Steep Ravine

We’re still in the midst of packing and whatnot, but yesterday we took off across the bay to spend the afternoon with Erik’s brother Elbert. We visited the San Rafael farmers’ market (the same one we went to for my birthday) and then hiked at Mt Tamalpais. The weather was perfect and my backpack full of treats from the market (a half-dozen satsumas, a smoked salmon crêpe, and two pretzel croissants… yes, pretzel croissants) — I like to bring rewards along on my hikes. 😉

We started near Stinson Beach and hiked up, quickly reaching a point where we could see the Pacific on one side and the mountains on the other. People were hang gliding far above; Elbert said you can glide in tandem with an instructor who takes you from the top of Mt Tam down to the beach below. I kind of want to try it… I want to know if it’s anything like my flying dreams.

View from Mt Tam trails

In the bright sun, it felt almost like spring, but the plants knew it wasn’t yet. We saw few flowers. Also no mushrooms and just a few banana slugs — not like last time.


After we’d climbed to a certain elevation, the trail began to dip. I was pleased because I’d been getting too warm in the sun! (Yes, it’s a California January… not hot like in LA, but I soon stripped off my wool sweater. Erik did the whole hike in a t-shirt, and we saw plenty of hikers in shorts.)


ErikWe ended up along the Steep Ravine trail, which runs through the redwoods and beside and over a little creek. There is something so magical about forests, even when one is out of breath and sticky and trying very hard not to slip on the damp path. It’s all that moss and lichen, the shelf fungi and the slugs, the tiny flames of color when the flowers show their faces… those innumerable shades and textures of green and brown, the trees arching and reaching, the primeval-looking ferns, and of course the way the sunlight changes each spot, each second, each step.


Partway along the trail we saw a sign that said “advisory: 10-foot ladder, 0.8 mile.” We’d seen the same notation, “ladder,” on the map, and I was very curious to know what that meant. I was expecting something dramatic and scary and narrow and vertical, but no. The ladder looked exactly like steeply angled steps, complete with handrail, only the tops of the steps weren’t quite flat. Erik and Elbert took them standing upright, but my soles were slippy so I used my hands as well.

ladder on the trail

After the anticlimactic ladder we hiked for about a mile more, mostly uphill, with one stop so we could sit on fallen logs and eat and drink. Soon we were back at the parking lot. Erik and Elbert got their lunches out of Elbert’s car (I’d brought mine in the backpack), and we finished our food, then drove to where we’d left the other car at the trailhead. Before we parted we sat in Elbert’s car for a while and talked about the places we’ll miss when we move — Elbert is actually moving the same day we are, February 15, and also down to San Jose (so until Erik and I leave for Toronto, we’ll all be in the same city).

I’m so excited about our trip that I can’t feel too much regret for what we’re leaving behind, but I admit it is hard to imagine that anyplace else can ever feel as much home to me as California. Especially Northern California, especially the Bay Area. I grew up with these trees and these mountains and this ocean, these hawks and scrub jays and banana slugs, the chaparral and the tidepools. Even when I can’t identify the components, the total effect feels right. I’ve known the Bay Area outdoors since I was a kid, and more recently I’ve been getting to know California’s highways and urban areas.

Well, but who knows? I may fall in love with someplace else. And just as likely, I may return to the Bay Area even more committed to it than before, buy a house in North Berkeley, and live here the rest of my life. I’m so excited to see what else is out there… and I am so glad and grateful I’ve had 30 years to live in a place like this.

Oh, and by the way: the Harkenbacks, who were playing at the farmers’ market yesterday morning, are worth your time. Give them a listen, ‘specially if you’re a folk/bluegrass/blues fan like me.