Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mount Tamalpais East Peak

Looking up towards the East summit
DATE: Saturday, May 11, 2019
DISTANCE: 10.6 miles
TIME: 5.5 hours
SUMMIT: 2572 ft.  


To get a sense of it's scale, I wanted to approach Mount Tamalpais from a point near the bottom, and go up what looked to be the steepest part, the Eastern ridge. There are plenty of trailheads farther up, with easy driving access, and shit, you can drive all most all the way up to the top if you want(!), but I'm not here to do things the easy way. I picked the Piedmont Trailhead, near Larkspur as my jumping off point, and parked the van in a dainty residential neighborhood. Fumbling around at 6:40 AM in the foggy semi darkness, I veered off the Piedmont trail, because I didn't want to go into what looked like someone's driveway, and took an unintentional turn up into the Blithedale Ridge Open Space, a unplanned, non linear detour down Southern Marin Fire Line Road and Huckleberry Trail.

Flowers along the trail
Soon enough, I was heading due Northwest again on various fire roads, until I veered onto a trail off of Indian Fire Road. This pretty much went straight up the steepest part of the Eastern Ridge on what was at times a partly overgrown trail, and at others, a steep rocky drainage ditch. It was a relentless, knee killing climb, at it was somewhere along here that I got above the layer of clouds, and was looking down at a sea of silvery white, with only Mount Diablo poking through in the Eastern distance. Finally got to the paved loop around the top, and heard the voices of fellow hikers, of which there had been very few up until that point. (A few doggers and jog walkers in the lower regions)

The welcoming watchtower
I quickly went to the top, past the gravity train barn and right up to the sealed shut, locked up Mount Tam Lookout tower. Clouds blanketed the the Earth as far as I could see, with only a few peaks in Marin, the North Bay, and the aforementioned Diablo poking above. To the West, the Tam ridge descended into coastal fog. I quickly dropped down the verdant Fern Canyon trail, which had some nice little waterfalls, around the South side of the mountain on Old Railroad Grade road, and on to Hoo-Koo-E-Koo road, back to the crossroads on the East side where I had been before. Not wanting return the way I had come, back over the unnecessary climb of Blithedale and Corte Madera Ridge, I veered down into Baltimore Canyon on Hoo-Koo-E-Koo trail. A heavily forested switchback path led me to Dawn Falls, which was already down to a mere trickle. I mean I've never seen it before, but based on the rock shelf it pours over, I assume it must be much bigger sometimes. Dawn falls trail heading East along Larkspur Creek, to eventually conjoin with the Piedmont Trail.

Going down Fern Canyon
Past Dawn falls is where the crowds of norm dog hiker families started to get thick, and I was forced to remember that it was a Saturday in a very populated area. "Do you know what poison oak looks like?" "No, i think Grandpa does." "Do you know what it looks like, Grandpa?" Grandpa just smiles and nods. (Grandpa, internal dialog "please kill me now.") A the end of the journey, going out the way I had intended to come in, I was finally able to see where I'd gone wrong at the start, because the Piedmont Trail goes right past some houses, and there are a couple of cars parked on it, that make it LOOK like someone's driveway.

The ass kicking journey

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