San Francisco: Pint-Sized Plays and Hiking at Mt. Tamalpais
Today is August 19th and by tomorrow I’m planning on being on the road. Where to? Well, my brother – who flew in last week – and I are renting a car and we’re going to wing it (mostly). We have four major places we want to see: Yellowstone National Forest/Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Sequoia National Forest. How about everything in between? I have no idea, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
My bro posing in front of China Town. He’s happy because we had just eaten shrimp dumplings… yum.
It’s been over a week since my camping trip in Tahoe National Forest, and I’ve filled my last week in SF with some memorable moments. Such as, catching up with old friends, sightseeing with my brother, spending a day hiking Mt. Tamalpais, and finishing it all off with some theater. If you’re in town and want to see some pub comedy/plays, then check out SF Theater Pub’s annual Pint Sized Play Festival V. Within two hours, you can enjoy 11 short plays, some of which include topics such as beer, Star Wars, and llamas.
I’m lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who spoils his in-laws. On Sunday morning, my bro-in-law picked us up in a convertible and then we were whisked away towards Mt. Tamalpais. While driving through the city, I enjoyed cranking my head upwards and seeing the famous SF architecture from a whole new perspective. With no roof to block my view, I could see every bay window my heart desires, I could follow the aerial bus wires as we maneuvered the city streets, and I could enjoy the fresh SF bay wind blowing through my hair. We also drove on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a treat.
It took us an hour of winding through mountain roads to reach our destination. While on the drive, we could tell it was a hot day, but it wasn’t until were were unpacking the car that I realized how hot it actually was. It was a dangerous, dry kind of heat; the kind that’ll dehydrate you pretty quickly. I didn’t pack enough water for both my brother and I, so I was grateful that Kevin brought extra water. We set off towards the Cataract trail, which eventually connects with the Bernstein trail. In this portion of the hike, there are grassland meadows and Douglas fir/tanoak trees. If it weren’t so dry, I’m sure the air would be moist, similar to a Pacific Northwest forest, but alas, California is in a serious drought.
Walking through the meadow
The views to the North
We followed the Petrero Meadows trail until Rifle Camp. We crossed through the picnic area and started our upward climb on the Northside trail. Except for the smokey haze due to the nearby forest fires, we saw some fantastic views to the north. The terrain got more rocky as we wove our way through serpentine ridge line. The trail itself was overgrown with a shrub called manzanita, sometimes even forming a natural tunnel. Near the top of the ridge line, we veered right onto International trail and followed it till we intersected with Ridgecrest Blvd. I believe we were at our highest elevation at this point and we got our first hazy view of San Francisco and the ocean. We started our descent down the Miller Trail and then took a right onto Old Railroad Grade trail. From here, it was a little less than a mile to our rest stop: West Point Inn.
West Point Inn – Looking towards SF 1905 (photo credit: westpointinn.com)
West Point Inn is a really cool spot. It was built in 1904, and was used as a rest stop on the Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway. Sadly, in 1915, the railroad closed and stage couch service stopped coming to West Point Inn all together. The years were rough during that time, wars and the Great Depression came and went, but thanks to the innkeeper and local volunteers, the buildings were maintained. Now, the cabins and main building are the only surviving buildings from the railroad era and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
West Point Inn is only reachable by foot and is perfect for travelers who don’t want to camp outside, but want a night in the mountains. For non-overnights, the inn is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. There is water from a faucet, lemonade (for a $1), and snacks. There are also tables in the shade which offer respite from the elements, while also offering amazing views. If you’re around over the summer, there are pancake breakfasts every Sunday (I believe). All the pancake money goes into maintaining the historic nature of the inn.
Mountain Theater (Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheater)
We rested and rehydrated for a while at West Point Inn, allowing our bodies to heal after the gruesomely hot hike we had just endured. When we felt recuperated, we said goodbye to West Point and followed signs to Rock Springs trail. For 1.5 miles, we traversed through exposed ridge line and shaded conifer forest until reaching our second destination for the day: Mountain Theater. Something you might’ve not known is that there is a theater venue nestled in Mt. Tamalpais. Mountain Theater (or Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheater) hosts one musical a year and can hold up to 4000 people. It has a great view of the SF Bay too. Overall, it’s a really neat venue and I’d recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood.
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge
It was a quick hike back to the parking lot from Mountain Theater. After 5 miles of hiking in dry heat, we were all exhausted, so we were pretty excited to take the scenic route back, enjoying the ocean breeze on our way back home. On our way back to the city, we drove on the Golden Gate Bridge again. The bridge had an orange glow, due to the setting sun, thus resulting in an epic view and return to San Francisco.
Thanks for reading. My next post will be about my experiences on the road. :)