California_Sept-Oct-2016 travel blog

Muir Woods Nat'l Mon. is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational...

We had the popular Stinson Beach all to ourselves this morning

The Marin Headlands to the south were shrouded in fog

The Visitor Center area was already busy when we arrived at 9:45

Our clockwise loop hike started on the Dipsea Trail and returned on...

The 7.4-mile Dipsea Trail follows a race route between Mill Valley and...

Considered one of the most beautiful trail races in America, the Dipsea...

The Ben Johnson Trail took us into the welcome shade of tall...

Oxalis were growing along Fern Creek Trail

Baby Redwoods are clones of the mature parents in the family group

Fallen Redwoods support life and provide nutrients on the forest floor

Steps built by the CCC on the Lost Trail lead to the...

Hike a smaller loop by following the easy Redwood Creek Trail to...

Thursday, September 22nd: Muir Woods Day Trip

Weather: 55F in the morning, only rising to 68F with bright sunshine in the afternoon

Route: Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Olema --> PCHwy (CA-1) South --> Muir Woods Road --> Muir Woods National Monument --> Panoramic Hwy --> CA-1 --> US-101 --> Sir Francis Drake Blvd --> Camp Taylor

Today's drive:

- Due to the incredible engineering feat of building the Pacific Coast Hwy (aka CA-1) precariously close to the winding coastal rim and because of the amount of traffic enjoying the scenic views, we were forced to drive at a "leisurely" pace along the Pacific Coast Hwy. It was almost impossible to drive the 55mph speed limit anywhere along our route to Muir Woods N.M. Allow extra drive time to visit this area.

- The upside was fantastic views of the Pacific Coast, small coastal towns and tall trees. Along the way we stopped to take a short walk on Stinson Beach looking for whales or dolphins.

- Even on a Thursday morning before 10:00 there were several busloads of visitors already at the Visitor Center. Someone even arrived in a chauffeured limousine.

- On the way back to Camp Taylor we drove a portion of the Panoramic Hwy from Muir Woods N.M. to CA-1, joining US-101 (aka Redwood Hwy) outside Mill Valley. A Safeway supermarket in the Strawberry Village Shopping Center was a convenient stop for us to stock up for our upcoming back-packing trip.

Today's hikes:

- By starting our hike on the Dipsea Trail and going clockwise back to the Visitor Center we didn't have to share the trails with many hikers. Most visitors were leaving by the time we reached the easy trails at 11:00. We chose to hike through the open meadows along the Dipsea Trail first to enjoy the morning bird life there before the sun was too hot and to allow the crowds on the easy trails to dissipate.

- Our loop followed the Dipsea Trail to Ben Johnson to Bridge 4, then we took the Redwood Creek Trail to the Fern Creek Trail before heading back on the Lost and Canopy View Trails to the easy Redwood Creek Trail. We walked up to Bridge 3 on the Redwood Creek Trail so we could circle back on the Bohemian Grove Trail. The clockwise direction entailed a steeper uphill climb, including 2 long flights of steps, on the Fern Creek and Lost Trails.

- Hiking the loop took us through a range of habitats from open meadows to deep canyons.

- It was such a treat to spend the sunny afternoon hiking in the shade of tall redwood and spruce trees, with their wonderful scents wafting in the breeze.

- While cleaning up the kitchen after dinner we heard a lot of squawking from a Descent of Woodpeckers in the trees along the creek. We finally spotted the reason for their distress -- an Owl perched on the branch of a dead tree by the creek. We always feel so privileged when we get the occasional peek at events in the natural world.

Muir Woods National Monument lies within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Golden Gate International Biosphere Reserve. The Biosphere is one of the richest and most threatened reserves of plants and animals on the planet. Muir Woods is a small area of old growth Redwoods preserved in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt through the Antiquities Act, which made it the 7th U.S. National Monument. The land was named in honour of famed conservationist, John Muir, at the request of the donor, William Kent.

For those who want to learn a little about the redwood trees, the wide, paved Redwood Creek (aka Main) Trail, with its informational signage, is a good choice. The other trails have a hard dirt surface with protruding tree roots in some sections. Because this National Monument takes time to reach we wouldn't consider it a "must-see", but for those who enjoy the drive or are passing through the area it is worth visiting for an hour or so, perhaps as a pleasant lunch stop.

What we learned:

- Redwoods have been growing in many parts of the world since Jurassic times but now are only found in small areas of California and China. The remaining trees have survived many changes, some living for over 1000 years. Thanks to John Muir, who brought to light their amazing characteristics, we are still able to walk among some of these survivors and have hope they will continue to thrive for future generations to appreciate.

- The park was asking visitors to please leave the colourful Autumn Oak and Maple leaves for the pregnant deer for whom they are a vital source of Vitamin C.

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