A Solo Circumtambulation
I watch polls and election returns the way many people watch sports. This year’s been an especially tense one for me — although I had every expectation that Trump would be beaten, I also had every expectation that the counting of ballots would be delayed in critical states, and that I’d be in a constant state of refreshing various news sites, state Board of Election sites, and Twitter.
So I decided to take a few days away from my screens and to head to Mt. Tamalpais for some camping and hiking.
I was especially interested in doing a circumtambulation — a walk around Tam. I first heard of the idea in the book Walkabout Northern California, by Tom Courtney. He outlines a five-day, 56-mile hike that goes from Muir Beach up to Olema, then past Woodacre and south of Fairfax, then to Mill Valley and the Dipsea Steps, back to Muir Beach. Perhaps one day I’ll do that route, but it ends up straying pretty far from Mt. Tam proper.
I wanted to stay entirely on Tam itself, so I charted a one day hike of 18 miles. I didn’t have a camera with me (remember: no screens!), so I didn’t get any photos, but I wanted to describe the hike in case anybody else is looking for a route to circumambulate Mt. Tam.
Because Google Maps doesn’t always know what roads connect to what hiking trails I have to show this as a few different maps, but here’s my route:
Essentially, here’s the route:
Pantoll → Old Stage Road / Old Mine Trail → Forbes Bench → Rock Spring Trailhead → Cataract Trail → Cataract Falls → Mickey O’Brien Trail → Barth’s Retreat → Potrero Meadows → Rifle Camp → Northside Trail → Inspiration Point → [optional side hike up to crest of Tam: Eldridge Grade (up) to East Ridgecrest Blvd and then back] → Eldridge Grade (down) → Indian Fire Rd → Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Rd → Old Railroad Grade → Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail → Matt Davis Trail → Bootjack → Pantoll.
All told, it was around 18 miles, but that includes the trip up to East Ridgecrest and back down, which added a little over 2 miles to the journey.
If you aren’t starting at Pantoll, I’d recommend parking at the Rock Spring Trailhead and going the route I outlined above, but after going down the Eldridge Grade for a bit, look for the sign for the Wheeler Trail at one of the turns. Take that down to connect with Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Rd. Wheeler isn’t marked on Google Maps right now, but I’ve marked it on this map. It cuts over a mile of fire roads from the hike, and has you descend through a cool redwood forest. Then, after you get onto the Matt Davis Trail, take the Nora Trail up to the West Point Inn and then take the Rock Spring Trail back to the Rock Spring parking lot. It’d be about 11.5 miles, mostly flat. Here’s a map of that route:
All in all, it was a great day on Tam. Be sure to take a lot of trail food and water — at least a liter for every five or six miles (per person).
Next adventure, I think, will either be biking on fire roads all the way up to Point Reyes Station, or possibly scrambling up some of the creeks on the west side of the Bolinas Ridge. They’re positioned just like Steep Ravine, and I have to imagine they have a similar climate. It’d be so fun to find a secret Muir Woods.