February 20, 2012, San Francisco, CA: We take the high road, the Sun Trail, at its intersection with the Dipsea, winding our way to the wide wooden porch of the Tourist Club along the slopes of Mt. Tam. I gravitate towards the narrow dirt paths that weave through the landscape north of San Francisco, especially this one that ends at such a special place. Open to the public just a few short weekend hours, this place is a place to breathe deeply, to inhale the pine, to soak it all in. Some are here for snacks and beers and board games with friends in celebration of a 25th birthday; others have hiked in with their children for an afternoon picnic. It’s just as easy to imagine ourselves here years from now as it is to remember being here many times before.
It was from the slopes of Mt. Tam, not within the city itself, that I first felt the pull of this sliver of west.
The town of Mill Valley at the base of this mountain was the place I first got off the bus from the airport here more than a decade ago with little more than a tent and a backpack. It was here in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais that I camped out alongside summer coworkers for my first few weeks out west, and raced daylight through Tennessee Valley, and held my first real jobs, and grocery shopped for backcountry trips, and paddled among houseboats. It is where we sat yesterday at the Tourist Club to reminisce, to appreciate the present, and to look ahead.
Something I love about these trails are the waves of warm air and sunlight that surprise you upon emerging from a chilly grove of trees. I love the way Mt. Tam’s winding roads and extensive trailheads and fire roads lead to discovery, whether along the Coastal Trail or down in the cold swimming hole near Muir Woods or way down at Bolinas or Stinson Beach. I love the high we feel along these paths and the way the city of San Francisco is made better because of the landscape that surrounds it.
These trails work wonders, help us settle in. Today there is time and the day is long. There is time for coffee at The Depot in Mill Valley or at Royal Ground in Russian Hill. There is time for a slow walk along the crest of Broadway, or time for the fog to descend on this bright, long weekend. There is ample time to marvel at this place we’ve now reentered, this city by the bay.