Sunday, January 6, 2013

San Francisco area bike adventure

After finding a nicely discounted airfare to San Francisco several months ago, I arrived on schedule on Dec 24. I took the BART train to Oakland Amtrak to retrieve my bicycle and gear, and then, after visiting a friend for lunch in Oakland, I took my bike on a ferry ride across SF Bay. Now I had to ride through throngs of tourists to get across the Golden Gate to my destination in Marin County.
Marin County is that hilly place across the bridge.

All these old buildings attest to the area's history of military significance.

Across the bridge, I enjoyed a nice climb up Conzelman Rd, where the tortuous local tectonic situation was evident in the rocks on the side of the road.

After spending the first night in the Marin Headlands Hostel, my first stop on Christmas day was Rodeo Beach.

This day turned out to be the rainiest of the trip, but it didn't stop me from hitting some local fire roads and trails. This is the Bobcat Trail under a eucalyptus tree, which smelled wonderful.
One of my favorite memories of this trip is the smell in the eucalyptus groves.

There were isolated patches of pretty flowers here and there:

And slugs as long as my hand.

This was a glorious descent down the Miwok trail.

After spending a very wet day exploring several local fire trails, I decided that I wasn't enthusiastic about setting up camp in the rain. I returned for another night at the hostel to rest and dry out my clothes.

The next day, I knew I needed to restock on food, so I headed toward Sausalito, which turned out to be a tourist trap, but I did see this nice rainbow.

After the rainbow, I was drenched in an exceedingly cold and intense rain. Sausalito has several bike shops. I visited one of them to buy a waterproof saddle cover, which I'd apparently forgotten at home.

On to Mill Valley where I could stock up on groceries and begin my ascent of Mt Tam.



I was under the impression that going up Mt Tam would be a straightforward process, but I got confused a few times and ended up with quite a few bonus miles, many of which involved pushing my bike up very steep hills. Just when I thought I was going in the right direction to the summit, I'd start going back downhill, only to revisit the place where I'd started climbing an hour earlier. This was one such "wrong" turn.


Frustrated, but still enjoying myself, I stopped at an unofficial 1-site primitive campground to spend the night. Mt Tam was visible through the branches surrounding my tent, and I concluded that I was FINALLY on the right trail, which turned out to be true. The next day was sunny and perfect.

I found this awesome grove of redwoods.

As I continued up the "road", I was treated to a lovely view of the east bay, and Mt Diablo on the horizon.

And a nearby lake.

A few times, I wished for my Pugsley on the rough roads.

The views from the top of Tam are pretty spectacular.

Riding down Ridgecrest, the iconic views over Bolinas Bay were great, but I especially enjoyed the fog down in the valleys.

I started up the Bolinas Ridge Fire Rd, with hopes of staying at the Pt Reyes Hostel. But the fire road was soft and mushy and slow going, and according to the website, the hostel may have been full.

I was tired and cold and my morale was already a little low...then I discovered that one of my bags had fallen off my bike. I retraced my route several miles to find the bag, but I'd spent valuable daylight and lost plenty of elevation. I changed my plan and enjoyed an exhilarating descent down the Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. I'd heard for years about Bolinas and its hostile attitude toward outsiders, but I figured I could charm the locals. Apparently this was the case, because everything I bought at two restaurants and a store were LESS expensive than advertised. I enjoyed Bolinas immensely, probably because it reminds me of the somewhat insular, isolated community where I grew up. Bolinas residents go as far as to remove signs pointing toward Bolinas from the highway, and the only sign indicating the correct direction did not refer to Bolinas by name.

The beach in Bolinas was a nice place for strolling and picking up shells.

The local fisherman were hauling in crabs, as were some local shorebirds. A big gull tried to extract this guy from the surf as the tide rolled out.

I spent the night in Bolinas and loved it. I want to go back there sometime. It's a special place.

To be continued...


Chris said...

I believe that's the Coast Guard Station Golden Gate down by the water in your second picture... nice blog!

philcycles said...

The trail up Mt. Tam is actually the roadbed of the Mill Valley and Muir Woods RR, known as The Crookedest Railway In The World. You probably got turned around in what's called The Double Bowknot.

philcycles said...

Sorry, faulty memory. It's the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods.

Philip Williamson said...

Great and gripping. I really enjoy this.

Shaun said...


Anonymous said...

Banana slugs. :-)