange vermillion called international orange, the color of the bridge was selected to complement the natural surroundings and enhance the bridge’s visibility in fog.

The Marin Headlands of Golden Gate Park

The Marin Headlands of Golden Gate Park

From the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s a piece of cake as we take the very first exit (Alexander Road) to Sausalito.  At the bottom of the hill, we head straight through the one way tunnel for the Tunnel Road/Bunker Road. It takes us two miles to the Visitor Center where the ranger recommends the Wolf Ridge Trail. Being a Wednesday in mid-January, the parking lot is nearly empty; but soon we will be joined by 65 pint-size hikers.

GG1 H at Lagoon trail signStarting at the Lagoon Loop, we are quickly on the Miwok Trail, which, truth be told, is a gently rising fire road to the Wolf Ridge Trail. With full sun and into our second week of California hiking, we catch a climbing vibe and know again how fortunate we are.   Gaining 900 feet of elevation through this desert landscape, we still have not had a drop of rain or a cloudy sky since we came to the Golden State nine days ago.

Hannah climbing on the Miwok Trail

Hannah climbing on the Miwok Trail

We dive into Arthur Aron’s question #19 – If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why? Nope. I am living now as if I am on a short leash. Though I have some long-living genes from Dad (lived to 94) and Mom (to 92), I try to be a carpe diem kind of guy. I’ll hike, travel, hit the gym, and play ping pong as long as I can because the Universe has made me no promises about tomorrow.

Hannah B on the Wolf Ridge Trail

Hannah B on the Wolf Ridge Trail

Before long we meet some school kids hiking as they good-naturedly plod along. We learn that these Sacramento sixth graders are here for a week in the great outdoors. By law, every California sixth grader must participate in an outdoor experience. Once more, California leads the way again.  Given enough time, some non-educators will come up with a way to standardized test this experience and ruin it for good. Ouch.

Dan ready to descend on the Coastal Trail

Dan ready to descend on the Coastal Trail with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance

Above the Wolf Ridge Trail we see turkey vultures as we break for a lunch of apples and pb& j sandwiches. The kids are clustered, listening to the YMCA leader talk about the Hard core Apple core challenge. Eat the whole apple except the sticker, the seeds, and the stem. The students have no idea that they have a lifetime member in Hannah just 60 feet away.

Hiking above the Pacific Ocean

Hiking above the Pacific Ocean

As we descend the Coastal Trail, we are always in view of the beach below, the onetime barracks of Fort Davis, and the inland lagoon; the majestic Golden Gate Bridge is just beyond. During World War II, Fort Davis was built to protect the Golden Gate Bridge and the entrance to the San Francisco Harbor. The massive cannons could fire a one ton missile 25 miles out to sea, though these 16 inch guns were never used in combat.

With surfers in the background, Hannah chills at Rodeo Beach

With surfers in the background, Hannah chills at Rodeo Beach

Looking from above the cliffs at the Golden Gate Park, we see Rodeo Beach (pronounced Row-day-oh Beech), which is made up of tiny dark grey stones. On this Wednesday, the surfers are out and loving life.   Macho California men and women that they are, they still wear their wet suits in January.

Check the YouTube video on the scene from the Coastal Trail down to Rodeo Beach

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands

Our hike concludes back along the lagoon. At 330P, we’ve been on the trail for 3+ hours and have shrewdly planned it so we will beat the afternoon rush hour as we head north away from San Francisco, or so we think.  Ah, but the 101 giveth and the 101 taketh away. Initially cruising north at 65mph to our overnight Quality Inn 50 miles away, we are feeling quite smug.

GG trafficThen bam. A dead stop near Petaluma where construction workers are widening the highway. We inch along as four lanes go to three and then two. As country mice, we keep our heads down, remain quiet, and just slip away to our overnight in nearby Santa Rosa.

2 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike the Marin Headlands at Golden Gate Park, California

  1. Dan –while your sunny, warm post feels a bit like salt rubbed into winter wounds, I loved getting another peek into your California hikes. I especially enjoy the way you weave your thoughts, questions, insights and a bit of history into the hiking theme–and the photos are great! The thought of standardizing a week of outdoor experience made my stomach curdle. Ouch!

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