Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mt. Tam(pon)

Last Thursday we gave the backpacking gear a chance to prove itself and found out some things we already know (our stove doesn't work, we bring too much food) and some things we didn't know (our tent is definitely too short for some of us). We headed just north of San Francisco to Mt. Tamalpais - affectionately known as Mt. Tam - for a three night excursion in preparation for the High Sierras. After camping up at the ranger station the first night, we won a two man lottery for a campsite down at the seashore. We packed up (the only time we carried all our gear) and hiked 2-3 miles downhill to the campsite overlooking the ocean and Stinson Beach just to the North.
The next day we left most of our gear and went for a marathon hike from sea level up Mt. Tam (2700+ ft.), down to Muir Woods, up and back down to the campsite. Needless to say it was quite a day and we appropriately rewarded ourselves with a feast of top ramen, mac and cheese, tuna, and chocolate oatmeal for dessert. Above is the view from the top looking East at toward Rafael.
Dizzle, the campfire-making legend, just about foreshadowed the Angora Fire in Tahoe on Friday night, when he nearly started the whole campsite on fire. I was humbly setting up the tent in the roaring coastal winds when I hear an explosion and turn around to see 4-5 different fires outside the campfire in dry brush! He is also holding a flaming fuel tank and throws it into some more brush to start another fire. Panicking, we move in quickly on the fire with feet and water bottles and somehow manage to stave off disaster and preserve the natural beauty of the Northern California coast. When we weren't threatening to set the wilderness on fire, we typically spent a long time cooking (we didn't bring firewood and our stove didn't work as mentioned) playing Go, and reading books that were entirely too heavy to bring on a backpacking trip. We slept terribly in the tent, it is entirely too short for Colton. Below is our campsite at the shore.
Dave picked us up on Sunday at Stinson Beach where one weary traveller was comforted with a cheeseburger. Monday morning we got a tour of Michelle's sweet new apartment in Berkeley which is about ten times the size that she describes it as. She took us to meet Uncle Tom in Vallejo, who took us out to In N Out Burger and brought us up to Camino in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas where we are staying with Aunt Cathy. Muchas Gracias Tomas. With Bobby, Tommy and Tanner all home for the summer, we are having quite a Wii and Basketball festival. And now for Dizzle's account. Please excuse the confusion of having two accounts in non-sequential order.

Colt hardly mentioned our stay at the Hoyt's house, which was extraordinary. Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt were very generous with their house and cooked excellently. We owe them big time. Thanks also go out to Dave, for driving us to and from our expedition. In Berkeley, we did a fair amount of hanging out and planning, but I'd say that the stay was highlighted by our trip to this excellent cinema where they serve beer and pizza. Beer and pizza at a movie theater, yes, you heard right. Well the movie wasn't that great (Hot Fuzz), but the atmosphere was incredible. Plus price of admission was a mere 3 bucks, which s great considering our tight budget.

Then, as noted above by Colt, we headed out to Mt. Tam, staying at Pantoll station the first night. Here's our camp.

As I noted in my journal, we weren't exactly roughing it with running water less than 20 yards from our campsite. Our first full day we hiked up halfway up Mt. Tam where we meant two kind women, Mary Jane and someone else. They were very excited for our proposed trip to Desolation Wilderness and kept trying to feed us or have us stay at their house. We resisted the urge for a return to civilization and headed down to the sea, picking up our gear on the way, via the Steep Ravine Trail, where we camped on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. The waves were quite spectacular as they broke on the rocks.

The hike down was quite beautiful; since the trail followed a stream, we were hiking amidst giant redwoods and lush vegetation, while the water gurgled alongside us. Once we got down to our camp, we realized our relative isolation from other trails and were dismayed at the prospect of hiking back up the trail from whence we came. As Colt noted, I nearly set the entire meadow on fire, which was pretty embarrassing. Luckily we put the fire out quickly and settled down to a dinner of disgusting, overcooked instant mac and cheese. The sunset on the water was spectacular, although Colt didn't turn out as well.

The next day we hiked back up Steep Ravine Trail to the Pantoll station, then continued up Mt. Tam. I actually found the views on the way up to be more satisfying than the one from the peak because the peak was covered with people, structures, and power lines. Nonetheless, it was a great 360 degree view of San Fran, Oakland, and the surrounding wilderness. Having reached the top in a mere 3 hours and 45 minutes at 12:30, we ambitiously began our descent, planning to take a roundabout way through John Muir National Monument. Well, the heat of the day got to us a little bit once we got down into the valley of the redwoods. Looking at the map, we realized that we had hiked down nearly to sea level, which meant that we had nearly another 1000 vertical feet to climb over a ridge separating us from our campsite. 5 o'clock rolled around and our provisions got low. Luckily we had found a stash of pistachios on top of Mt. Tam and made a late afternoon feast out of the nuts - very salty, but delicious. We then began our ascent and returned to camp by 7 o'clock. Since it was our last night in the wild, we cooked most all of our remaining food and had a big meal of ramen, mac and cheese, oatmeal, and our regular treat of hershey's chocolate. I tried the ramen without cooking it, but merely soaking it in water, a la Mike Siciliano of Swarthmore, PA. I found it edible and will be bringing ramen on our trip into Desolation Wildnerness, despite the lack of a stove.

Our last day we hiked down to Stinson beach and waited around for Dave to come pick us up. I fell asleep on the beach with the wind whipping sand all around me (I was nearly buried by the time I woke up) while Colt made his way to the nearest restaurant and ordered a cheeseburger (lame). Dave showed up at the beach, dog in tow, and we headed back to civilization.

As Colt noted, we're now just outside of Sacramento, staying with his Aunt and cousins. They've been extremely generous with their house and food and much thanks goes out to them. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, Colt, Bobby (Colt's cousin), and I head to Desolation Wilderness for a five night stay. As you may have heard in the news, there has been a large fire in Tahoe, but it seems to be contained now and hopefully will not have scared bears into our path.

No comments: