We a group of hikers, senior in age but young in heart and body, went to Mill Valley for this planed long day hike. We had checked the weather condition in San Francisco and it was said to be cloudy. When we arrived the parking lot, we found that it was drizzling, not heavy to soak you but not light to be un-noticed. We decided to continue despite of the "rain", thought that it would stop soon. But beyond our imagination, that drizzling followed us all the way along the hike trail.
We started hike up the Mount Tamalpais east peak. After some easy slope, we started steep hiking up towards the peak. The ground is wet and the hike is pretty tough, which made everyone breathe heavily. But everyone still kept moving. In only 1:12 hours, we reached the peak by covering 1.7 miles and 1400 feet elevation gain (900->2300). Unfortunately, there was heavy fog all around us and we couldn't see anything beyond 300 feet. Well, that made everything looks more mysterious.
The next 6.5 miles to the Stinson Beach is relatively easy, because it's all gradual down hill on wide fire road. We have passed a hotel on the way down, called West Point Inn. At that point, we made small mistake and turned to a small trail and found only ¼ mile later that it was wrong, thanks to the handheld GPS unit. We continued down to an intersection with several roads joining together and at the visitor’s center of Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Three of our hiker group, who were not well prepared for this “rainy” day hike suffered badly, and had to decide to stop. They then found a ride back to their car and home. We the rest of group of 9 continued towards Stinson Beach, the sign says that it is only 3 miles away, which gave us quite the confidence.
We still going down hill, but realized that every foot we went down, we would gain back on the way back. But it was the intention of the hike and that did not bother us much. One interesting part on the trail was that we had to climb down a ladder, which is quite challenge because of the slippery caused by the rain. Anyway, everyone went down safe and sound. At the point about ½ mile from the Stinson Beach, we could see the beach and the ocean and we increased our speed to the beach.
At the beach, we took some photos and set up picnic tables and enjoyed our wonderful lunch with sharing of some great food prepared by the families. Also one strong guy went to a nearby Café and bought some French fries for all of us. It was a very enjoyable lunch, which prepared us for a tough hike up back.
After half hour, we started to hike back uphill. It was mostly gentle slope until we crossed a bridge, a split from the trail we hiked down. The slope became quite steep with stairs. We made a few short rests and gained back our breath. Someone in the group even volunteered to measure everyone’s heart rate and everyone was in good shape. We then reached the top of ridge and the trail runs in the open area without trees. But we still couldn’t see very far because of heavy fog. And then it came the bad news. We started to have steep down hill, which totally surprised us, because we thought that we would go almost flat to our parking lot. The down hill run doesn’t stop until we reached Muir Wood National Monument valley, which is almost at the sea level. It means that all the climb we made before were all given away and we would have to climb up again to our parking lot. At that point some of us were quite tiring. Someone even joked to hike to the Muir Wood Parking lot, leaving a couple of strong guys to go back to our parking lot to pick up the rest in Muir Wood parking lot. Well, the joke made us laugh and actually encouraged all of us to prepare for the challenge to hike up back to our parking lot, 900 feet up in 1.5 miles.
Surprisely, everyone hiked up without rest and eventually, we made back to our parking lot. We took some photos, and finished some more left over food. A very different (rainy day hike) hiking experience for all of us.
We covered 16 miles in about 8 hours (2mph average) with 3500 feet net elevation gain, a quite respective hiking performance.
The weather in Marin County, especially in the hilly area is unpredictable. So be prepared to hike in the light rain. The good thing of hiking in light rain is that you do not need to carry much water. I only consumed two 16-Oz bottle of water in 8 hours.
Mount Tamalpais, Stinson Beach, Muir Wood